Discourse Practice Scholarship

Dharma PhD (the podcast) Episode 6

Greetings, Friendlies. :)

As promised, a new episode of Dharma PhD (the podcast) posted today. Nominally Episode 6 continues our discussion of John Peacock’s series “Buddhism Before the Theravada, Part 5”, but this episode was all over the map. So I took the liberty of diverging in this episode. We are still talking about Paṭiccasamuppāda (Dependent Origination), but we’ve zoomed wayyyyy in to talk about one very particular aspect. How do we use this idea, that phenomena are dependent, how do we use this to allow/encourage more skillful behaviors and mental states to arise?

We also invite you to join Pull-Up Club and to submit ideas for silly t-shirts. Do let us know what you think; we’d love to hear from you.

John Peacock's "Buddhism Before the Theravada" Part 5 (kind of) – EP6 Dharma PhD

Welcome to Dharma PhD! In this episode we talk about Paṭiccasamuppāda, Dependent Origination, using John Peacocks', "Buddhism Before the Theravada, Part 5" as a jumping off point. We talk about how Paṭiccasamuppāda, Dependent Origination, has myriad implications. And then we focus on just one implication, causing skillful behaviors and mental/emotinal states to arise by putting the conditions in place that encourage those behaviors/mental states to arise more spontaneously. Particularly we talk about environmental factors.A few things referred to:Bodhi College, an organization that teaches Secular Buddhism: Batchelor's book After Buddhism.Leigh Brasington, a Jhāna teacher: talk we're referring to: "Buddhism Before the Theravada, Part 5" ( Bodhi's book Reading the Buddha's Discourses in Pāli.Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: 2,500 word blog post I referred to on a framework for thinking about the different implications of Paṭiccasamuppāda: finally, Alain de Botton's book: Religion for Atheists.***A transcript of and link to John Peacock's talk is available here: a transcript of this podcast episode is available here: Want to get in touch? We'd love to hear from you! Email us at

Below is an AI-produced, hand-finished transcript of the episode. Including outtakes this time!

