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Blue Beryl

Author: Dr. Pierce Salguero & Dr. Lan Li

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Intelligent conversations about Buddhism, Asian medicine, and embodied spirituality.
11 Episodes
Meet your host Dr. Pierce Salguero and producer/editor Dr. Lan Li as we inaugurate the Blue Beryl podcast and kick off our first season dedicated to Buddhist medicine. We discuss Pierce's background as a practitioner of Theravada Buddhism and traditional Thai medicine, some interesting experiences he had at Thai temples and meditation centers, and his work as an academic researcher of Buddhist medicine globally. We also chat about tensions between scholarship and practice, our previous multimedia collaborations related to Buddhism and Asian medicine, as well as our goals for the first season of the podcast.Resources mentioned in the pod:Pierce's website ('s website (, Buddhish: A Guide to the 20 Most Important Buddhist Ideas for the Curious and Skeptical (2022)Pierce's blog about 1980s movies Pierce's centipede article in Tricycle, (2022)Strickmann, Chinese Magical Medicine (2002)Salguero, Translating Buddhist Medicine in Medieval China (2014)Salguero, A Global History of Buddhism & Medicine (2022)Salguero, Buddhism & Medicine: An Anthology of Premodern Sources (2017)Salguero, Buddhism & Medicine: An Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Sources (2020)Medicine | Race | Democracy Lab ( Project ( 
In this episode, I sit down with my friend Bill McGrath, a historian of Tibetan Buddhism and medicine. He's one of the most knowledgeable people in the world on this subject, and we get deep into the weeds in an academic conversation about traditional Tibetan medicine, the category of Buddhist medicine, and Bill's perspectives on magic, religion, and science. We also reminisce about the time that Bill once used a Tibetan mantra to save the day when we ran out of gas driving home from a conference!Resources mentioned in the pod:Bill's website (, ReOrienting Histories of Medicine: Encounters along the Silk Road (2022)Gerke, Taming the Poisonous: Mercury, Toxicity, and Safety in Tibetan Medical Practic (2021)Janet Gyatso's review of Pierce's 2014 bookSalguero, A Global History of Buddhism and Medicine (2022)Gyatso, Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet (2017)McGrath, Knowledge and Context in Tibetan Medicine (2019)Saxer, Manufacturing Tibetan Medicine: The Creation of an Industry and the Moral Economy of Tibetanness (2013)Reassembling Tibetan Meicine (, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905)
In this episode, I sit down with my friend Wakoh Shannon Hickey, who is a Soto Zen priest, hospice chaplain, scholar, and activist. We talk about Wakoh’s early experiences with social violence in the 1980s, her work as a hospital chaplain, and her 2019 book Mind Cure, which is a groundbreaking social history of religion and mindfulness in the U.S. Resources:Wakoh's pageHickey, Mind Cure: How Meditation Became Medicine (2019)Helderman, Prescribing the Dharma: Psychotherapists, Buddhist Traditions, and Defining Religion (2019)Brown, Debating Yoga and Mindfulness in Public Schools: Reforming Secular Education or Reestablishing Religion? (2019)Purser, McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality (2019)Find all episodes of the Blue Beryl Podcast at
Dr Pierce Salguero sits down with Venerable Soorākkulame Pemaratana, chief abbot at the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center and a scholar of modern Buddhism in Sri Lanka. We talk about his role in adapting Buddhist practices to address social and mental health needs during the Covid-19 pandemic. We also compare Buddhist responses to Covid in Pittsburgh and Sri Lanka. Along the way, we talk about how he became a monk, the health benefits of drinking boiled coriander water, and the dire situation in his home country. Enjoy the conversation! And, if you want to hear from more experts on Buddhist medicine and related topics, subscribe to Blue Beryl for monthly episodes here. Resources:Pittsburgh Buddhist CenterDonate to PBC's efforts to Help Sri LankaPBC Recordings of ChantingPBC LivestreamOther Resources on Buddhist Responses to Covid-19
