What are you looking for in life? What do you consider meaningful? How do you deal with your suffering and that of others? Is there something we owe to each other? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? What does death mean to you, personally? Who are you?
If you are contemplating these or similar questions, then my podcast called ‘dharma-bites’ might be interesting for you. If not, you stop reading or listening now.
‘Dharma’ is a term in the ancient Sanskrit-language. It has different translations, but in this case I mean ‘buddhist views & practices’. So, ‘dharma-bites’ is a playful term that refers to the wisdom or truth that can be found in buddhism and the fact that it is recorded and can be heard. As in sound-bites.
In addition, they are intended to be short, simple and in a way fragments of a larger whole. You could therefore also ‘hear’ bites as in ’the act of biting’ – to cut into or through something. Say a small part of an apple pie. But in this case: a short teaching from the long & vast buddhist tradition. Biting also points to then eat it, chew on it, enjoy it and really take it in. In this case: making the teachings personal.
In other words: I am recording these ‘dharma-bites’ for those who feel a curiosity about what buddhist teachings can offer for their personal life and also those who are already on a ‘buddhist path’ but wish to contemplate again about certain ideas, concepts or simply renew a practice.
I have found that revisiting even the most ‘basic’ elements, like the life story of Gautama Buddha, the meaning of the name ‘buddha’ or the Four Seals can be really insightful – and I wish the way I approach these topics will support non-buddhist and buddhist alike, whether just beginning to explore or having done so already for many years.
We can ask: why listen to buddhist teachings at all? Do I only discuss buddhism in my podcast? How will I explore the questions mentioned in the beginning? Answers to these questions can be found below, or you can start listening to ‘dharma-bites’ on my SoundCloud by clicking here.
Why listen to ‘dharma-bites’ at all?
At some points in our lives we ask ourselves questions about who we are and the world around us. However, they quickly and often disappear to the background – our ‘daily life’ takes over. Yet, these ‘philosophical’, ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ questions – or whatever you prefer to call them – never go away.
Often they return when something unexpected happens – usually when we are facing hardship. This can be a sudden pandemic, the loss of someone dear to us, the experience of depression, and so on. Whenever it may be, those moments are very precious. The question is: will we open our heart & mind and allow ourselves to take time for them?
So, why ‘dharma-bites’? In essence, to not wait for a specific moment but start contemplating questions about life and its very meaning today.
Now, you might wonder: how will I explore these questions? Put differently, where do we look for answers?
First it is good to know we don’t need to ask ourselves the ‘big questions’ necessarily. The most important is to ask our own questions. We can find these when we take a break from the usual things we are doing. In a moment of no action. The moment of asking ourselves a real personal question can be seen as the beginning of our ‘philosophical’, ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ path.
Though ultimately our answer can perhaps be found within, there are many sources for inspiration. This could be famous teachers – contemporary or from a distant past. It could be books – recently published or very old ones. The source could be people around you – friends, family, colleagues or even a stranger you accidentally met.
In all cases these sources build upon the experiences & wisdom of others – teachers, books, people. This is how philosophical schools, religions and all kind of spiritual traditions come into being.
In the past your sources might be very limited to people that live close-by and most likely you simply go along with the views and practices found in your immediate environment. In todays world however, we most likely encounter teachers, books and people that present different ideas than the ones we are familiar with.
Since it is easy now to travel to all kinds of places in the world, or simply have a seemingly infinite amount of resources available online, we can look for answers to our questions in many places. On the one hand, this is a blessing. On the other hand, we can feel overwhelmed and get lost. The question then becomes, where to begin?
The best approach to that question is, I found, to simply start with something you feel a connection with. Something that somehow triggered a question or drew your attention. For me it was both a book (Sophie’s world by Jostein Gaarder) and learning about Tibet & fourteenth Dalai Lama that led me to philosophy & (Tibetan) buddhism respectively. For you, dharma-bites might be part of that very beginning!
Though I feel that wisdom and meaningful practices can be found in many sources, often unexpected, I personally look for guidance mainly in buddhist teachings. Many of us, no matter where we live on this planet, comes across buddhism in one way or another. Perhaps you grew up buddhist or you heard about it during a mindfulness-course, yoga-class, movie, online series, or a lesson at school / university. The question, however, is: how can we see the wisdom, the true meaning in the words, rituals, images and so on. In that sense, ‘dharma-bites’ is also to look at our own context: our cultures, traditions, values – all structures that influence the way we understand ourselves and the surrounding world. Put differently, I wish ‘dharma-bites’ helps to make the buddhist teachings personal. Not unlike the longer articles that I write for my blog on my website.
Considering my background, especially in philosophy and the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), you will notice I will not just draw from buddhist tradition. After all, the ’truth’ or ‘reality’ is not ‘buddhist’. It is simply the truth and reality. It is how it is. Though there are clearly differences, I personally feel other traditions point to this as well.
One other remark: I feel very much a beginner. As a philosopher. As a writer. As a buddhist. And now as someone recording a podcast. Any wisdom in these ‘dharma-bites’ is really from my own teachers, like Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and other great teachers of today and many centuries ago up till the historical Buddha, philosophers and religious figures. Yet, by passing them on, I wish they can be of benefit to you and, through you, to others.
By the way: If you want me to discuss a particular topic or question – please let me know! You can find my e-mail on my website.
You can find these ‘dharma-bites’ on my SoundCloud and the texts I read from (sometimes with additional references / sources) can be found on my website.
Ultimately, again, I hold with buddhism that wisdom can be found within yourself. In that sense the ‘dharma-bites’ is like an echo of the wisdom that you can find within your own heart & mind. May they do so!