What the heck … ? ‽ !

◼ A SECULAR approach to Buddhism has been developing over a number of years. Looking into the early texts to retrieve the original inspiration of Gotama – the man we know as the Buddha – this approach suggests that we bypass the monastic add-ons that since his death have obscured the original teachings, and re-root the practice in the context of modern western ways of life and thought.

◼︎ FOCUSING largely on the practice of meditation and Gotama’s four great tasks (downgraded to ‘The Four Noble Truths’), a secular dharma offers a framework for a more mindful and compassionate life. Awakening in the context in which we find ourselves, this framework is in essence a pragmatic programme for human flourishing that has no use for metaphysical beliefs and religious truth-claims.

◼︎ THE intention of this website is to encourage face-to-face and online conversation around the kinds of practices that might constitute a 21st century approach to the Buddha’s teachings, and a flow of ideas around them, and to support the creation of secular dharma practice community, in whatever forms this may take.

◼︎ YOU ARE encouraged to take part in this conversation by reading through this website, becoming a member and adding a comment or three, and by signing up for our newsletter.

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A new secular Buddhist website

Mike Slott in New Jersey and I will be taking much of the content that’s been gathering on this website for the past seven years and using it to create a new website with a new, global url.

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Secular Buddhism and the western search for meaning

Since the late nineteenth century Buddhism has been promoted in the west in various different guises – as an alternative, ‘scientific’ religion; as an alternative to religion; as a psychotherapy; and as a practical philosophy in the ancient Greek sense of a set of ideas to actually live by. It has been promoted in this way on both sides of what we might now think of as a religious/secular divide.

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Entering the tiger’s cave

Winton Higgins led a one-day secular Buddhist workshop titled ‘Entering the tiger’s cave – insight meditation and the inner life’ in Wellington. The talks he gave are available here.

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Abundant emptiness

When I was studying at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London many years ago, my supervisor once accused me, during discussion of a text by the early Buddhist writer Nagarjuna, of being ‘obsessed with emptiness’.

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Mindfulness: looking for a quick fix?

Something that goes by the name ‘mindfulness meditation’ is a hot commodity these days. You can find many models on the market, some are more or less expensive, and of varying quality (like cars and dishwashers). The brands that are on the market either claim claiming origins in the Buddhist tradition, which lends them the kudos and the aura of ancient wisdom, or studiously avoid doing so.

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Challenges to meditation practice now

What were the expectations of people living in the Buddha’s era (5th century BCE) about meditation practice, and how do they compare to our own?

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Dharmic citizenship

In a number of Buddhist traditions political activism is discouraged. Almost certainly this stance arises from their institutions’ heavy reliance on royal or other powerful patronage, which could be withdrawn if dharma practitioners translated their ethics into political convictions, let alone action.

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Secular Buddhism and the Real Reasons to Meditate

Why do you meditate?

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A dharmic understanding of evil

The mythical figure of Mara in the Pali canon provides us with an obvious starting point for understanding evil. He appears again and again to the Buddha and his advanced disciples, preferably when they’re meditating. He’s disguised as a well-meaning stranger offering friendly, banal advice, the import of which would throw the hearer right off course if s/he heeded him.

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