[00:00:00] Shannon: Greetings, Friendlies. Welcome to Dharma PhD, conversations about the science, philosophy, and culture of mindfulness and Secular Buddhism. I’m your host, Shannon M Whitaker, joined as usual by my fabulous cohost, Jeff Street. Welcome, Jeff.
[00:00:14] Jeff: It’s a pleasure to be here.
[00:00:15] Shannon: It’s lovely to have. You it’s been awhile.
[00:00:19] Jeff: It’s been a while.
[00:00:20] Shannon: Yeah.
[00:00:20] Jeff: It’s still a pleasure though.
[00:00:22] Shannon: Thank goodness
[00:00:23] Jeff: Undiminished by the ravages of time.
[00:00:27] Shannon: So let’s see, what have we been doing since February?
[00:00:30] Jeff: I’ve only had two haircuts since then.
[00:00:34] Jeff: I
[00:00:34] Jeff: think it might be true.
[00:00:35] Shannon: Dharma PhD, the independent PhD part, has been super busy despite not doing any broadcasting, sorry, it’s been so quiet. Thanks so much to all of you who wrote in, that was really lovely to hear from you. Thanks for caring. I’ve been doing a ton of stuff
[00:00:51] Jeff: You’ve retained your independence.
[00:00:53] Shannon: I have retained my independence. I have not had any colleges reach out and ask
[00:00:57] Jeff: No one has commandeered your Ph D and
[00:01:00] Shannon: tried to recruit me into their program.
[00:01:02] Jeff: Good. That’d be terrible to have it taken over by some hostile scholars…
[00:01:06] Shannon: I mean the money would be nice
[00:01:08] Jeff: Okay.
[00:01:08] Jeff: All right. There’ll be compensations.
[00:01:12] Shannon: Yeah. The independent PhD project has been going really well. I managed a forum and administered a forum for a course that Bodhi College was hosting with Stephen Batchelor. It was a 12 week course called “After Buddhism and Beyond” where he was unpacking where he’s at now. He wrote this book titled After Buddhism
[00:01:32] Shannon: and now it’s: Okay now, where am I?
[00:01:34] Shannon: I’ve started a mentorship with Leigh Brasingtontration. It’s a deeper form of meditation. And that’s been amazing.
[00:01:49] Jeff: It sounds like he’s a lovely guy. We’ve been talking a little bit about your conversations .
[00:01:53] Shannon: Leigh’s a lot of fun. If if any of our listeners have been considering taking a [00:02:00] retreat with Leigh, now’s a great time because most of his retreats have been online. It’s not as intensive, probably, it can be really hard to do an online retreat at home because you have all of the home distractions.
[00:02:12] Jeff: Like me.
[00:02:13] Shannon: Yeah. Like really lovely co-hosts in your new tiny apartment. But it’s a really great opportunity to have access to teachers that we would not have had access to before.
[00:02:26] Jeff: And to have opportunities to interact with your co What are the other attendees called other the other attendees via, things like the forum that you’ve created and some people are doing retreats with, the forum type mechanisms.
[00:02:38] Shannon: Yeah, totally. Yeah. The course that we had with After Buddhism and Beyond, through Bodhi College, people in New Zealand, people in the US, people in obviously, Europe.
[00:02:48] Shannon: It was around the clock. People in Japan.
[00:02:51] Jeff: The sun never sets.
[00:02:52] Shannon: The sun never sets on Bodhi College.
[00:02:54] Jeff: Yeah.
[00:02:55] Shannon: Okay.
[00:02:58] Jeff: So what are we going to talk about in this episode?
[00:03:01] Shannon: I’m so glad you asked.
[00:03:03] Jeff: Let me guess, John Peacock’s talk number…
[00:03:06] Shannon: Five. Yep. So we’ll be talking about the fifth in a series of six talks by John Peacock. The same series that we started with back in episode two, the series of talks is called Buddhism Before the Theravada. In this episode we’re going to continue with a concept that we’d started with last time., We began talking about this Buddhist
[00:03:35] Jeff: Dependent Origination,
[00:03:37] Shannon:
[00:03:39] Jeff:
[00:03:45] Shannon: Yeah, good job.
[00:03:47] Jeff: Listeners follow along altogether.
[00:03:48] Jeff:
[00:03:51] Shannon: Very well done.
[00:03:53] Jeff: Light-hearted grammar can be my segment of the podcast because your pronunciation , you’ve been practicing. [00:04:00] Yeah. It’s true. It’s getting stronger. You were just reading a section of a book now called…
[00:04:03] Shannon: Yeah. The book is called , by Bhikkhu Bodhi.
[00:04:10] Jeff: And you were reading a surprisingly thick section of the book entitled…
[00:04:14] Shannon: we’ll just put that down. I’m not we’re not going to I’m not going to do that to you today. Yeah.
[00:04:32] Shannon:st of 12 parts.
[00:04:44] Shannon:emember that we talked about cognitive biases. We talked about the fact that we’re trying to solve the upper levels of Maslow’s hierarchy with a brain that evolved to solve the lower
[00:05:03] Jeff: Yeah that was a really interesting, there were a lot of interesting things in that episode. I I enjoyed that one.
