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Sutras & Stuff: A Philosophy Podcast

Sutras & Stuff: A Philosophy Podcast

By Malcolm Keating

In this informal bite-sized podcast, we'll talk about a range of ideas found in Indian philosophy, along with their connections to the modern day. Your host is a philosopher who reads Sanskrit texts and thinks about how the modern and premodern are intertwined.
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Currently playing episode

Episode 5: Contagion (part two)

Sutras & Stuff: A Philosophy PodcastApr 17, 2020

Announcement - Season 4 Episode 3

Announcement - Season 4 Episode 3

Just keep swimming!

Mar 03, 202301:37
S4 E2: Avatar

S4 E2: Avatar

What do the Metaverse, blue aliens, and airbenders have in common? They’re all based on the idea of the avatar, which goes back thousands of years to the Sanskrit term avatāra. In this episode, we’ll explore what an avatar is and how thinking about these ideas in ancient Hindu and Buddhist contexts can help us think about reality, the divine, and even our survival after death.

Sounds and Music All music excerpts and soundbites used with an understanding of fair use modification for educational purposes. 

Theme music by Kevin MacLeod’s music 

Bibliography and Further Reading 

Clough, Bradley S. “The Ambivalence of the Hindus: The Buddha as Avatāraṇa of Viṣṇu in the Mahhāpurāṇas and Beyond.” The Journal of Hindu Studies (2021): 1–19. Parrinder, Geoffrey. Avatar and Incarnation: The Divine in Human Form in the World's Religions. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 1997. 

Sheth, Noel. “Hindu Avatāra and Christian Incarnation: A Comparison.” Philosophy East and West 52, no. 1 (2002): 98–125. 

Stevenson, Robert W. “The Concept of Avatāra in Ancient and Modern Commentaries on the Bhagavadgītā.” Journal of Studies in the Bhagavad Gītā 3 (1983): 56–86. 

Vaidya, Anand. Review of Reality+ by David Chalmers in Philosophy East and West, forthcoming. 

Wolfendale, Jessica. “My avatar, my self: Virtual harm and attachment.” Ethics and Information Technology (2007) 9:111–119. 

Clips and Sound Effects 

Watch Mark Zuckerberg Reveal Next-Gen Avatars With Legs!, 2022. by InspectorJ by MorneDelport 

Avatar | Official Trailer (HD) | 20th Century FOX, 2009. 

“Avatar: The Last Airbender” Theme Song (HQ) | Episode Opening Credits | Nick Animation, 2016. 

New Books Network. Raj Balkaran, host. “Podcast | Simon Brodbeck, "Divine Descent and the Four World-Ages In….” Accessed February 2, 2023. 

Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. Ramesh Pattni. “Three Faces of Vedanta: Shankaracharya, Madhvacharya, and Ramanujacharya - YouTube.” Accessed February 3, 2023. 

New Books Network. Raj Balkaran, host. “Podcast | Sucharita Adluri, "Textual Authority in Classical Indian….” Accessed February 3, 2023. 

David Chalmers: Reality+ from the Matrix to the Metaverse, 2022. Little Buddha (1993). Clip via Crescendo on 

Dalai Lama Wants to Be a Machine Avatar, 2011. 

The Dalai Lama on Why Reincarnation Is Not Important, 2019. 

DW Shift. How You Can Become Immortal as a Digital Avatar, 2022.

Feb 03, 202335:26
S4 E1: Karma

S4 E1: Karma

Does what goes around always come around? And is instant karma gonna get you? In the first episode of a season devoted to Sanskrit-to-English loanwords, we’ll examine how three groups of Indian philosophers understand karma: Jains, Buddhists, and Naiyayikas (or Nyaya philosophers).

Sounds and Music

All music excerpts and soundbites used with an understanding of fair use modification for educational purposes.

Drake featuring Bryson Tiller, “Bad Karma”

Alicia Keys, “Karma”

John Lennon and Yoko Ono with The Plastic Ono Band, “Instant Karma! (We all Shine On)”

Taylor Swift, “Karma”

Indigo Girls, “Galileo”

Culture Club, “Karma Chameleon”

Fox News clips:

Joey Jones, July 2021

Sean Hannity, August 2017

Theme music by­ Kevin MacLeod’s music

Bibliography and Further Reading

My YouTube lecture on Milinda’s Questions:

Bronkhorst, Johannes. Karma. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2011.

