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Poetry as/and Practice: A Conversation with Joseph Goldstein

Online Program
Dates: Nov 30, 2023

Instructor(s): Joseph Goldstein and William Edelglass

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Program Description:

In recent years, Joseph Goldstein has made poetry a part of his practice. In this, he joins many other Buddhist teachers and practitioners who turned to the language of poetry to express their experience and wisdom and to help others along the path. We see this already in the Therīgāthā and Theragāthā, songs of insight, aspiration, and loss composed by the early generations of Buddhist monastics that were included in the Pāli Canon. Buddhist philosophers such as Nāgārjuna, who wrote sophisticated rational treatises, also often wrote poetry expressing their sense of devotion and wonder that moves their readers beyond the limits of reason. Poetry was at the heart of much East Asian Buddhism, where the beautiful play of language was cultivated as a practice. Today, Buddhist poets in Asia and the West have become some of our most skillful teachers, inspiring us on the path, presenting objects of meditation, revelation, and beauty. This conversation with Joseph Goldstein and William Edelglass, BCBS Director of Studies, will explore the practice of poetry. We will inquire into poetry as a practice of attention, of giving voice to our own experience and insights, of resting in what Joseph in one of his poems calls the “love of my lonely hours.”

As preparation for this conversation, we invite you to read this interview with Joseph on how poetry has become an element of his own practice. The interview, originally published in the fall 2023 issue of Tricycle and republished by permission in the BCBS Insight Journal, includes a selection of his poems. We also invite you to read this Insight Journal article, from the Spring 2020 issue, by William, “‘When I could do nothing’: Buddhism and the Practice of Poetry in a Time of Pandemic.”

    About the Instructor(s):
  • Joseph Goldstein has been leading insight and lovingkindness meditation retreats worldwide since 1974. He is a co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, where he is on the guiding teachers’ Founders Council. In 1989, together with several other teachers and students of insight meditation, he helped establish the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.

    Joseph first became interested in Buddhism as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand in 1965. Since 1967, he has studied and practiced different forms of Buddhist meditation under eminent teachers from India, Burma, and Tibet. He is the author of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening, A Heart Full of Peace, One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism, Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom, The Experience of Insight, and co-author of Seeking the Heart of Wisdom and Insight Meditation: A Correspondence Course.

  • William Edelglass is Director of Studies at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.  He also teaches at Smith College, where he is the Director of the Five College Tibetan Studies Program in India, and is adjunct professor at the Central University for Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, India.  His scholarship explores questions in Buddhist studies, environmental humanities, and philosophy.  William has practiced in several different Buddhist traditions and has taught widely in dharma centers, academia, as a wilderness guide, and in several Tibetan academic institutions in India.  William’s most recent book is The Routledge Handbook of Indian Buddhist Philosophy.