[00:05:08] Shannon: we talked about how there’s a bunch of different kinds of habits. There’s the thing you can check off on your calendar. But there’s also our habitual responses to the world, the way we habitually respond to the world, actually make up our personality. So personality is a sort of habit. And then we talked about how we can have these really complicated habits, like driving to work
[00:05:39] Jeff: You can get on cruise control when you’re
[00:05:40] Shannon: Yeah. And you end up driving to the wrong place because you think that get in the car, drive to work…
[00:05:44] Jeff: You know , I was fighting that this morning. I was cycling to work this morning, and there’s some construction along a pretty steep hill. And I needed to remember when I got to that hill, which is about halfway through, just about the time I’d be fully in autopilot mode, to take an alternate route to go around it and, was successful. [00:06:00]
[00:06:00] Shannon: Congratulations. Way to be mindful.
[00:06:02] Jeff: Thank you.
[00:06:02] Shannon:
[00:06:08] Shannon: Now I want to throw a big wrench in the conversation. Are you ready?
[00:06:13] Jeff: Throw it in different direction,
[00:06:14] Shannon: I’ll just gently set it into the conversation. I won’t hit you with a wrench. That’s not nice.
[00:06:20] Shannon:not going to do that. We’ve hit the first two. Oh, now we’re going to do something different.
[00:06:32] Shannon:s a super fertile idea. And so even as you’re looking at the suttas in the Pali Canon, Gotama spent 40 years teaching.
[00:06:49] Shannon: So he unpacked a lot of this idea. And then over the following, then over
[00:06:53] Jeff: of following
[00:06:55] Shannon: two thousand five hundred years scholars did a lot of unpacking of this concept.
[00:07:00] Shannon: And so it’s become this really fertile ground…
[00:07:02] Jeff: Like discovering implications and different aspects and things like this.
[00:07:06] Shannon: Yeah. To give you an idea of how complex this idea is: when I first sat down to prepare the episode, I said, Okay, so what is P some aspect that I’ve heard taught or talked about.
[00:07:25] Jeff: So you’d end up with a run-on kind of sentence. Okay.
[00:07:29] Jeff: Seven okay all, but all in one sentence. A lot of commas.
[00:07:34] Shannon: Yeah. So I looked at what John Peacock had to say. Cause you know, that’s the title of this podcast episode. And then I looked And these teachers are coming from very diverse backgrounds. You’ve got practicing monastics, you’ve got former monastics, neuroscientists, lay teachers, [00:08:00] and they each emphasize a different bit of this unpacked idea.
[00:08:05] Jeff: That sounds like one of those cases where the number of people that you ask is equal to the number of interpretations you get.
[00:08:13] Shannon: How many definitions do you want? Go and ask that number of people and you’ll have that many definitions. Yes. But I did find that trying to tease out a definition was ultimately helpful because I ended up coming up with a framework to think about how to hold all these ideas. That for me is really helpful.
[00:08:29] Shannon: I, because of my personality type, I like to take ideas apart, see what all the different pieces are and then put them back together.
[00:08:39] Jeff: That’s true, listeners. Fact. Right here
[00:08:42] Shannon: I will say, don’t do this with a goldfish. It doesn’t work. So otherwise this is my personality type is to take things apart and then put them back together. I wrote a 2,500 word blog post that’s over on Dharma PhD. It’s titled where I unpack this and I show the framework that I came up with.
[00:09:07] Shannon: And to show again how complex this is, I shared this with Leigh Brasington, and his response was, yeah, that’s good. But there’s a bunch
[00:09:15] Jeff: more,
[00:09:18] Jeff: and he said, I’m already up to X number of words. And at some point you gotta publish it. And He was probably like yeah, a number of my books have gone that way.
[00:09:29] Shannon: Yeah. He actually has a book right now at the publisher on dependent origination, on this topic.
[00:09:33] Jeff: You’re beating him to the press is what
[00:09:35] Shannon: Well, what’s funny is he keeps saying, Have I sent you my book yet? I’m like Okay, just wait. I got to get through this episode first. Cause I can’t have you influencing. I can’t have too much of your influence. Anyway , we’re not going to go through this 2,500 word blog post in this episode. The thing I want to say is, if this is interesting to folks to go take a look at this framework, because what it allows is, whenever [00:10:00]pare to this other thing I heard?
[00:10:07] Jeff: This not the same as the previous definition.
[00:10:09] Shannon: exactly. What we can do if we have frameworks, is we can let go of worrying about that part. And we can just focus on the ideas, because each of the ideas within the framework, each of the sections, if you’re the type of person who likes to think that way, each idea has merit and can be really helpful.
