Thread: A Conversation about Secular Buddhism

  1. #1

    A Conversation about Secular Buddhism

    A recent conversation about Secular Buddhism with Stephen Batchelor. (approx. 30 mins)

    Any thoughts about the video?

  2. #2
    Forums Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Well worth a listen if you are interested in the more secular aspects of Buddhism. He gives an introduction to the variety of practices under the secular banner, which generally see an emphasis on the welfare aspects, dealing with the here and now. He sees secular Buddhism in the west, modernism, as a work in progress, with things such as mindfulness practice entering the mindset of western cultures. He goes on to look at the place of studying the dharma in terms of ethics and philosophy as learning from 'voices from the past'. Such study is not necessarily a spiritual practice in that there is room for academic investigation of the dharma, but that it could be, especially of texts which transcend culture and traditions.

    Steven is an artist too, and talks about the 'democracy of the imagination' and how some Buddhist traditions such as zen make use of calligraphy and gardening as an integral part of practice. His own art form is collage and he sees similarities between what he does, transforming non-artistic found items, and the transforming practice of Buddhism, even going as far as to see Buddhist practice as an artistic project.

    His studies include a look at transformation on a macro scale, such as the introduction of Buddhism to China from India. In such a clash of high cultures, change was inevitable and he sees Chinese Buddhism as developing a humanistic trait, which can be compared to aspects of secular Buddhism today. However, he sees the overall impact of Buddhism on cultures to be of limited impact, especially in the light of its failure in India.

    So where does that leave modern secular Buddhism? He ends with a look at the contemplative dimension as a way to work on the internal self, with imagination and creativity arising naturally from the practice. the impact on wider culture is more difficult to ascertain, but there may be strands that become part of a culture not necessarily transformed.

    For me there seemed to be a contradiction between his initial statement that secular Buddhism isn't about enlightenment but rather about how we are supposed to live, and his final comment about the place of awakening, and I wish I could have asked that as a supplementary question following the discussion.

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