Dr. Pierce Salguero chats with Nephyr Jacobsen, a traditional Thai medicine practitioner based in Portland Oregon. Nephyr is the founder and director of the Naga Center, and a long time student and teacher of traditional Thai medicine. We talk about Nephyr's experience training in Thailand and some of her writing projects. We focus on the broad diversity of practices and the role of Buddhism in Thai medicine. We also get into social issues, such as ethically engaging with cultural practices in a non-extractive way and her experiences as a practitioner of traditional medicine during Covid. Enjoy the conversation! And, if you want to hear from more experts on Buddhist medicine and related topics, subscribe to Blue Beryl for monthly episodes here. Resources:The Naga CenterJacobsen & Salguero, Thai Herbal Medicine: Traditional Recipes for Health and Harmony, 2nd edition (2014) Jacobsen, Seven Peppercorns: Traditional Thai Medical Theory For Bodyworkers (2015)Salguero & Roylance, Encyclopedia of Thai Massage: A Complete Guide to Traditional Thai Massage Therapy and Acupressure, 2nd edition (2011)Ajahn Pichet's websiteNephyr's Cultural Awareness Course Salguero, Traditional Thai Medicine: Buddhism, Animism, Yoga, Ayurveda, 2nd edition (2016)Veterans study (with 50K, not 500K subjects) 
Dr Pierce Salguero sits down with Paula Arai, a scholar of Japanese Zen, gender, and healing ritual. Paula is an inspiration in the way she blends critical analysis and compassion in her work. In this episode, we talk about how her journey into Zen began with her relationship with her Japanese mother, as well as her work on everyday Japanese healing rituals. Our discussion focuses on the ethics of empathetic scholarship and how Paula’s care for relationships has shaped her five books. Along the way, we touch on the centrality of women in Buddhism and the challenges of facing misogyny and sexism in academia. Enjoy the conversation! And, if you want to hear from more experts on Buddhist medicine and related topics, subscribe to Blue Beryl for monthly episodes here. Resources:Article about Paula by Karma Lekse Tsomo in Challenging Bias Against Women Academics in Religion (2021)Women Living Zen: Japanese Soto Buddhist Nuns (1999)Bringing Zen Home: The Healing Heart of Japanese Women's Rituals (2011)Painting Enlightenment: Healing Visions of the Heart Sutra (2019)The Oxford Handbook of Buddhist Practice (2022)The Little Book of Zen Healing: Japanese Rituals for Beauty, Harmony, and Love (2023)
And now for something completely different! Today I sit down with Zachary Lui who is a practitioner of Chinese medicine, magic, and shamanism in the Toronto area. We start by talking about his early work with Chinese martial arts, traditional medicine, and qigong. We then get into Zac’s practice of chaos magic, diverse ritual practices, reiki, and esoteric Buddhist healing. Finally, we discuss his communication with different deities and spirits, as well as the potential dangers of working with them in his healing practice. Enjoy! And, if you want to hear from more experts on Buddhist medicine and related topics, subscribe to Blue Beryl for monthly episodes here. Resources Wuji Xuan Life Wellness Queen City Curio Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole Podcast Andrieh Vitimus, Hands-On Chaos Magic (2009)  
In this episode I sit down with Frances Garrett, a scholar of Tibetan culture, history, and language. We talk about Frances’s interests in embodiment and movement, and how her experiences as ballet dancer, surfer, and rock climber connect with her work on religion and healing. Our conversation focuses on her commitment to embodied and trauma-aware pedagogy, and how in the interest of flourishing, she engages the whole person in the learning process. Along the way, we talk about Tibetan bards, sacred mountains, and the importance of long walks. Enjoy! And, if you want to hear from more experts on Buddhist medicine and related topics, subscribe to Blue Beryl for monthly episodes here. Resources Michel Strickmann, Chinese Magical Medicine (2002)Frances Garrett, Religion, Medicine and the Human Embryo in Tibet (2008)Frances Garrett, Hidden Lands in Himalayan Myth and History (2020)Tsering Yangzom Lama, We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies (2022)Susan Hrach, Minding Bodies (2021)Jesse Stommel's ungrading website: www.jessestommel.comSusan D. Bloom, Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead) (2020)Cate J. Denial, “A Pedagogy of Kindness” (2019)Frances's website: www.francesgarrett.infoWindvane Project:
Today I sit down with Willa Blythe Baker, a writer, translator, and teacher of meditation based on Himalayan Buddhist tradition. We talk about Willa’s early discovery of Buddhism with her mother, her time living as a nun, and our shared experience in graduate school at UVa. We then do a deep-dive into Buddhist tantra and the alchemical transformations of the body-mind that led to Willa’s most recent book, The Wakeful Body, published by Shambhala in 2021. If you find yourself in your head too much of the time, then this conversation is for you! Enjoy! And, if you want to hear from more experts on Buddhist medicine and related topics, subscribe to Blue Beryl for monthly episodes here. Willa's Publications and Activities Natural Dharma Fellowship and Wonderwell Mountain RefugeThe Wakeful Body: Somatic Mindfulness as a Path to Freedom (2021) The Arts of Contemplative Care: Pioneering Voices in Buddhist Chaplaincy and Pastoral Work (2012)Everyday Dharma: Seven Weeks to Finding the Buddha in You (2009)Essence of Ambrosia: A Guide to Buddhist Contemplations (2005)
Today I sit down with two guests, Ounkham Souksavanh and Elizabeth Elliott, to talk about community engagement and community health in Laos. We discuss how Elizabeth as a medical anthropologist, and Ounkham as a physician, work together to build trust and improve healthcare access across an ethnically and religiously diverse landscape. Along the way, we learn about Elizabeth’s experience of foraging for herbs and Ounkham’s memories of growing up with traditional medicine in his family. If you want to learn about the landscape of Lao traditional healers and medicinal plants — with a few snake bites and plant talismans thrown in — then this episode is for you!Enjoy! And, if you want to hear from more experts on Buddhist medicine and related topics, subscribe to Blue Beryl for monthly episodes here. Resources mentioned in the podcast: Elizabeth's dissertation: "Potent Plants, Cool Hearts" (2021) Pierce Salguero, Traditional Thai Medicine: Buddhism, Animism, Yoga, Ayurveda (2016)Richard Poitier, Yû dî mî hèng "être bien, avoir de la force" (2007)Elizabeth's documentary: Traditional Medicine in Southern Laos (2023) Brand new book released after the interview was recorded: Djaja Djendoel Soejarto et al, Medicinal Plants of Laos (2023)
Today I sit down for an in-depth conversation with my good friend, Michael Stanley-Baker, a scholar of Chinese religion and medicine. We talk about Mike’s international childhood and how his family history influenced his intellectual life, his training as a Chinese medical practitioner, and his book co-edited with Vivienne Lo, the Routledge Handbook of Chinese Medicine, which is groundbreaking... and open access! We also talk about Mike’s new book with Manchester University Press, Situating Religion and Medicine in Asia, which opens up a critical conversation about how we understand Asian medicine. Then, we look ahead to Mike’s digital humanities project, called Polyglot Asian Medicines. Along the way we talk rabbit-ducks and how fish know that they're underwater. I hope that you enjoy the conversation as much as I did. And if you want to hear from more experts on Buddhist medicine and related topics, subscribe to Blue Beryl for monthly episodes.Resources mentioned in the episode:Michael Stanley-Baker and Vivienne Lo (eds), Routledge Handbook of Chinese Medicine (2022).Michael Stanley-Baker, Situating Religion and Medicine in Asia: Methodological Insights and Innovations (2023).The Rabbit-Duck (image)Polyglot Asian Medicines project website Polyglot Asian Medicines intro videoMike's publications
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