[00:10:29] Shannon: And sometimes we can get wrapped around the axle. Worrying about well how does that connect to this other thing . Sometimes it can be helpful to put that aside and say, ah, I know what bucket we’re in. Let me just listen to this idea. Let me process that a little bit. And then later bring it into the more holistic idea, the whole cornucopia of ideas.
[00:10:49] Shannon: So that’s why I’m throwing that out there.
[00:10:52] Shannon: For today’s episode. We’re going to talk about one tiny aspect.
[00:10:56] Shannon: The reason I chose this particular aspect is because again, my interest is not so much Buddhism per se. It’s how do we live a life of human flourishing? So when I was looking at this list, I thought, oh, this is a thing I’m really interested in. It’s something that I care about. So this is the aspect I want to talk
[00:11:14] Shannon: about.
[00:11:15] Shannon:y take on it as it is
[00:11:27] Jeff: today,
[00:11:27] Shannon: dependent origination?
[00:11:38] Shannon: of nothing. Phenomena are linked to and dependent upon other phenomena.
[00:11:55] Shannon: Let me explain that a little bit. I think a really good analogy for this is [00:12:00] one that Leigh Brasington uses , he talks about the kitchen light bulb.
[00:12:04] Shannon: Okay. So the state of affairs, the phenomenon: the kitchen light is on, is dependent on all kinds of things. It can include the technology, Edison, all those other guys. It’s dependent on production and supply chains of the material of which the light bulb and the socket are constructed. It’s dependent on all the people involved in that production and supply chain. More locally you could say that it’s dependent on the local power generating station, the wires from there to the town, the wires inside the house. The circuit breaker and the light switch being in the on position. So we have this, what is for us a really common phenomenon, excuse me, the kitchen light bulb being on, which is intimately dependent on innumerable other factors being present.
[00:12:53] Shannon: Yeah.
[00:12:54] Jeff: Yeah.
[00:12:55] Shannon: Yeah. So this idea that things are interconnected because. Because many of us have the personality type where we like to take things apart, pointing at myself here, we forget to put them back together and recognize how interdependent so much of experiences way.
[00:13:24] Shannon: Does that make
[00:13:25] Jeff: Makes sense. Yeah. Through time through space.
[00:13:28] Shannon: Yeah.
[00:13:30] Jeff: Across different people.
[00:13:31] Shannon: Yeah…
[00:13:32] Shannon:, and, D, if this is the case that there is this dependency and we want to get rid of Phenomenon A we want Phenomenon A to cease, to go away. And for listeners, think third noble truth here, then all we have to do is get [00:14:00] rid of one of the dependent conditions. If we get rid of B, C, or D, you get rid of A.
[00:14:06] Shannon: Does that make sense?
[00:14:07] Jeff: It depends on how symantec you want to get the, we talked about how would they depend on this thing and there’s like necessary and sufficient
[00:14:16] Shannon: Yes So I could
[00:14:17] Jeff: Do we want to, do we want to get into that or is it not
[00:14:20] Shannon: We can maybe it’s helpful. I like talking about it that way, if we have Phenomena A and there are necessary, but insufficient conditions, B, C, and D, and we want A to go away, then we need to knock out the necessary, but insufficient conditions, B, C, or D. We don’t have to do all of them. We just have to do one of them.
[00:14:39] Shannon: And a metaphor that again, I’m totally stealing from Leigh Brasington on this one. I warned him in advance . I like his metaphor. So you have a kitchen light and it’s illuminated and you want to extinguish the kitchen light.
[00:14:52] Shannon: Now the kitchen light, Phenomena A, is dependent on the light switch being on, the wires, being connected, the power station being operational. So if you want to turn off the light, you don’t have to blow up the power station. You don’t have to go outside and cut the wires to the house, you just have to turn off the light switch.
[00:15:09] Shannon: Right So this idea that phenomena, if they are dependent on each other, you can cause phenomena to cease by ceasing one of the dependent conditions. Yeah.
[00:15:21] Jeff: Yeah.
[00:15:22] Shannon: Pick the easy one, find an easy one, and pick that one.
[00:15:24] Jeff: Cause if you do those other things and you’ll also extinguish some other lights and your neighbors might not be pleased about that. And also things that are not lights.
[00:15:32] Shannon: Yeah. Yeah. Choosing the most efficacious necessary, but insufficient cause is really helpful. Like you’re saying.
