Angel City Zen Center - Beginners Only Podcast
Dave Cuomo - Thunderous Silence (Vimalakirti Ch 9 - Non Duality)

Dave Cuomo - Thunderous Silence (Vimalakirti Ch 9 - Non Duality)

September 16, 2022

“Don't try to improve at all. Just try to understand what a nut you are. Be patient with it. Marvel at it - ‘What a dummy I am, it’s unbelievable that I still do this, and it's perfect the way I do it because I've been conditioned so perfectly, so exquisitely. My mother and father were so perfect in making me as neurotic as I am.’” - Norman Fischer

 

Birth & death, blame or blessings, life or liberation?? In this epic stand alone chapter of the Vimalakirti Sutra, Dave takes us on a walk through Non Duality in Buddhism, as poetically descried by the great Bodhisattvas (with a little commentary help from the also great Norman Fischer). Is everything really all one? What does it even mean to say that? Can us puny mortals experience such a thing? Is Non Duality just another heady philosophical wormhole or is there something to it that can actually transform our lives in this mundane workaday world we all know and love? Find out here! 

Emily Eslami - The Worst Horse

Emily Eslami - The Worst Horse

September 9, 2022

“A Zen master's life could be said to be so many years of one continuous mistake. This means so many years of one single minded effort.” - Shunryu Suzuki

 

Is it possible to be good at this practice? It is possible to be good at life? Would we really be better off if we were? Emily continues her deep dive into Shunryu Suzuki’s foundational “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” with the classic parable of the four horses of Zen - the best, the best of the worst, and all those in between. Which one are we? Why are these Zen masters always so excited about making mistakes? What’s so great about being bad?? Find out here!

Dave Cuomo - Space Dust (Host and Guest)

Dave Cuomo - Space Dust (Host and Guest)

September 2, 2022

”My job isn't to not make mistakes, it's to figure them out. That's the fun of it. They’re not really mistakes. They’re what I’m supposed to be doing.” - Dave Cuomo

 

Who’s actually driving this car? Is anyone really steering the ship?? If we are not our thoughts, then who’s making our choices, and do we have any agency in that? Dave looks at a history of classic (and lovely) Zen writings on host and guest, little-self/big-self, and all the space in between to try to get us some answers.

Erik Andersen - “An Unfortunate Sequence of Events” (Sacred or Mundane?)

Erik Andersen - “An Unfortunate Sequence of Events” (Sacred or Mundane?)

August 26, 2022

"This moment is not sacred. It's not mundane. It's weird. Find the weirdness." - Erik Andersen

 

Erik takes a loving look at the cold hard truth that this might be as good as it gets. Is the world a good place at heart? Or is it as inherently corrupt as it seems? Buddhism says both! So what should we believe? Is it better to challenge negative beliefs or celebrate them? Is there an outlook that can help make the world a better place, and is that the point? Find out here!

Dave Cuomo - Heavenly Hells! (Vimalakirti Sutra ch 8)

Dave Cuomo - Heavenly Hells! (Vimalakirti Sutra ch 8)

August 19, 2022

“Plant seeds in the sky and they’ll never grow. Plant them in dung and dirt and watch them flourish.” - Manjushri 

 

In the culminating thesis of the sutra, our great bodhisattvic heroes Vimalakirti and Manjushri celebrate the irascible and irreverent with a whole hearted endorsement of the path of the Wrong Way and the heavenly delights of hell while Mahakasyapa laments the great disappointment of his own enlightenment. Is this why we can’t have nice things? Would we actually be content if we did get all those nice things? Does being good ultimately do anyone any good?? Find out here!

Sara Campbell - Instruction Manual for Living (The Wayward Mind)

Sara Campbell - Instruction Manual for Living (The Wayward Mind)

August 12, 2022

“You don’t seek the way, the way seeks you!” - Kodo Sawaki

 

Sara shares with us the enlightening existential crisis of her wayward mind which, according to our forbears, is the essential mind of practice. How did we get here and why do we keep coming back? Why does this path turn out to be for some but not for others?? What’s the difference between going through the motions, and the embodiment of no mind?? Find out here!!

