Podcasts and Buddhism

I need to get a car radio that plays mp3s. The common way that I listen to podcasts is to download them in iTunes (because it is easier that way), burn them to an audio CD (if they are less than 80 minutes) and then listen to them in my car. This is kind of a pain in the ass. Leaving aside how long it takes me to prep, it makes me use a few writable CD’s a week and causes waste. One of my coworkers bought a cheap stereo that simply plays mp3 files from a flash drive. I’m considering doing the same since I have a 2 gig flash drive.

This is the way I listen to James Foster’s Path of the Mahayana podcast every week. (Jim is the Tendai teacher that I am working with as a Tendai practitioner now but he isn’t as stuffy as that would normally sound…). I recommend his podcast to anyone interested in the application of Buddhist practice in life, especially drawing from the Japanese tradition. His podcast consists of his short teaching talks following meditation and liturgical practice every week. They are relatively short and Jim is funnier than he gives himself credit as being.

Another podcast that I listen to is Ken McLeod’s Unfettered Mind series. Ken McLeod was a longterm study of Kalu Rinpoche in the Tibetan tradition. He’s been practicing for over 30 years and teaching for around half of that (I believe). He runs a website with translations and is the author of Wake Up to Your Life, an excellent practical book on Buddhist practice that works to avoid jargon and be immediately relevant to people. Ken has been making a podcast available for a while, which is largely audio drawn from retreats that he runs. I was listening to “GDP 01a: Guru, Deity, Protector (retreat)” this morning and found it to be both engaging and immediately relevant.

In the past, I’ve heard some teachers give a relatively inflexible take on Buddhist tradition and the approaches to it. Both Jim and Ken seem to be comfortable in their respective traditions and able to relate the material to Western students in a way that makes more sense. I find this more approachable than the instances where I’ve been to events or retreats where the lama (who is often very wonderful) has trouble translating concepts in ways which are easily understood by those of us in the West. The fact that there is often a translator involved and the lama lives outside the West day to day does not help either. It is good to see more Western teachers out there freely communicating with people.