[00:15:39] Shannon: And this is a really big part of Buddhism. Particularly it’s expressed that Dukkha, or suffering, is caused by craving. And so if you get rid of the craving, you get rid of the suffering. And there’s a lot of this idea of cessation. How do we stop suffering? How do we stop suffering? And that’s talked about a lot in Buddhism [00:16:00] and I’m all for that, right? Like great, less suffering. Awesome. But I feel like we can do more. So the thing I would really like to spend time on this podcast talking about is the flip side.
[00:16:13] Shannon: So if we have Phenomena A, we want a particular state of affairs, and it’s dependent on Phenomena B, C, D E. Then we need to get BCD E and activate them in some way so that we get, yeah. Make sure they’re present so that we can get Phenomenon A.
[00:16:26] Shannon: So we have, on the one hand, what’s talked about a lot is cessation. What’s not talked about so much is the arising; how do we get behaviors or positive, desirable, mental or emotional states to more spontaneously arise?
[00:16:42] Jeff: State of a state of flourishing
[00:16:44] Shannon: Yeah. State of flourishing.
[00:16:45] Shannon: Yeah. How do we get that to arise? And so that’s the thing I’d like to talk about in this podcast.
[00:16:50] Shannon: I want to give you this quote that I think is so good. Chris Sparks, he said, When it comes to creating your environment, assume you have free will. When it comes to living in your environment, assume you have no free will.
[00:17:07] Jeff: That’s interesting.
[00:17:08] Shannon: What do you think is interesting about it?
[00:17:11] Jeff: That’s not how I operate today.
[00:17:12] Jeff: I do almost the inverse of that and I can see how this would be very useful.
[00:17:21] Shannon: Okay.
[00:17:22] Shannon: When I was thinking about examples, the first thing that came up for me was pull ups.
[00:17:26] Jeff: Yeah. How many pull ups did you do today?
[00:17:29] Shannon: did 12, but here’s the thing. When
[00:17:31] Shannon: we
[00:17:32] Jeff: If we,
[00:17:32] Jeff: do a high five, would that be Excellent.
[00:17:37] Shannon: When we lived on the east coast, we had, in our house, a pull-up bar that was between both of our offices and the rest of the house.
[00:17:45] Shannon: So anytime somebody went into their office, it was really easy to do a pull up. And if the other person was there, maybe you do two, because you were showing off
[00:17:54] Jeff: Yeah. You might be encouraged by the other person. Hey yeah, you could probably do one more.
[00:17:57] Shannon: Yeah. Yeah. So it was really [00:18:00] easy to do pull-ups. But now the pull-up bar is down the hall and then down four flights of stairs. So you have to put your shoes on and you get, get your mask and gotta make sure you’re dressed so that people could see you in public, and they got to go the hall and down the stairs and then around the thing, and there’s like a fob and you got to get in there and,
[00:18:18] Jeff: it might be other people that don’t have their masks on down there.
[00:18:20] Shannon: It’s this big, complicated thing.
[00:18:22] Shannon: in the last place we created an environment where it was really easy to do pull ups. You just walked under it. I think you almost hit your head on it.
[00:18:28] Jeff: We installed it ourselves. And So we measured carefully so that it was it was just above my head. So if I had like a spring in my step, I wouldn’t hit it, but also, so that you could stand, flat footed on the ground. and reach it.
[00:18:41] Shannon: We have different heights.
[00:18:42] Jeff: Yes. But we found a real sweet spot. there of about an inch and a half. And we, put it right in there.
[00:18:50] Shannon: So in that case, we used freewill or this idea of free
[00:18:53] Jeff: will
[00:18:55] Shannon: and tape measure to craft an environment in which it was very easy for the condition, the behavior that we wanted, which was, do pull ups, to arise more spontaneously. Yeah. Thanks so much. So the thing I wanted to talk about was that is something that is possible, I would like to install a pull up bar in our apartment so that the behavior of doing pull-ups more spontaneously arises.
[00:19:20] Jeff: Sounds great. Let’s it. At the at the office where I work, this kind of environment, a pull-up environment, has been created. There are some there are two, two opportunities to do pull-ups; there’s some gymnast rings and there is straight pull up bar as well.
[00:19:34] Shannon: And you guys have started pull up
[00:19:37] Jeff: club.
[00:19:37] Jeff: pull up club, where we encourage each other. We have a little whiteboard that we keep a tally on. and we pass it around between people at work.
[00:19:44] Jeff: And the goal is to not have that whiteboard be on your desk. When it arrives on your desk, it’s time to do your pull-ups and get it off to someone else’s desk.
[00:19:53] Shannon: And so you’ve created this environment, both the physical environment, but also the community environment, where this [00:20:00] desirable behavior arises.
