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The Mindful Cranks

The Mindful Cranks broadly explores the cultural translation of Buddhism in the West, various facets of Buddhist modernism, and the mainstreaming of mindfulness in secular contexts. The podcast serves as a forum for voices that go beyond the dominant narratives which have been thus far uncritical of consumerism, medicalization, psychologization, corporatization and self-help approaches. Drawing from a wide range of disciplines — the humanities, philosophy, cultural studies, education, critical pyschology, religious studies, and sociology—The Mindful Cranks welcomes new conversations that challenge the priviledging of scientific materialism, methodological individualism, reductionism, and neoliberalism. Our guests are leading edge scholars, authors, teachers, practitioners and activists that share a mutual interest in civic mindfulness and socially engaged contemplative methods. A wide range of diverse perspectives–including critical theory, critical pedagogy, ethnography, Foucauldian governmentality, feminism, hermeneutics, critical race theory, critical management studies, socially engaged Buddhism, political economy–provide the “cranky” intellectual tools for socially engaged contemplative change.
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Now displaying: 2021
Apr 3, 2021

In this episode, I was fortunate to speak to Gregory Kramer who is the founding teacher of the Insight Dialogue Community. Back in 2015, I invited Gregory to be one of the keynote speakers at an international conference that I organized on Mindfulness at SFSU.  I knew of his work on Insight Dialogue. I recently stumbled upon his new book, A Whole-Life Path: A Lay Buddhist’s Guide to Crafting a Dharma-Infused Life, and I immediately knew that I had to have him on the podcast.

In this deep and free-flowing conversation, I explore with Gregory how he came to a pragmatic understanding and creative application of the Eight Fold Noble Path into his daily life. This conversation was itself a living example, perhaps a spontaneous unfolding in real-time of the power of dialogue – when the intention is turned to full awakening. We explore the importance of the first path factor – Right View – and why it is critical to getting all of the other path factors right. We also riff on how many Western Buddhists have acquired a wrong view – a meditation-fixation, a mindfulness-only approach to practice – that not only lacks a guiding Right View, but fails at integrating a small fraction of time that is spent in sitting meditation with their daily life.

We both get a little geeky at times pondering the meaning and implications of scriptural terms and teachings – but I think you will feel the intensity and dynamism of this down-to-earth conversation on the Buddhadharma.  I think you will enjoy this episode very much. But first, a little more about Gregory Kramer.

Gregory teaches meditation, writes, and is the founding teacher of the Insight Dialogue Community. He is also author of  Insight Dialogue: The Interpersonal Path to Freedom, from Shambhala Publications; Dharma Contemplation: Meditating Together with Wisdom Texts; Seeding the Heart: Practicing Lovingkindness with Children; and other books and articles. Gregory has practiced meditation since 1974 and studied with esteemed monastics, including Anagarika Dhammadinna, Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thero, Achan Sobin Namto, Ven. Punnaji Mahathero, and others.

Feb 3, 2021

In this episode, I spoke with Daniel Simpson about his wonderful new book, The Truth of Yoga: A Comprehensive Guide to Yoga’s History, Texts, Philosophy, and Practices, just published by North Point Press. It’s an easy read because Daniel is a professional writer having left a burgeoning career in journalism after he became disillusioned with mainstream media. Our conversation dives deep into the complex and patchy history of Yoga, swimming through early, classical and hatha yoga – along with some interesting observations on modern yoga, including whether Silent Disco Yoga is a thing!  Kidding aside, this is a serious conversation – and I learned a great deal, especially just how fertile the soil was when the yogic traditions were taking hold – and the creative cross-fertilization between classical yoga traditions and the Buddhists at the time. This episode is a nice complement to our previous episode with Andrea Jain whose book was a scholarly critique of modern, global yoga.  

A little more about Daniel….

Daniel Simpson teaches yoga philosophy at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, and at Triyoga in London. He earned his Master's degree from SOAS (University of London), and his thesis critiquing mindfulness in schools was published in the journal Contemporary Buddhism. He previously worked as a foreign correspondent – for Reuters, then the New York Times – after studying at Cambridge. His interest in yoga developed in parallel, including frequent trips to India since the 1990s.

I hope you buy his book, The Truth of Yoga – it’s well written and researched – but accessible and a quick read. Enjoy this episode!

Jan 23, 2021

In this episode I spoke with Andrea R. Jain, Associate professor of religious studies at Indiana University, Indianapolis about her new book Peace Love Yoga: The Politics of Global Spirituality, published by Oxford University Press. Our conversation explores how modern, commodified yoga serves a neoliberal agenda by containing social activism and political dissent, something she calls gestural subversion. As a religious studies scholar, Andrea takes modern yoga seriously – viewing its practitioners not as passive dupes but as people with agency – but whose identities have been shaped and formed to serve neoliberal ends. We touch on a range of topics and issues – from the “feel good” neoliberal discourse of yogaware – such as Spirtual Gangster clothing products, cultural appropriation and contested claims of spiritual “authenticity,” the global spread of capitalism where even in India neoliberal forces have led to coopting yoga for extremist and exclusionary nationalist agenda, as well as QAnon’s followers attraction to yoga.

Andrea is also author of a previous book -  Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture and is currently the editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Her areas of research include religion and capitalism; global spirituality and modern yoga; the intersections of gender, sexuality, and religion; and theories of religion. 

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