David Loy

David Loy joins us to talk about why Buddhism needs the West, studies in lack, and the selective evolutionary pressures on traditional practices.

What happens when Buddhism, or any other traditional practice, encounters a new culture? It changes, grows, and finds new forms that suit the new environment in which it finds itself. The older environment may still exist, and the traditions suited to them will remain and continue to flourish as long as those cultures continue to flourish.

Today, many religious practices are encountering a new culture, but unlike many such encounters in the past, contemporary culture is undergoing unprecedented rapid and constant change. For us as Buddhists, this is a good thing! Our practice is to see change, to understand that it is inevitable, and that there is no benefit to relying on the false permanence of… anything, let alone the manifestation of ever-changing minds. That’s what culture may be seen as, the product of the minds of those within that society.

There is a growing trend in modernity to secularism. There is a sincere and deep questioning of values and practices once held sacred. That does not, however, spell the end of Buddhism or any other religious tradition. It means, as Buddhism has done when it encountered any new time and place, adapting in form while keeping the essence of the practice strongly supporting its core objective: the extinguishing of suffering.

David Robert Loy is a professor, writer, and Zen teacher in the Sanbo Kyodan tradition of Japanese Zen Buddhism. He is a prolific author, and his books include The World Is Made of Stories, Awareness Bound and Unbound: Buddhist Essays, and the very popular Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution. His articles appear regularly in the pages of major journals such as Tikkun and Buddhist magazines including Tricycle, Turning Wheel, Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma, as well as in a variety of scholarly journals. He is on the editorial or advisory boards of the journals Cultural Dynamics, Worldviews, Contemporary Buddhism, Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, and World Fellowship of Buddhists Review. He is also on the advisory boards of Buddhist Global Relief, the Clear View Project, and the Ernest Becker Foundation. David lectures nationally and internationally on various topics, focusing primarily on the encounter between Buddhism and modernity: what each can learn from the other. He is especially concerned about social and ecological issues.

So, sit back, relax, and have a nice Clouds and Mist green tea.


:: Discuss this episode ::



“…without individual transformation, social transformations are bound to be impaired.” — David Loy,





Web Links


Music for This Episode

Shakuhachi Meditations

Shakuhachi Meditations

The music heard in the middle of the podcast is from Rodrigo Rodriguez’s upcoming CD, Shakuhachi Meditations. The tracks used in this episode are:

  • Lady of the Snow

No Comments

  1. Dana Nourie on October 31, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Great podcast! I was especially interested in the comments David Loy made about people’s fear of mortality and inner lack, and that this seems to be inherent, something that religion has addressed and satisfied to some degree. Loy’s criticisms and concerns about the fact that secularism does not address these fears and discontent, I think, is true.

    However, and this is a big, HOWEVER, Buddhism does hammer these right in the face. This, to me, is the beauty of secular Buddhism. Secularism in itself shakes us out into a more realistic view of the world, lacking in imaginary beings and metaphysics. Buddhism takes that many, many steps farther by also getting us to examine up front and center exactly those kinds of fears, how our minds work, the basis of ethics, and more.

    I don’t think it’s the job of secularism to fill the gap left once religion is dropped. People find many ways of addressing the reality of morality, the lack we may feel, the need for a life purpose, etc. I see people find ways to those answers through various means, and our way happens to be Buddhist practices. But I take his point to heart that many people are left floundering with their deepest fears once religion is dropped.

    We need to be careful, I think, not to be overcritical about atheism or secularism not fulfilling certain needs or purposes. Those isms are simply the way out of the heavy fog religion puts people into. To address people’s fear of death, to help people understand the nature of self and how we are all interdependent, which leads to strong foundations of ethics, must come from other means such as Buddhism, science, or inter-activeness with nature.

    Excellent podcast, and I enjoyed listening to David Loy’s thoughts and concerns regarding secularism, and how Buddhism can help us face our deepest fears and show us the way to a non-dualist approach.

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