[00:20:02] Shannon: Also listeners, anyone can join, pull up club. So if you’re interested in joining pull-up club, write in, you just send them a text.
[00:20:08] Jeff: Please do. All pull ups are welcome. All different kinds, all different shapes, with the hands facing forward, facing backwards. Yeah. Whatever kind of pull-ups are interesting to you.
[00:20:17] Shannon: I thought it might be interesting to talk about some other behaviors or skillful mental states that we might want to bring into our lives. I have some ideas, of course. Would it be interesting for me to share mine or would you like to share any?
[00:20:33] Jeff: Yeah. let me go grab my phone
[00:20:34] Jeff: So I wrote down two two things I like to cultivate more of, Yeah. One of them is to have less, I guess maybe this is an antonym. Maybe you can help me figure out what the opposite of this one is, because this is like a negative statement, like to remove self criticism it’s a it’s a thought pattern that I fall into frequently. Maybe we can come up with the opposite of that
[00:20:56] Shannon: one.
[00:20:58] Jeff: And the other one is I like to spend more time focusing on our relationship and we made this move in large part because I got a new job out here and I’ve really been focused on that quite a bit.
[00:21:09] Jeff: But long-term jobs will pass away. I’ll have other jobs in the future. And that’ll be fine. But I’d like more identity to be focused on our relationship. Those are the two big ones that came to mind first.
[00:21:23] Shannon: Okay. One thing first of all, thank you. That’s very flattering. Um One thing I think we’re already doing with these two is for the relationship one is so listeners, when we first moved in, we had a bunch of three by five photos that we had printed.
[00:21:40] Shannon: You take pictures with your phone and you take selfies. And Jeff had a bunch of these printed and stuck them all over the apartment. Almost every wall, somewhere on that wall, there’s a little three by five of us doing something fun. There’s us at the colosseum in Rome.
[00:21:54] Jeff: Yeah. The one right behind me, was in the Coliseum. Some others over here, are at various chateaus in [00:22:00] France, One of us drinking wine together at an outdoor concert.
[00:22:04] Jeff: or both Yeah. We’re both like Looking in a fun way through the wine in the glass at the camera.
[00:22:09] Shannon: We read this book together called Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton. He talks about how religions aren’t afraid to use art for a purpose. There’s a little bit of a hesitancy now, oh, you don’t want to say like what this art is or what it’s for or what it should cause in the viewer. And religions have no problem with that. They’re like, no this is supposed to make you feel this way.
[00:22:29] Jeff: And, they’ll put that word in the art.
[00:22:31] Shannon: That, that really touched me. Actually. I CA I get both sides. I understand that, on the one hand art is it’s own thing, and it shouldn’t be instrumentalized, but I think that if you’re doing it with intention, instrumentalizing art can be okay. I think that the fact that you’re already, you’ve already started down this path of putting pictures of us having good time together around, and it reminds us right.
[00:22:52] Shannon: Oh yeah, we were, we’re a nice couple. We like to do things together. We have fun when we do things together, I think that’s a really good first step. yeah. Thanks for doing it.
[00:23:03] Shannon: I think the thing I’d like to say here too, is that, I mentioned causing to arise this sort of prompting, both behavioral and mental and emotional states. And so by putting these photos around, we’re actually priming ourselves to like each other, oh yeah, that was really fun.
[00:23:18] Shannon: you know You had said an antonym to self-criticism and it sounds a little cheesy, but self- celebration is an antonym. And so how do we celebrate the work we’ve already done? I don’t feel that that our environment celebrates the work we’ve already done.
[00:23:36] Jeff: Okay. Tell me a little bit about what you mean by, like how, what would be some ways we could do that?
[00:23:41] Shannon: If we want to use the photos thing, we could have pictures of you. There’s that really sweet picture with you and Tim looking up at the drone from Jeff’s previous
[00:23:49] Jeff: work.
[00:23:50] Shannon: So there could be photos of Shannon as valedictorian, Jeff as drone engineer. Pictures of
[00:23:58] Jeff: Jeff skipping a rock on the river.
[00:23:59] Jeff: I think [00:24:00] for my birthday last year,
[00:24:01] Shannon: Yeah Moments in time where something happened that was worth celebrating and then showcasing that in a way that doesn’t feel contrived, no, here’s a photo of a really fun moment in time and something important that happened. I think that would be a good start.
[00:24:16] Jeff: That does sound good.
