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Tag Archives for Winton Higgins
Eighteen months ago I was asked to give a talk at the Metta Centre in Bankstown, in Sydney’s western suburbs. The wonderful Tina Ng founded and leads this centre, which is non-denominational even if the Theravādin influence is strongest. Tina was running a series of talks on the different traditions within Buddhism, and wanted me to introduce secular Buddhism.
Since the late nineteenth century Buddhism has been promoted in the west in various different guises – as an alternative, ‘scientific’ religion; as an alternative to religion; as a psychotherapy; and as a practical philosophy in the ancient Greek sense of a set of ideas to actually live by. It has been promoted in this way on both sides of what we might now think of as a religious/secular divide.
Winton Higgins led a one-day secular Buddhist workshop titled ‘Entering the tiger’s cave – insight meditation and the inner life’ in Wellington. The talks he gave are available here.
Something that goes by the name ‘mindfulness meditation’ is a hot commodity these days. You can find many models on the market, some are more or less expensive, and of varying quality (like cars and dishwashers). The brands that are on the market either claim claiming origins in the Buddhist tradition, which lends them the kudos and the aura of ancient wisdom, or studiously avoid doing so.
What were the expectations of people living in the Buddha’s era (5th century BCE) about meditation practice, and how do they compare to our own?
In a number of Buddhist traditions political activism is discouraged. Almost certainly this stance arises from their institutions’ heavy reliance on royal or other powerful patronage, which could be withdrawn if dharma practitioners translated their ethics into political convictions, let alone action.
The mythical figure of Mara in the Pali canon provides us with an obvious starting point for understanding evil. He appears again and again to the Buddha and his advanced disciples, preferably when they’re meditating. He’s disguised as a well-meaning stranger offering friendly, banal advice, the import of which would throw the hearer right off course if s/he heeded him.
The Tuwhiri Project is a new social enterprise that has been set up to create educational resources for secular Buddhists. It consists of Pete Cowley and myself (Ramsey Margolis) in Wellington with Winton Higgins and Margaret Tung in Sydney. We are seeking your support to produce, print, distribute and promote our first book, After Buddhism: a workbook.
Western countries accord their citizens the freedom to practise the religion of their choice. But also as harbingers of the narcissism epidemic, they give Buddhists an extra incentive to practise ardently, in order to remain in good non-narcissistic health and so live skilful, fulfilling lives – including the nurturing of deep relationships.
When western societies imported various strains of Asian Buddhism from the 1960s on, few converts noticed the organisational culture that came with the imports. Rather like the tarantula that arrives in the crate of imported bananas.