Thread: A Philosophical Assessment of Secular Buddhism

  1. #1

    A Philosophical Assessment of Secular Buddhism

    An article by Dale S. Wright from the website of the USA Barre Center for Buddhist studies.

    Any thoughts about the article?

  2. #2
    Forums Member Genecanuck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Hello Aloka,

    All I can say is "wow".

    This article gave me a lot of pause for thought. As I was reading the article, it made me think about the journey I have been on for quite some time: questioning the presuppositions of religiosity, religion and secularism. In a conversation I had with a friend a while ago, I told her that my spiritual beliefs were evolving. This article really captures the essence of that journey for me.

    The statement in Wright's article that really resonates for me is that "Buddhism has no static essence and changes under different historical conditions...[and] our calling...[is] to affirm the religious dimension of human life by re-envisioning and reformulating spiritual sensibilities at the cutting edge of contemporary thought, practice, and experience" (Wright, 2015).

    I am left thinking that religious institutions and secularism have not cornered the market on truth and wisdom.

    I am really interested in what others think about the article.

    Thank you very much for sharing this Aloka.

    Kind Regards,


  3. #3
    Forums Member PhillyG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2021
    Hi Aloka. Thanks for posting the article. It is really interesting ☺️. I agree with Dale that there is a shift towards "non-metaphysical" beliefs and practices, that what he calls "non theistic religious practices".
    But I'm not sure if this form of practice is attractive to a vast number of people. The human desire to be part of something bigger than oneself very often ends up in adapting or realizing a metaphysical worldview. With that I mean a view that assumes "truths" about the world that can't be proven or disproven. I think Dale calls that "blind faith" in his article.
    Yesterday I was watching the first episode of "Wild wild country" (documentary about Osho's commune in the US) and the behavior and mindset of his followers is a good example for that.
    Can there be a form of non theistic/non metaphysical religious practice that is not just attractive on the individual but also on the group level?
    Would be nice to here your thoughts about that?
    Greetings from Germany ?

  4. #4
    Technical Administrator woodscooter's Avatar
    London UK
    The article by Dale Wright discusses fundamental questions about spirituality and religion. His writing needs careful consideration. It's by no means a quick or easy read.

    What follows is my personal version of his article, summarised to reflect my understanding of what he's saying.

    Dale acknowledges the human quest for spirituality, for a connection with something bigger than the mundane life. Religions, including Buddhism-as-a-religion, offer a connection to this by ritual and process. But they require belief or faith in values from previous times, which is a pretty poor foundation.

    He goes on to say that what really matters is finding the connection between Buddhist teaching and the present day. It has to relate to the now or it relates to nothing at all. Belief in the fundamentals of the teaching is an essential part of this.

    This transforms Buddhism-as-a-religion into Buddhism-as-a-lifestyle, where the individual has less interest in procedures, robes, tradition and history. The individual is concerned primarily with understanding the causes of suffering and the path from suffering, in the present moment.

    The final part of Dale Wright's article deals with discussion over the existence of god or denial of his existence -debate between theists and atheists. He simply says that secular Buddhism has moved on past the debate. He refers to "post-theists" who are no longer interested. They seek a fresh form of spirituality connected with human life, not dependent on the old ways.

    I've found the whole article to be an interesting and exhilarating read.

  5. #5
    Global Moderator Element's Avatar
    I liked the paragraph that includes the following:

    Thus, on this account, the religious dimension of human culture is no more optional than politics or an economy.

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