PM: Hi Stephen, thanks for taking some time to talk with me. I just got done
reading your book, “Why I Am A Buddhist…”, and I’m glad you wrote it.
You mention at the beginning, people may not know you, so why pick the book up? Here’s a small opportunity to let people know just who you are. What’s your background? Do you follow any particular tradition/ lineage? Why Buddhism?
Stephen Asma: I’m a professor of philosophy at Columbia College in Chicago, and Buddhist philosophy is one of my areas of interest. I lived in Cambodia for a while and also China, studying and teaching Buddhism. I’ve studied Buddhism in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Hong Kong. I’ve written three books on Buddhism, and I tend to stress the Theravada traditions of Southeast Asia.
I learned about Buddhism originally when I was in high school, because I really liked Zen art forms, but then I started studying its philosophy formally in college. After I got my PhD I travelled throughout Asia and studied Buddhism “on the ground” so to speak. I think Buddhism has wonderful psychological techniques for disciplining the mind and bringing greater tranquility into one’s life –no matter what culture you were raised in.