Thursday, 27 August 2015

Good Podcast: San Francisco Zen Centre Dharma Talks

San Francisco is the capital of Western Zen. The sangha there – the Western one; Asian residents were already practicing for over a century – is one of the oldest in the world, founded by Shunryu Suzuki in 1961. Today, most Zen teachers in this hemisphere have some connection with it, whether formal or incidental. (That's Soto teachers; Western Rinzai is less centralised, Korean Zen is bipolar – it has two power centres – and Thich Nhat Hanh's Vietnamese lineage is anchored in France.)

Today's SFZC is a freakin' 900-pound gorilla among spider monkeys, with three houses, an expansive endowment, and a giant sangha consisting largely of priests and priests-in-training. We hermits like to sneer about "enlightenment factories", but this-here really is.

On the other hand, it's nice to have a secure, established hub you know will be there tomorrow: reassuringly conservative, largely unchanging, eschewing relevance and doctrinal debate, and grinding out priests like a latter-day Ireland, who in turn produce reams of teachings for world consumption. In sum, SFZC – its history, its current role, the nature and limits of its authority – is a big topic among Zenners. Few of us exercise don't-know-mind in its regard.

But I'm not going to weigh in. Instead I'm going to direct you to their Dharma Talks podcast; for my money, one of Rome on the Bay's most valuable products. (To begin with, I don't have any money, and all of the teishos in SZFC's bottomless digital databank are free.)

The talks cover every Zen topic under the sun, in every style, as SFZC's diverse clerical corps take turns at the mic. A few of these lectures have about saved my life, when it needed saving. Others leave me more or less unchanged, but they're all useful and productive.

Anyway, dig it, brothers and sisters: there are a lot of them.

SFZC's podcast homepage includes links to such automatic delivery options as iTunes and RSS, as well an archive of the podcasts themselves – one per week right back to 2007 – for individual download.

So if you're up for 300-odd ordained-types throwing down some serious Zen, swing on by San Francisco's perpetual Teisho Slam. Whatever you need, you'll find it there.
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