About me, Justin Whitaker:
I am an almost-life-long Montanan; a baptized Catholic; an ardent agnostic; practicing Buddhist things; a lover of Wisdom. I find solitude to be as essential as air, though I am at times gregarious, and very often joyful, alone and with others. I laugh at my own jokes almost as much as my father, love learning, and love those who truly love… anything. I have certainty in little, and little time for those who are certain of much, though admire those whose certainty leads to service of humankind.
You can contact me at Buddhistethics AT gmail DOT com.
I have a B.A. and almost an M.A. in (Western) Philosophy from the University of Montana-Missoula. I have an M.A. in Buddhist Studies from Bristol University, UK, where I focused on Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhist Ethics. In January 2016 I successfully defended my Ph.D. thesis in Buddhist Ethics at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Over the course of my Ph.D. studies I have lived in London, Washington D.C., Montana, Bodh Gaya, India, and Bristol, UK. I have also had the good fortune to spend time traveling/studying in China, Taiwan, Burma, Thailand, and Korea.
My main academic foci are early Buddhist ethics and Kant (an odd combination, I know). I also study Western ethics and philosophy more broadly, Tibetan Buddhism, Theravada, Buddhism as a whole, Western Buddhism, Comparative philosophy and religion, and Environmental ethics. I have taught university courses in Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhist Philosophy, and Comparative World Religions and TAed a number of philosophy courses.
I am an independent Philosophical Advisor & Mindfulness Practitioner at MerlinCCC in Helena, Montana.
I am on the Board of Directors for the Association for Mindfulness Meditation and Secular Buddhism.
Practice (meditation and otherwise):
My earliest meditation experiences were as a young child, when my mother taught me visualizations to help me fall asleep. I was raised as a liberal Catholic and attended church until around the age of 13. In my later teens I left Christianity and identified variously as an atheist, humanist, agnostic, etc.
My Buddhist practice began in 2001 as part of a university course on Buddhism, under the guidance of Bodhipaksa (FWBO, now Triratna Buddhist Order). Since then I have practiced with the TBO off and on in Montana and Bristol and was once invited to give a talk in Spain. Around 2003/4 I began sitting with a Vipassana group and attended my first silent 10-day retreat. I also sat once with the local Soka Gakai International group – “nam myoho renge kyo.” In 2004-05 I studied and practiced in the Tibetan (Geluk) tradition, culminating with a private (though not one-on-one) teaching from H.H. the Dalia Lama. In 2006 I practiced with and did a short retreat/sesshin with a Soto Zen community, the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives. I also attended about a dozen short retreats from 2001-7 with various TBO and Vipassana teachers and once, somewhat by accident, a Pure Land Buddhist service in Calgary, AB.
Since 2007 I have focused my practice on Vipassana, continuing my short retreats (two scheduled long ones have been canceled at the last minute – so I guess I’m well overdue for one of those), as well as retreats with other communities, including two by teachers in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing. I participated in a Catholic ‘Spiritual Exercises’ retreat in 2008. In 2010 I traveled to Taiwan for a 3-week program in Lin-chi Ch’an (Rinzai Zen) philosophy and practice with the Woodenfish program. Living in Bristol from 2011-14 I practiced with a community focusing on Samatha (calming) practices. In Montana, 2015-current, I have continued a private meditation practice and joined the local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and in 2016 I began teaching mindfulness meditation through a friend’s yoga studio.
In terms of all of these practices, I have seen evidence that all ‘work’ to some extent in the lives of most practitioners. None is a magic bullet and none is intrinsically superior to any of the others. In any person there should be a mix of ‘finding what works for you’ and allowing yourself to be changed by the practice. But none will work if isolated from developing a good moral life, good friends to help along the way, and an abiding curiosity about and understanding of the world as a whole.
My artistic outlet is photography. I love to run, drink red wine, and eat peanut butter (often in that order).
About the Blog, American Buddhist Perspectives:
This blog began, as so many did in the early 2000s, as a rather personal online host to my thoughts on life, politics, education, religion, and more. After a while, a few people began commenting, then following, then sharing the blog with others. And over time, a community of bloggers developed.
Over the years I have hosted a great number of guest authors. Recently I have sought explicitly to broaden the perspectives represented here and in 2016 I aim to include a great number of academic writers who would like to reach a broader audience. See the Guest Authors page for more information on submitting an article to the blog.