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Secular Buddhism


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Maybe? I'd call myself buddhist-curious and often read buddhist literature for personal development advice. I meditate too, and usually use buddhist style meditation. I don't call myself a buddhist, though (mostly because I don't understand precisely what I'd be committing to by taking the refuges, and don't want to make a commitment I can't keep). I am an atheist, and go for a non-theistic version of buddhism. I do use boddhisatva meditation sometimes, but see them more as archetypes/role models than as gods with an existence outside of my own head.

 

I find myself reading a lot of books by modern western Zen people. I'm not sure if that's because Zen resonates more with me than other strains of Buddhism, or if Zen is just one of the most popular versions in the west.

 

So... insight and experiences? Um... it works for me? It's a lovely moral framework that's much more robust and internally consistent than christianity's random list of absolute rules. It also provides a clear path for how to live out that moral framework (by using meditation to change yourself into the sort of person who naturally has compassion and wisdom), which is way more useful than "pray harder". Buddhism gave me permission to care about myself, and assured me that having compassion for myself is a necessary first step in having compassion for others. Christianity had taught me that I couldn't love anyone else unless I hated myself and worked against my own best interests.

 

I have not joined any buddhist organizations, nor even visted them despite there being a few in the area. I'm very curious about them, and would love the social support, but am nervous about getting sucking into the type of unhealthy politcal dynamics that often exist in christian churches. I'm also scared of trying one out and not liking it, and having the people there get pushy about it (which happens with churches if you're dumb enough to give them contact information. No, I don't want to you have my name, phone, and address just because I dropped by once to see what you're like). Though hopefully, that last one will be less-bad with buddhists because they're not big on the whole evangelism thing.

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No, I haven't pursued the secular Buddhist approach, but that is probably where I am headed. I have been in an organization for the last 7 years - Tibetan, and I have found many of the same problems as church organizations, with a strange foreign twist.

 

Personally, I have a real disconnect between the Buddhist philosophy, which I like very much, and the practices. They just don't connect in my mind and I can't see the value in continually repeating something. I know what that does to the mind - since I have done it in Christianity. I just don't see repetition as necessary or as bringing about a radical change of any kind. Also, I never found anyone at the Buddhist Center that really took an interest in my progress or in any way helped me.  There was a lama, but he spent most of his time over a thousand miles away, so there was really not anyone there most of the time that really knew much about it. Yes, there were students of 20 years and more, but they kept to themselves.

 

I think where Buddhism has helped me is that I did find some inspiration in some of the ceremony, and I was also able to use it to counteract some of the Christian programming which says I am a worthless sinner.

 

I am probably not going back on any kind of regular basis, and I guess I will find out if they are going to get pushy about it.  I seriously doubt I will get anything more than an e-mail or maybe one phone call. Actually I was sent an e-mail once that was intended for someone else that was behind on their membership dues. It wasn't so bad. I can take it.

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No, I haven't pursued the secular Buddhist approach, but that is probably where I am headed. I have been in an organization for the last 7 years - Tibetan, and I have found many of the same problems as church organizations, with a strange foreign twist.

 

Personally, I have a real disconnect between the Buddhist philosophy, which I like very much, and the practices. They just don't connect in my mind and I can't see the value in continually repeating something. I know what that does to the mind - since I have done it in Christianity. I just don't see repetition as necessary or as bringing about a radical change of any kind. Also, I never found anyone at the Buddhist Center that really took an interest in my progress or in any way helped me.  There was a lama, but he spent most of his time over a thousand miles away, so there was really not anyone there most of the time that really knew much about it. Yes, there were students of 20 years and more, but they kept to themselves.

 

I think where Buddhism has helped me is that I did find some inspiration in some of the ceremony, and I was also able to use it to counteract some of the Christian programming which says I am a worthless sinner.

