“I actually find it easier to do an endoscopic brain surgery than it would be to sit and meditate for that long…”
-Dr. Patrick Codd
Name: Patrick J. Codd, MD
Location: Duke University Medical Center. Durham, NC
Specialty: Neurosurgeon. Professor of Neurosurgery. Ordained Buddhist Priest.
Keith and I have long considered doing an episode on meditation. What held us back was our goal (as it is with every episode) to answer these two questions: how would the episode specifically benefit you, the physicians and medical professionals in our audience, and how would we avoid simply rehashing a well worn topic explored elsewhere? As you know, we’re not big on chasing trends here. So we tabled it, until just recently, when we came across today’s guest.
Dr. Patrick Codd earned his M.D. in the Harvard Medical School/MIT Health Science & Technology Program. He then completed his residency in Neurosurgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Patrick then served as the Director of the North Neurosurgical Service at Massachusetts General Hospital, and an Instructor in Surgery at Harvard Medical School before joining the neurosurgery staff at Duke University Medical Center where we find him today.
Not only is Patrick a solidly credentialed neurosurgeon at a world class institution, he’s also, get ready for this, an ordained Buddhist priest. Not a combination you find everyday but just the kind of person we knew we had to invite on the program.
We’ll explore Patrick’s uncommon path and his unique perspective on meditation. After-all, the brain isn’t just the focal point of Patrick’s meditative practice, it’s also something he actually operates on every week. We’ll learn how meditation initially helped him manage the daily encounters with stress and patient suffering he experienced as a resident. Then we’ll see how a busy neurosurgeon fits meditation into his daily workflow, becoming a critical element of his life and practice.
Maybe you already have a meditation routine, maybe you’ve tried it but found little benefit, or maybe you’re still highly skeptical of the whole thing. Wherever you’re coming from, this episode will have something for you. With that said, let’s get started…
Links and Resources:
Book: “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” https://www.amazon.com/Zen-Art-Motorcycle-Maintenance-Inquiry/dp/0060589469
Patrick Codd Ordination audio. Boston Zen Center:
Video from the Duke Health System:
Dr. Patrick Codd, Duke Profile: https://www.dukehealth.org/find-doctors-physicians/patrick-j-codd-md
Pubmed: Dr. Patrick Codd Research Articles: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Codd%20PJ%5BAuthor%5D&cauthor=true&cauthor_uid=29984837
Zazen Meditation Videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GSMRUl9UPo
Book: “Zen Meditation in Plain English.” https://www.amazon.com/Meditation-Plain-English-Daishin-Buksbazen/dp/0861713168
Meditation App: https://wakingup.com/
The Parable of the Arrow
“”Consider, Malunkyaputta, this story of a man wounded by a poisoned arrow. His friends, relatives, and well-wishers gather around him and a surgeon is called.But the wounded man says, ‘Before he takes out this arrow, I want to know if the man who shot me was a Kshatriya, a Brahmin, a merchant, or an untouchable.’” Or he says, ‘I won’t let this arrow be removed until I know the name and tribe of the man who shot me.’” Or: ‘Was he tall, short, or of medium height?’” Or: ‘Was he black, brown, or yellow-skinned?’” What do you think would happen to such a man, Malunkyaputta? Let me tell you. He will die.” And that is what happens when a man comes to me and says, ‘I will not follow the Dhamma until the Buddha tells me whether the world is eternal or not eternal, whether the world is finite or infinite, whether the soul and the body are the same or different, whether the liberated person exists or does not exist after death, whether he neither exists nor does not exist after death.’ He will die, Malunkyaputta, before I get a chance to make everything clear to him.” Being religious and following Dhamma has nothing to do with the dogma that the world is eternal; and it has nothing to do with the dogma that the world is not eternal. For whether the world is eternal or otherwise, birth, old age, death, sorrow, pain, misery, grief, and despair exist.I am concerned with the extinction of these.” Therefore, consider carefully, Malunkyaputta, the things that I have taught and the things I have not taught. What are the things I have not taught?” I have not taught that the world is eternal.I have not taught that the world is not eternal.I have not taught that the world is finite. I have not taught that the world is infinite.I have not taught that the soul and the body are the same.I have not taught that the soul and the body are different. I have not taught that the liberated person exists after death. I have not taught that he does not exist after death.I have not taught that he both exists and does not exist after death;that he neither exists nor does not exist after death.” Why, Malunkyaputta, have I not taught all this? Because all this is useless, it has nothing to do with real Dhamma, it does not lead to cessation of passion [grasping and agitation], to peace, to supreme wisdom, and the holy life, to Nirvana.That is why I have not taught all this.”And what have I taught, Malunkyaputta? I have taught that suffering exists, that suffering has an origin, that suffering can be ended, that there is a way to end suffering.” Why, Malunkyaputta, have I taught this?Because this is useful, it has to do with real Dhamma, it leads to the cessation of passion [grasping and agitation], it brings peace, supreme wisdom, the holy life, and Nirvana.This is why I have taught all this.” Therefore, Malunkyaputta, consider carefully what I have taught and what I have not taught.””
Quoted From The Dhammapada, The Noonday Press, 1967, p. 18-20.Translated from Pali by P. Lal, edited by Dale Lugenbehl.