Finnegan, Bronwyn. “Karma, Responsibility, and Buddhist Ethics.” In The Oxford Handbook of Moral Psychology, by Manuel Vargas and John Doris, 7–23. Oxford University Press, 2022.

McDermott, James. “Kamma in the Milindapañha.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 97, no. 4 (October - December 1977): 460-468.

Hermann Jacobi’s translation of the Ācāraṅgasūtra

Jan 06, 202334:49
S4 Teaser

S4 Teaser

Taylor Swift says karma is her boyfriend, and Boy George sings about karma chameleons. In addition to “karma,” there are lots of other Sanskrit terms which have made their way into English: yoga, dharma, mantra, guru, Buddha, swastika, and more. In this season, we’ll focus on one word an episode to get a deeper understanding of what they meant in their original contexts, and how these meanings resonate today.

Episodes of Season Four will air the first Friday of every month, beginning January 6, 2023. Subscribe anywhere you can download podcasts.

Music & Effects Credits:

"Brittle Rille" by Kevin MacLeod



"Karma" by Taylor Swift

Excerpts used for educational purposes based on fair use principles

Record Scratch by user luffy


Dec 16, 202201:36
S3 E10: Tom Davies
Jun 16, 202214:54
S3 E9: Robin Zheng
Jun 01, 202215:21
S3 E8: Cathay Liu
May 15, 202215:12
S3 E7: Neil Mehta

S3 E7: Neil Mehta

In this episode, I talk with Neil Mehta, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Yale-NUS, about what exists and what we can say about it.

Further Resources

Neil Mehta’s website:

Theory of Two Truths in India:

Graham Priest’s website:

Metaphysics of grounding:


Music Credits:

Brittle Rille by Kevin MacLeod



May 01, 202216:34
S3 E6: Matt Walker
Apr 14, 202215:43
S3 E5: Jay Garfield
Apr 01, 202214:42
S3 E4: Christine Tan
Mar 16, 202216:37
S3 E3: Kathryn Muyskens
Mar 01, 202214:37
S3 E2: Andrew Bailey
Feb 14, 202216:58
S3 E1: Bryan Van Norden
Jan 30, 202215:40
Much Ado about Religion: Part 2
Jan 31, 202116:46
Episode 9: Much Ado about Religion, Part 1
Jan 15, 202112:08
Episode 8: Equivocating and other ways to lose

Episode 8: Equivocating and other ways to lose

When is a door not really a door? When it's ajar! That old joke equivocates on two meanings of "ajar" In this episode we look at how equivocation can impact our reasoning, like when we ask, When is a doctor not really a doctor? We explore a few other ways that reasoning can go wrong and force us to lose in a debate. And listen until the end to hear what's planned for Episode 9.


Matthew Dasti and Stephen Phillips, The Nyaya-sutra: Selections with Early Commentaries, Hackett Publishing, 2017.

Much Ado About Religion adapted from the Csaba Dezsö translation in the Clay Sanskrit Library, New York: NYU Press, 2005.

Definition of "doctor" from

Merriam-Webster Online


"doctor, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2020. Web. 20 December 2020.


Good Morning America, December 15, 2020

"Women rally behind Jill Biden after WSJ op-ed asks her to drop 'Dr.'"

“Hair-raising hare” (Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies, 1946)

"Expertise" (Sutras (and stuff) Season 1, Episode 6)

Billy Madison (Universal Pictures, 1995)


Brittle Rille by Kevin MacLeod




Monastery Bell

Buzzer by qubodup

Jan 01, 202112:51
Season 2 Announcement

Season 2 Announcement

Quick announcement about Episodes 8 through 10.

Dec 30, 202001:20
Counterfeit Reasons
Dec 15, 202012:24
Nov 23, 202016:28
Nov 06, 202015:53
Oct 23, 202014:54
Announcement about Episode 4

Announcement about Episode 4

Sutras (and stuff) will return next week for a new episode. Apologies for the delay and thanks for your patience!

Oct 16, 202003:21
Oct 01, 202015:39
Sep 18, 202014:35
Introduction to Season 2
Sep 04, 202011:17
Announcement: Season One Ending

Announcement: Season One Ending

When I started this podcast in February 2020, I envisioned a first season of ten episodes. I wrote, recorded, and scheduled the most recent episode (Episode 8) before the nationwide protests  against police brutality began in the United States, which is my country of origin and my current home while I am on leave from my college. Given current events, even though I strongly believe that philosophy, and even premodern Sanskrit philosophy, has an important role to play in shaping a more just and equitable society, I have decided to put a pause on recording and disseminating these episodes. I'll be taking the summer off to focus elsewhere, and plan to return in the fall with the second season.

