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Secular Buddhism???

JohnCobbJohnCobb Hot Springs Arkansas Explorer
edited June 23 in Buddhism Today

Hello all! Before I seriously started looking into Buddhism, back when I was a staunch atheist, I came across the term secular Buddhism many times, but never gave it much thought. Now that I've been studying Buddhism, I've come across the term a few times and am confused.
What's the point of secular Buddhism? If I understand it right, it's Buddhism without the metaphysical, karma, reincarnation, demi-type-gods, etc. What's the point?
I bow to you all and look forward to your answers once I wake up this afternoon 😊

DavidDMC1992

Comments

  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    You’re right @ScottPen that the secular way of approaching the dhamma is not always appreciated by other Buddhists. It’s still a very young stream, born in the west so it does not have the support of a lot of the eastern traditions. But it has as its great advantage that it can get very close to a sober historians view of how the Buddha might have lived and walked on this Earth, shorn of all the superstitious trappings of the ancient world. And that surely is valuable.

    It’s worth noting that Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition neatly sidesteps the whole issue by focussing on Mindfulness. Even the Four Noble Truths, held in such esteem by many other traditions, are not given as much attention as Mindful awareness by Thay, although he does sometimes discuss them.

    ScottPenBunksJohnCobbDavid
  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @Kerome thanks again. There are 4 Plum Village sanghas near me, perhaps I'll go sit with them.

    BunksJohnCobbDavid
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Hello all! Before I seriously started looking into Buddhism, back when I was a staunch atheist, I came across the term secular Buddhism many times, but never gave it much thought.

    Many Buddhists are atheists. Some will tolerate some practices involving deities. Vajrayana conjures up and dismisses deities. What fun!

    Personally I like to do the impossible (do not try this at home). I believe a part of me is God AND do not believe I have a self … Tee hee!

    Secular Buddhism is pragmatic. Just because I am engaged, does not mean marriage …
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engaged_Buddhism

    and now back to the full secular<3

    JohnCobbBunksDavidJeroen
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited June 24

    @Kerome said:
    It’s worth noting that Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition neatly sidesteps the whole issue by focussing on Mindfulness. Even the Four Noble Truths, held in such esteem by many other traditions, are not given as much attention as Mindful awareness by Thay, although he does sometimes discuss them.

    He does kind of sidestep it doesn't he? Another way he does that is by advocating we not cling to views.

    Here is a good example of how he uses mindfulness to show the line between the mundane and the divine is purely perspective.

    Every minute can be a holy, sacred minute. Where do you seek the spiritual? You seek the spiritual in every ordinary thing that you do every day. Sweeping the floor, watering the vegetables, and washing the dishes become holy and sacred if mindfulness is there. With mindfulness and concentration, everything becomes spiritual.
    -Thay: How to Eat

    ScottPen
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    Yes, and the whole focus on mindfulness helps Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition stay modern and fresh and accessible. It feels a lot less driven by “the lists”, the particular syndrome you find in for example Tibetan Gelugpa Buddhism, where they teach everything in “four of this” and “six of that”, which is a symptom of memorisation driven learning.

  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Veteran

    @JohnCobb said:

    What's the point of secular Buddhism?

    Well like all other schools sects & traditions of Buddhism ...it's aim is to end suffering... Dharma practice is Dharma practice..... it does not discriminate ...however Secular Buddhism is practice without all the trappings that is, without obstructions AKA without the bells & whistles...

    Thus have I heard some Secular Buddhists just see the so called gods in Buddhism as mind tools, to remind and bring to the fore the wholesome god qualities the practitioner already possesses, but more often than not these god qualities are clouded by mind junk...

    One could say Secular Buddhism is (in a nutshell) Dharma for the harden Atheist ...

    lobsterJohnCobbScottPen
  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @Shoshin1 said:
    One could say Secular Buddhism is (in a nutshell) Dharma for the harden Atheist ...

    Yes, one could say that. I certainly can relate.

    Shoshin1
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @ScottPen said:

    @Shoshin1 said:
    One could say Secular Buddhism is (in a nutshell) Dharma for the harden Atheist ...

    Yes, one could say that. I certainly can relate.

    I think atheists get a bit of a bad rap, especially when they are considered “hardened”, as if they are rational robots who exclude all fantasy. Personally I like the rules of evidence and reason, and I think a lot of supernatural elements in religion are not much different from superstition. But I have lived through times which have convinced me that there is more to our world than just the visible. It is merely ehipassiko carried to its logical conclusion.

    Shoshin1JohnCobb
  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Veteran

    When I use the term "harden Atheist" I refer to those who see Buddhism as inner science that is "the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the Mind which includes the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence" "Ehipassiko" ...

    For some practitioners (Secular in nature) thoughts of deities and reincarnation serve no beneficial purpose, however this is not to say that those who do use deities and thoughts of reincarnation in their practice are wrong, far from it many from what I gather benefit greatly from such practice...

    It's a case of Different strokes of the paddle for different folks on the raft

    And.....

    "The most essential method, which includes all other methods, is to behold the Mind..The Mind is the root from which all things grow...If you can understand the Mind...Everything else is included..."

    ~Bodhidharma~

    JeroenJohnCobb
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    I think a lot of agnostics are also drawn to secular Buddhism. Those people who prefer not to immediately say “these things are not possible” but also don’t feel as if they can just accept them without thorough proof, but instead say “I do not know”.

    Stephen Batchelor too has a very gentle turn of phrase, he tries very hard not to offend anyone while still saying what he wants to say.

