Introducing secular Buddhism

A series of dharma talks given by Martine and Stephen Batchelor in March 2012 at Sine Cera Retreat Centre in Australia are available for you to download from Dharma Seed at They are:

  • Experience  – Stephen

The Buddha’s criteria for regarding a statement as valid; a pragmatic view of the dharma; the ‘all’ is equivalent to ‘experience’ or ‘life’ – no need of metaphysical realities; supportive quote by Lucretius; awakening to the delight tragedy and emancipation of life.

  • Practice – Martine
  • Namarupa and Consciousness – Stephen

Meaning of the term ‘namarupa’ in Upanishads and early Buddhism; the Buddha’s critique of an unconditioned consciousness; the interdependence of namarupa and consciousness like two sheaves of reeds.

  • Ethics, Compassion and Wisdom – Martine
  • Dukkha and Tanha – Stephen

Definition of dukkha; dukkha and pleasure; ‘fully understanding’ dukkha; the Buddha and Nagarjuna’s understanding of the five bundles as not self; definition of tanha (craving); clinging and narcissism.

  • Awakening – Martine
  • Conditionality and The Four – Stephen

Insight into conditionality as the core of the Buddha’s awakening; reading of and reflection on the first discourse; the process of the four: embracing dukkha, letting go of craving, experiencing the stopping of craving, cultivating the path.

  • Feeling Tone – Martine
  • Mara – Stephen

Reflections on the demonic: what rises up and limits us on the path; Mara and Namuci; the parable of the crow and the piece of rock as an alternative metaphor of freedom; the Buddha’s response to Mara who appears as a farmer.

  • Zen Quotes – Martine
  • Stream Entry – Stephen

Negative capability; the ambiguous nature of self; self as process; foundations of ethics; Buddha and the sick monk; definitions of stream entry: as lucid confidence, as freedom from perplexity, as abandoning three fetters; the lay sangha.

  • Path, View, Concentration – Martine
  • What is Secular Buddhism? – Stephen

A definition of the term ‘secular Buddhism’; a practice-based rather than belief-based form of the dharma; concern with human flourishing in this life; links with the Hellenistic philosophies of Pyrrho and Epicurus.

  • Right Mindfulness, Right Intention – Martine
  • The Four Noble Tasks – Stephen

The Pali Canon as a user’s manual for this life; reconfiguring the core elements of the dharma; problems with the term ‘truth’; rewriting the operating system of Buddhism: from Buddhism 1.0 to Buddhism 2.0; the post-metaphysical practice of the four noble tasks; the acronym ELSA.

  • Four Great Vows, The Role of the Teacher – Martine
  • A Culture of Awakening – Stephen

The four Ps: principle of conditionality, process of the four tasks, practice of mindfulness, power of self-reliance; ELSA as a framework for living; the city as a key metaphor of secular Buddhism; emergence of a secular sangha based on friendships that support self-reliance.

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