Why not write more episodes which focus on connections between social justice, the current protests, and Sanskrit philosophy? Perhaps I will in the future, but right now I feel like my voice isn't the one that needs to be heard. Rather, as a white person, I want to listen to, and have my fellow Americans hear, the voices of black people, along with others historically oppressed in this country. I plan to return September 1, 2020, with a new season.

Jun 04, 202001:48
Episode 8: Binging

Episode 8: Binging

Binge-watching. You sit down, popcorn and soda at the ready, and before you know it, three hours have gone by and Netflix pops up with a message: “Are you still watching?”  While binge-watching is a fairly new English phrase (attested by the OED back to 1998 in verb form) in the sense of “overindulgence,” binging goes back to the 19th century, associated with gluttony. While binging on television may be a particularly modern phenomenon, the connection between gluttony and aesthetic taste is not. Today on Sutras (and Stuff) we’ll look at the Sanskrit thinker Abhinavagupta on aesthetic gluttony. Would he binge-watch the Tiger King or even the Ramayana on Netflix?


Locana commentary on Anandavardhana’s Dhvanyaloka, Jeffrey Moussaeiff Masson, M.V. Patwardhan, Daniel H.H. Ingalls, Harvard University Press, 1990.

Śāntarasa and Abhinavagupta's Philosophy of Aesthetics, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, J. L. Masson, M. V. Patwardhan, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1969. On Amazon.

The Triadic Heart of Siva: Kaula Tantricism of Abhinavagupta in the Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir,  Paul E. Muller-Ortega, State University of New York Press, 2010.

For further listening & reading:

History of Philosophy podcast about rasa more generally:

This episode's sounds are from

Sandpiper tweeting:

Spotted sandpiper alarm call:

Sideways Clip:

Community Clip:

Theme music from Ramayana

May 29, 202014:01
Episode 7: Craving
May 15, 202017:01
Episode 6: Expertise

Episode 6: Expertise

Who should you listen to? Now, more than ever before, we have access to advice from a range of self-proclaimed experts. Anyone with a webcam and an Internet connection can dole out advice. But how do we tell if someone is trustworthy? In this episode, I test some so-called experts based on the requirements from Nyaya philosophers. Let's see who makes the cut...
Sources and Links
Quotes from Caraka’s Compendium are from
Domink Wujastyk’s The Roots of Ayurveda and the Caraka Samhita Online
Quotes from the Nyayasutra are from
The Nyaya-sutra: Selections with Early Commentaries translated by Matthew Dasti and Stephen Phillips
Clips of Dr. Phil and Dr. Fauci are from
The Laura Ingraham Show on Fox News (, an interview with Dr. Phil ( ), and an interview with Dr. Fauci (
May 01, 202016:19
Teaser: Episode 6
Apr 24, 202000:47
Episode 5: Contagion (part two)
Apr 17, 202015:10
Episode 4: Contagion (part one)
Apr 03, 202016:37
Announcement: Opening up the "phone lines"

Announcement: Opening up the "phone lines"

I want to hear from you. Send me a voice message through Anchor or email me at and I might use your messages on an upcoming episode. Be well, everyone.

Mar 28, 202001:07
Episode 3: Reclining
Mar 27, 202016:06
Episode 2.1: Disease and debate

Episode 2.1: Disease and debate

What does an ancient Sanskrit text have to tell us about reasoning about the coronavirus and debating with people about its treatment? Caraka’s Compendium, a medical treatise, gives some guidelines for when to bother debating with people, and whom we should trust with our health. Sources & links Online Searchable Caraka Samhita Translation of Caraka Samhita from the episode    Philosophy and Medicine in Classical India Project BBC Interview with Prof. Robin Shattock, Imperial College London The Trish Regan Show and the coronavirus 
Mar 20, 202013:23
Episode 2: The Man

Episode 2: The Man

Taylor Swift does it, and so does Kalidasa. How does figurative speech work and why do we enjoy it so much? In this episode, I talk about how figurative language from Sanskrit poetry to William Shakespeare to Taylor Swift. Sources and Links Taylor Swift, “The Man” music video Yigal Bronner, Extreme Poetry Kālidāsa, Raghuvaṃśa Malcolm Keating, Language, Meaning, and Use in Indian Philosophy Richard III Soliloquy Official podcast website

Mar 13, 202015:37
S1 E1: Threads
Feb 29, 202013:22