[00:24:18] Jeff: When I was applying for this job, I created a website showing all my past companies or organizations, so like school or or this company or that company and some notable projects performed at each one. And that was a good exercise to do. I felt really great about things I had done in the process of creating that collection, but it lives on the internet.
[00:24:41] Jeff: I was just
[00:24:41] Shannon: to say, How do we manifest that?
[00:24:42] Shannon: How do we make that part of, you know do we get you a giant wallpaper of your cuddle fish, drone submarine thing? Just put it up on the wall.
[00:24:49] Jeff: Yeah. People would come in and they would say, wow, that’s quite a thing.
[00:24:55] Shannon: The one thing I do want to say about this idea though, of setting up one’s environment in order that these spontaneous behaviors or mental states arise is it’s important that this doesn’t become something else to cling to
[00:25:09] Jeff: That you don’t have a fragility, maybe, in your your setup, your routines, your your physical, your photographs,
[00:25:19] Shannon: You know If one of the photographs falls off the wall, that we stop liking each other, that would be a problem. And that we build in flexibility into the system because, we don’t have a pull up bar right now, so I have to trek down the hallway, and that’s fine. It’s not ideal, but it’s fine. But. An example that I sometimes give is I have an acquaintance who won’t go on retreat because that person can’t work out on retreat.
[00:25:44] Shannon: Their system is so rigid and so structured and fragile that they can’t take a break from what they’ve got in order to do this other thing that would be really good for them. I think anyway. I have a preference for a retreat, so maybe I’m wrong there. Anyway, [00:26:00] the idea is don’t cling to it.
[00:26:01] Shannon: One of the big Buddhist no-nos is clinging to rites and rituals.
[00:26:08] Jeff: And
[00:26:08] Shannon: that,
[00:26:08] Jeff: This of thing seems like it could easily turn into a ritual.
[00:26:11] Shannon: Yeah. And originally that was based on what was happening with Brahman society. But Akincano Weber brought up a great point and he said, Look, this optimizing thing that we’re all trying to do, that’s rites and rituals.
[00:26:26] Shannon: If I eat the right food, if I have the right diet, if I put the pull up bar at the right height, I’ll be a better person somehow. And so not clinging to these ideas.
[00:26:35] Shannon: These are things that we’re going to try out and maybe some of them will work and maybe some of them won’t and then we’ll move across the country and we have to start all over again. So
[00:26:42] Jeff: Well you and I You and I feel like have a robustness against this because a thing that we say to each other is the phrase “perpetually prototyping”. When we think about trying something out, we try to envision ourselves as perpetually prototyping, as perpetually trying new things, being open to changing them, refining them.
[00:27:01] Jeff: And the goal of that refinement I dunno, the thing we’re seeking changes in in front of us. It moves in this direction or that direction as we get more focused on different aspects of life. I feel like we do a pretty good job of keeping open to things like this.
[00:27:18] Shannon: Awesome. That’s all I have. Thank you so much once again. Thanks so much for saying so.
[00:27:27] Jeff: Another delightful peek into the um
[00:27:30] Shannon: alternate
[00:27:31] Jeff: yeah,
[00:27:31] Shannon: alt-Dharma
[00:27:32] Jeff: that’s right. T-shirt idea?
[00:27:36] Shannon: Listeners, hope you enjoy the podcast. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any and all of this. Please reach out, The website and blog is over at
[00:27:50] Jeff: I’m still encouraging , Shannon to create a line of t-shirts with a silly Dharma phrases on there. So be sure to write in if you’re interested in any of those ideas. [00:28:00]
[00:28:00] Shannon: May you be Well,
[00:28:02] Jeff: And welcome back listeners. Call now to be entered into the Dharma PhD sweepstakes.
[00:28:11] Shannon: Oh man. . What would we give away?
[00:28:13] Jeff: A A pillar of Buddhism. Of course.
[00:28:16] Shannon: Yeah
[00:28:16] Jeff: The nice thing is that everyone can be a winner. So there’s a pillar for everybody
[00:28:19] Shannon: out there.
[00:28:19] Shannon: There is a pillar for everybody. That would be a great t-shirt: Buddhism. There’s a pillar for everybody.
[00:28:25] Shannon: he’s the cohost,
[00:28:27] Jeff: are there,
[00:28:28] Shannon: he’s the cohost,
[00:28:29] Jeff: Yeah, but in the relationship. in the podcast, of course. But I think in the, in general, we’re more
[00:28:34] Jeff: peers in this case, you do everything.
[00:28:36] Jeff: And I just arrive and to say some things, maybe a little too softly into the microphone, and then I go away and magically it becomes a podcast.