    JohnCobb
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited July 1

    The point is the crux of the Buddha's teachings: the 4 Noble Truths: 1. Life is stressful.and full of suffering. 2. The root cause of the suffering is in our minds: attachment/grasping (desire, greed), ignorance and delusion, and hatred. 3. There is a way out of the stress and suffering. 4. The Dharma is the (Eightfold) Path to the cessation of suffering.

    Interestingly enough, the Buddha in his early discourses advised not to concern oneself with future lives, but to focus on the current lifetime, and eliminating one's suffering within this current life. Secular Buddhism tends to give a lot of weight to those early discourses.

    Shoshin1BunksJohnCobblobster
  • Omar067Omar067 Veteran

    Secular matters are the entirety of Buddhism. To have a profound understanding of Buddhism is to have a profound understanding of secular matters.

    JohnCobb
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    In the mundane magical realm …
    https://findingnature.org.uk/2020/11/03/why-the-mundane-is-magical/

    … we balance out our middle way
    In this sense, ideas that ring our bell, help us resonate and expand our personal mandala

    To put it another way:
    "Behold, O monks, this is my advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation."

    • last words of Buddha
    JohnCobb
  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    @lobster said:
    In the mundane magical realm …
    https://findingnature.org.uk/2020/11/03/why-the-mundane-is-magical/

    … we balance out our middle way
    In this sense, ideas that ring our bell, help us resonate and expand our personal mandala

    To put it another way:
    "Behold, O monks, this is my advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation."

    • last words of Buddha

    This makes me wonder. How did the monks get by after the Buddha was gone? The Buddha spent part of his time doing what we would call "fund-raising" for his monks' movement, garnering major donations from wealthy patrons. How did the monks live, after their fund-raiser was gone? I suppose they could always survive on food donations, but what about housing? They'd need a roof over their heads during monsoon season.

    Off-topic, perhaps, but I'm wondering how "gaining [one's] own salvation" would help provide food and shelter.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    Dropping by from the fantasy world.

    I'd highly recommend Gil Fronsdale's recent book The Buddha Before Buddhism. It's not explicitly secular but he looks at the very earliest teachings of the Buddha and it is noticable how devoid of the mystical it is.

    コチシカ
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @person said:
    Dropping by from the fantasy world.

    I'd highly recommend Gil Fronsdale's recent book The Buddha Before Buddhism. It's not explicitly secular but he looks at the very earliest teachings of the Buddha and it is noticable how devoid of the mystical it is.

    I’m curious to know what you mean by “mystical”?

  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    @person said:
    Dropping by from the fantasy world.

    I'd highly recommend Gil Fronsdale's recent book The Buddha Before Buddhism. It's not explicitly secular but he looks at the very earliest teachings of the Buddha and it is noticable how devoid of the mystical it is.

    Those were the early teachings I was referring to earlier in the thread. That's a great book, I've recommended it before, here. I think we even had a "book club" group reading it together and discussion, at one point. It's fascinating to see what the Buddha was thinking and teaching at that early stage.

    コチシカ
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran
    edited July 11

    @Bunks said:

    @person said:
    Dropping by from the fantasy world.

    I'd highly recommend Gil Fronsdale's recent book The Buddha Before Buddhism. It's not explicitly secular but he looks at the very earliest teachings of the Buddha and it is noticable how devoid of the mystical it is.

    I’m curious to know what you mean by “mystical”?

    Sure, to clarify, I guess I'm talking about magical or supernatural stuff. Particularly miracles and cosmology, its been a while since I read the book but I don't think there is a whole lot there regarding karma or rebirth either.

    I remember the earliest teachings portrayed in the book as being pretty practical and ordinary.

    Bunks
  • What a great interview. I will check the book out tonight. :)

    Happy Sunday :+1:

    BunksShoshin1
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @JohnCobb said:
    Hello all! Before I seriously started looking into Buddhism, back when I was a staunch atheist, I came across the term secular Buddhism many times, but never gave it much thought. Now that I've been studying Buddhism, I've come across the term a few times and am confused.
    What's the point of secular Buddhism? If I understand it right, it's Buddhism without the metaphysical, karma, reincarnation, demi-type-gods, etc. What's the point?
    I bow to you all and look forward to your answers once I wake up this afternoon 😊

    A lot of westerners struggle with the metaphysical and "religious" aspects of Buddhism, so in that sense Secular Buddhism is a logical development. Though it's also the case that Secular Buddhism has assumptions of it's own.

    JohnCobb
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @DairyLama said:
    A lot of westerners struggle with the metaphysical and "religious" aspects of Buddhism, so in that sense Secular Buddhism is a logical development. Though it's also the case that Secular Buddhism has assumptions of it's own.

    There are also a lot of almost Buddhist streams developing, that build on Buddhist teaching but don’t bill themselves as Buddhist. For example, Sam Harris’ Waking Up is in this direction, as is Adyashanti’s teaching, as indeed is the whole Mindfulness movement.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @DairyLama said:
    A lot of westerners struggle with the metaphysical and "religious" aspects of Buddhism, so in that sense Secular Buddhism is a logical development. Though it's also the case that Secular Buddhism has assumptions of it's own.

    There are also a lot of almost Buddhist streams developing, that build on Buddhist teaching but don’t bill themselves as Buddhist. For example, Sam Harris’ Waking Up is in this direction, as is Adyashanti’s teaching, as indeed is the whole Mindfulness movement.

    Yes, I was involved in MBSR for a while, which is closely based on satipatthana.
    (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction).

    And there's that RAIN, thing, I can't recall who came up with that?

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