Skillful Means Podcast

#2: Skillful Means

September 30, 2019
Skillful Means Podcast
#2: Skillful Means
Skillful Means Podcast
#2: Skillful Means
Sep 30, 2019
Jennifer O'Sullivan & Sarah Jane Shangraw
Show Notes

In Episode 2, we unpack “skillful means”: teachings and methods that support a practitioner’s journey on the path toward enlightenment. Serious yoga practitioners and teachers know this both includes and goes beyond asana and pranayama. So, what other means can we take up to wake up?

According to the Buddha, there is no one prescription. In Buddhism, skillful means (Pali: upaya) are whatever is expedient to continuing along the path, and appropriate to the circumstances (and discarded when no longer so). They are accelerative and adaptive, but may not lead to the ultimate truth...and that is okay. Examples from our practices include enhancement methods such as yin yoga, compassion meditation, and self-inquiry. 

While the concept of upaya is used in some Buddhist contexts to classify teachings in a hierarchy, we use the concept to discern what is and what is not skillful when it comes to trends in contemporary western yoga (enter: goat and beer yoga).

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Sources and Further Reading:

  • An overview of Skillful Means from the online wiki Encyclopedia of Buddhism 

  • The Parable of the Burning House from the Lotus Sutra, translated by Gene Reeves and published online by the Montreal Institute of Applied Mindfulness  

  • The article “When to Let Go of the Dharma, Too,” includes the Raft Parable, and teacher Stephen Batchelor discusses letting go of means to a particular end, and the empowering approach of secular dharma

  • In contrast to Batchelor’s secular lens, in the article “Entering the Lotus,” Zen priest Michael Wenger shares the role the vast and iconic Lotus Sutra plays in Buddhist practice

  • The Aimee Mann song, That’s Just What You Are  

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