2 replies on “Dharma PhD (the podcast) Episode 6”

Shanon Are those who have experienced their kensho realization or non-returning realization (which implies facilitated access to free will) as subject to dependent origination as those who have not experienced it? This raises the need to evaluate the realizations of the authors of d.o. so that we can understand whether they write from a world view of having facilitated access or not having facilitated access. Gassho the Fred process


Dear Fred, Hello! Such a treat to hear from you. Thank you for taking the time!

I’m afraid I’m not so familiar with the concepts you are speaking of. Particularly, what do you mean by “facilitated access to free will”?

As I await your definition, I will hazard a response; I’ve been thinking about writing a post on free will ever since I began working on this podcast episode. So. My take is that humans have only the smallest sort of free will. I actually prefer the term “agency” to free will. We have agency within a subscribed sphere of our experience. But very very very much of our experience, behavior, and mental/emotional states are powerfully influenced by the conditions of our lives. The language(s) we speak, the safety in which we were raised as children, whether or not our attempts at risk were successful, and even our time of life.

I also must say that I would never hazard to answer a question about someone with a non-returning realization; my hunch is that they are still human. But you’d have to ask them. And also, as Gotama said to Pasenadi, we can only to hazard the truth about a person by spending a great deal of time with them, observing their behaviors and responses to the world.

My interest, as I’ve said before, is not about the truth of any particular Buddhist claim, but about how to flourish as human beings in the world. Both the science and my personal experience suggest that free will is not something I have access to most of the time; I would be best served using it as efficaciously as I can in the spheres in which it is present.

But. Tell me about “facilitated access to free will”!

(Also, I’m headed to the forest for five days, so may not get back to you until Tuesday.)

With friendliness!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s