He’d loosely but effectively articulated a secular Buddhism and now seemed to be just repeating himself. I was wrong.
In a series of six talks given on a retreat at Gaia House in England in July 2012, I find Stephen articulating a refreshing change of perspective.
Instead of still formulating a broad base for a modern Buddhism he’s now emphasizing the role of a modern dhamma in and on the lives of individuals. He says that meditation – a term he’s not very keen on – is generally articulated as a set of techniques used to attain goals, such as certain states of mind, or of calming the mind.
What is really being pointed to, he says, is a certain sensibility brought to every aspect of our lives; an ongoing engagement with existence. He sees four interconnected tasks that we might undertake:
- to engage fully with existence [just as we experience it];
- to experience that our wanting arises as an attempt to hold onto something, in a radically unreliable world;
- to experience freedom from the wanting through clearly seeing the uselessness of the wanting in bringing a lasting satisfaction; and
- to walk a life path that is intelligent, values-based and cultivates the practice of the first three tasks.
Stephen says that the above is his quite individual take on a modern dhamma and that a modern sangha will necessarily be composed of individuals working out their own view, rather than an adherence to a set of shared external beliefs; we can through our efforts attain an effective way of living, motivated and sustained by our particular individual way.