Emily Eslami - Mind Waves, Mind Weeds

Emily Eslami - Mind Waves, Mind Weeds

July 29, 2022

“We say, ‘Pulling out the weeds we give nourishment to the plant.’ We pull the weeds and bury them near the plant to give it nourishment. So even though you have some difficulty in your practice, even though you have some waves while you are sitting, those waves themselves will help you. So you should not be bothered by your mind. You should rather be grateful for the weeds, because eventually they will enrich your practice. “ - Shunryu Suzuki

 

A beginner who’s been been beginning for a long time takes a seasoned look the Beginner’s Mind with a series on the book that began it all - Shunryu Suzuki’s "Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind." This week! What is the Big Mind and how hard should we work to to find it? How much effort should we put to into our zazen, and how does effort even work in a goalless practice? How do we get to clarity of mind and what does such a thing even mean?? Find out here!

Dave Cuomo - A Quiet Resistance (Political Engagement in Buddhism)

Dave Cuomo - A Quiet Resistance (Political Engagement in Buddhism)

July 22, 2022

"Whatever the ineffable is, it doesn't seem too concerned with our politics. But then we're also always told that the ineffable is nothing but what happening right now...  So it gets left up to you to figure out what's truly important.

My actual hot take on everyone's politics is, if you've already sat down and shut up for a half hour today, whatever else you want to say is fine. And then I might even want to listen to you." - Dave Cuomo

 

Dave regales us with the story of that time Buddha juggled betrayal, assassination attempts, war, and intrigues of all kinds (nbd) in a look at how Buddhism does (and does not) deal with political engagement. Does ultimate reality care about the mundane affairs of our dusty little world? Do we have an obligation to take a stand on things that matter, or is sitting all that really matters?? Which speaks louder, the bellows of the Buddha or the thunderous roar of stillness?? Find out here!

Dave Cuomo - Flowers Abound! (Vimalakirti ch7 - The Goddess)

Dave Cuomo - Flowers Abound! (Vimalakirti ch7 - The Goddess)

July 15, 2022

“The nice thing about a Zen Center is they make it really easy to be a good person. Just follow the script - bowing, sitting, chanting enlightened things, sending all your cosmic merit to all living beings… you’re already being an enlightened buddha just by following the playbook. Everyone seems so nice, wholesome, and down to earth around here. I guess I don't really know what you're like on the outside. Maybe I don't wanna find out. But I like what this place does to us.” - Dave Cuomo

 

Dave regales us with the famously wise and whimsical Goddess chapter of the Vimalakirti Sutra. A sneaky snarky goddess has been hiding out listening in on our heroes, and now she’s ready to reveal herself and indulge in some no holds barred dharma combat. Can this proto feminist icon show our heroes the way? What do identity politics mean to a being born of no self? Can hatred be a tool of liberation?? Is it always attachment to want nice things? Or is the real attachment to push them away?? Find out here!

Erik Andersen - City of Illusion

Erik Andersen - City of Illusion

July 8, 2022

“If the pure land isn’t real, maybe we can make this a pure land. Even if it doesn't add up to anything, maybe our own brains can be a Buddha land - a sphere of influence positively affected by an outside Buddha. Maybe the pure land isn’t so far away after all.” - Erik Andersen

 

“Not knowing is nearest!” Erik takes us on a personal pilgrimage to the pure land as it exists right hear and now, with a survey of the practices, historicity, personal experience, and entangling relationship Pure Land Buddhism has to the Zen we all know and love. Do we need to believe in a practice for it to work? Is it Zen to do practices that make us feel better? Would it matter if it wasn’t?? Is it possible that the “place of precious things” is far closer than we ever could have imagined?? Find out here!

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