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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.
Killing The Buddha is a recent Sam Harris blog post. I generally agree with what Sam is saying in this post [Buddhism would benefit from taking out the irrational elements] but can’t help thinking that criticizing religions is too narrow and somewhat misses the point of the difficulty he is referring to – superstition, blind belief etc.
Have you noticed how we always see Asian Buddha images alone, on its own? Count on your fingers the number of Buddha images in which he’s with others. Sidhattha Gotama, the man we now know as the Buddha, was not a solitary practitioner though; for most of his 45 years as a teacher he was in community. So what are the best ways to find other people to sit with, practice in community, and develop your understanding of the Buddha’s teachings?
So did you believe that secular Buddhism originated in the USA, or perhaps in the southwest of France where Stephen Batchelor writes his books? Winton Higgins, in a brand new article, proposes some German roots of secular Buddhism. Accepted for publication in the journal Buddhismus aktuell, immediately before publication date major changes were requested which couldn’t be made in time.
The title of Winton Higgins’ most recent dharma talk is likely to attract few beyond the curious: ‘The dharmic foundations of the recollective awareness approach’. Experienced meditators, especially those who find meditation can be a frustrating process (most of us, I suspect), will find it well worth the read, though.
What would occur if we stopped taking everything for granted? How would it feel to wake up in a fresh summer morning? It would perhaps feel like being in love when you are not yet used to it.
German philosopher Thomas Metzinger is a co-founder of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness. In 2003 he published ‘Being No One’ in which he argues that no such things as selves exist in the world: nobody ever had or was a self. All that exists, he states, are phenomenal selves, as they appear in conscious experience. He argues that the phenomenal self, however, is not a thing but an ongoing process; it is the content of a ‘transparent self-model’,
To a spectator, meditation must seem like the most utterly selfish practice imaginable: a group of people, their eyes shut to the world, listening to their thoughts, observing their minds, noting their feelings. How wonderfully paradoxical, then, that when practised consistently it can lead to an marvellous sense of connectedness with all beings, an openness to life, and a delight in generosity.
The 2012 edition of the online Journal of Global Buddhism has two articles of interest to those who incline toward a secular approach to Mr Gotama’s teachings.