Tag Archives for article

False starts and blind alleys – bringing secular dharma practitioners together

Nothing is permanent. This includes the ways we come together as dharma practitioners. Without a dharmic Google Maps to show us the way, we are continually developing our understanding of what it means to be part of a community of secular meditation practitioners.

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Creating and maintaining a secular dharma community was never going to be easy

Doing something a bit different, a Buddhism that’s not Buddhist – not my words – was always going to present a number of challenges. Some of these were to be expected, others unexpected. I would like to offer just three key reflections here. Think of this as part of a conversation that you’ve just walked in on.

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Where am I? How did this get here?

I have just met with a group of people to meditate and talk about the dharma, as I’ve been doing weekly for the past two years. I didn’t know any of them before. So where does all this come from?

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On secular Buddhist sangha

Sangha is considered one of the three ‘jewels’ or refuges, along with the dharma and Buddha. According to some Buddhist traditions, however, the sangha is reserved for monks or those who have achieved a ‘high level of awakening’. But interestingly, Gotama would have also summoned his monks to leave their monasteries to go and ‘expound the teaching for the good of the many’.

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Creating a secular Buddhist association in the USA

In the U.S., the Secular Buddhist Association has grown organically around Ted Meissner’s podcast, The Secular Buddhist, and its associated Facebook page. The individuals who were frequent participants on Facebook became the core volunteers who would go on to create the Secular Buddhist Association website and, later, the non-profit organization incorporated under that name.

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Dharma and community for meditators

Like all practices worthy of the name, every form of meditation is informed and moulded by a tradition – the Buddha’s tradition (‘the dharma’) in our case. So what is community, and what is it not?

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‘Classical’ vs ‘Secular’ Buddhism – Bhikkhu Bodhi faces a great divide

‘The contrast between Classical Buddhism and Secular Buddhism stems primarily from different ways of understanding the human condition,’ writes Pali translator Bhikkhu Bodhi in this article from the U.S. magazine Inquiring Mind.

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Relationality is crucial for an intelligent and coherent secular Buddhism

A reflection on human relationality and why it is important, I’d argue essential, as a core consideration of the emergent notion of secular Buddhism. It does not enter the usual arena of this inquiry: rebirth, the validity of the discourses, and so on. Where it does answer will, I trust, speak for itself.

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Using mindfulness to reduce anxiety, go to sleep etc

From time to time I’ve heard participants at retreats etc mention the reason they want to learn meditation is to reduce/manage their anxiety [a couple of my friends dabbled in meditation (they never really became meditators) because they hoped meditating would reduce their anxiety – it didn’t and they no longer meditate].

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‘Against Productivity’ – an essay by Quinn Norton

I have great pleasure in finding examples of mindfulness in places other than secular Buddhist explanations of the Buddhist tradition. As a European New Zealander who has left it far too late ever to be a serious student of Buddhism, examples that speak directly to me of what meditation is all about can easily be found in the secular and Western world.

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