The March 2016 Bodhi College newsletter contains links to longer articles by three of the four core members of the college faculty, Ancincano M. Weber, John Peacock and Stephen Batchelor. As there’s no facility to discuss them on the Bodhi College website, feel free to comment on them here.
Beyond scientific materialism and religious belief
Akincano M. Weber
Is there a middle path, a living Buddhism, beyond approaches either conveniently tailored to my likings and congenial to my comfort-seeking habits and one demanding credulous traditionalist partisanship to one of the existing lineages?
Maybe the option between self-serving arbitrariness and dogged orthodoxy is the old Western Enlightenment project. Leaving behind familiar perceptual grounds, moving out of the comfort zone of personal views and beyond an intellectual world where the only alternatives seem to be scientific materialism or religious belief takes effort, independent thinking and maturity of mind.
This entails going beyond the various traditions’ exclusive claims to correctness in their interpretation of Buddhist teachings and, more generally, the mythification of their own history. It also means going beyond the simplistic impulse to debunk all these traditions and start from scratch with a ‘reasonable’ Buddhism.
Reflections on language, culture and social identity
The Buddha’s treatment of language would perplex scholars trained in Brahmin philology and offers an entirely different perspective on our relationship to language. One of the discoveries I have made in the course of my own study of the Buddha’s Dhamma is that it is distorted when not understood in its own terms. This applies very particularly to his understanding of language.
The Secularisation of Buddhism
The emergence of Secular Buddhism is seen by its advocates as an overdue reformation of the tradition: one that empowers the individual by returning him or her to the core principles, values and practices taught by the historical Gotama before they mutated into an Indian religion.
In this light, Secular Buddhism may be far closer in spirit and style to the Hellenistic philosophies of Scepticism, Epicureanism or Stoicism than to Judaism, Christianity or Islam.
A secular Buddhist celebrates the adoption of mindfulness in non-religious settings, while recognising that for its potential to be fully realised a meditative practice alone is insufficient.
Just as Jon Kabat-Zinn and others have secularised Buddhist mindfulness, the challenge now is to secularise Buddhist ethics and philosophy in such a way that they can address the current conditions of our world by articulating a way a life in which humans and other beings can flourish together on this earth.