Joseph Goldstein: Bringing the Dharma from the Masters to the West

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In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, we hear stories and teachings from Joseph Goldstein, one of the most well-known Buddhist teachers in the United States. Joseph Goldstein has been teaching meditation for 40 years and founded the Insight Meditation Society in 1976 with Sharon Salzberg and Jack Kornfield, a center that has since introduced thousands of people to meditation. He also has recently begun teaching meditation to, and with, ABC News anchor Dan Harris.

Joseph first tells us how he came across Buddhism at age 21 while in the PeaceCorps in Thailand. He describes his first meditation experience and what about that made him want to keep meditating. He also tells us about the book that influenced his early practices and reflects on whether he could tell at that time whether he was pioneering into uncharted waters for a Westerner. We hear what Joseph’s early practice looked like and what inspired him to spend more time practicing in Asia. He shares experiences and stories from traveling in India in his early 20s, including meeting his first teacher, Anagarika Shri Munindra, who had been studying with Mahasi Sayadaw. We hear how Joseph was so powerfully drawn to meditation, despite the fact that it was not at all easy for him at first.

We hear how in the fall of 1970, renowned teacher S. N. Goenka came to Bodhgaya and Joseph began to practice body-scanning meditation with him. Joseph highlights the difference between mindfulness practice and concentration practices, and then goes on to share his experience being a student of beloved teacher Dipa Ma. In 1974, Joseph returned to the United States and was invited by Ram Dass to teach with him and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche at the first summer session of the Naropa Institute. This led Joseph to be invited to lead retreats all around the country, and shortly afterward, he joined Sharon Salzberg and Jack Kornfield in founding the Insight Meditation Society. Joseph tells of IMS’s early days and what teaching alongside Trungpa Rinpoche was like.He also tells of his experience practicing with Tibetan teachers Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche, underscoring the contrasts between the various practices he’s done. He shares with us a profound teaching he received from Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche on compassion and emptiness.

Finally, Joseph shares the realizations that set his mind at rest when he was struggling with some of the central philosophies and teachings of Buddhism, and offers his thoughts on how the Dharma has taken root in Western culture.

About the Interviewee

Joseph Goldstein has been leading insight and loving-kindness meditation retreats worldwide since 1974. He is a cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Massachusetts, where he continues as one of the resident guiding teachers. In 1989, together with several other teachers and students, he established the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and, later, The Forest Refuge. A seminal figure in the emergence of Buddhism in the West, Joseph is the author of numerous books including One Dharma. He lives in Barre, Massachusetts.

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