 

I am probably not going back on any kind of regular basis, and I guess I will find out if they are going to get pushy about it.  I seriously doubt I will get anything more than an e-mail or maybe one phone call. Actually I was sent an e-mail once that was intended for someone else that was behind on their membership dues. It wasn't so bad. I can take it.

What is secular Buddhism? Whenever I've become interested in Buddhism, I've been turned-off by the religious elements. The last book I read was "Buddhism the Religion of No Religion" by Alan Watts, and I still got the feeling that Buddhism is too superstitious for me.

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No, I haven't pursued the secular Buddhist approach, but that is probably where I am headed. I have been in an organization for the last 7 years - Tibetan, and I have found many of the same problems as church organizations, with a strange foreign twist.

 

Personally, I have a real disconnect between the Buddhist philosophy, which I like very much, and the practices. They just don't connect in my mind and I can't see the value in continually repeating something. I know what that does to the mind - since I have done it in Christianity. I just don't see repetition as necessary or as bringing about a radical change of any kind. Also, I never found anyone at the Buddhist Center that really took an interest in my progress or in any way helped me.  There was a lama, but he spent most of his time over a thousand miles away, so there was really not anyone there most of the time that really knew much about it. Yes, there were students of 20 years and more, but they kept to themselves.

 

I think where Buddhism has helped me is that I did find some inspiration in some of the ceremony, and I was also able to use it to counteract some of the Christian programming which says I am a worthless sinner.

 

I am probably not going back on any kind of regular basis, and I guess I will find out if they are going to get pushy about it.  I seriously doubt I will get anything more than an e-mail or maybe one phone call. Actually I was sent an e-mail once that was intended for someone else that was behind on their membership dues. It wasn't so bad. I can take it.

What is secular Buddhism? Whenever I've become interested in Buddhism, I've been turned-off by the religious elements. The last book I read was "Buddhism the Religion of No Religion" by Alan Watts, and I still got the feeling that Buddhism is too superstitious for me.

 

 

Zen.

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I don't know, Noggy, some of the ceremonies I have seen in Zen don't seem too "secular".

 

However, I do think that Zen is probably closer to secular than the Tibetan form. To me, purely secular Buddhism would be zazen or meditation without a guru/disciple relationship and without the supernatural elements. Philosophical Buddhism and not devotional varieties. No prayer, ceremony, reincarnation, deities, etc.

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I don't know, Noggy, some of the ceremonies I have seen in Zen don't seem too "secular".

 

However, I do think that Zen is probably closer to secular than the Tibetan form. To me, purely secular Buddhism would be zazen or meditation without a guru/disciple relationship and without the supernatural elements. Philosophical Buddhism and not devotional varieties. No prayer, ceremony, reincarnation, deities, etc.

 

If you do Zen right, that is what it is. Of course "right"... 

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So, I guess that means I understand "secular" Buddhism, right, Noggy?

 

I actually like some of the ceremony and "trappings" in Buddhism occasionally, but some of it just throws me. Also, as in every organized group, like any church, there are the inner circle and all the rest.  I have always been part of all of the rest..

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So, I guess that means I understand "secular" Buddhism, right, Noggy?

 

I actually like some of the ceremony and "trappings" in Buddhism occasionally, but some of it just throws me. Also, as in every organized group, like any church, there are the inner circle and all the rest.  I have always been part of all of the rest..

 

If you get zazen and shikentaza then you get secular buddhism.

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Reasonable Doubts podcasts 73-75 discuss Buddhism pretty thoroughly. I started with 74 (about mindfulness) then went back to 73, which I am halfway through.

 

They make the point that The Buddha (I forget his real name) rejected any metaphysical parts to us, and insisted that once we die, all of our components, being 100% physical, simply deteriorate. Over the many centuries, as a religion its leaders added back in influences from Hinduism and other religions related to humans having an eternal part.

 

I'm considering looking into some of it, not in a really dedicated fashion, but to see if I can learn to better focus on things I need to focus on (like work, like I should be doing right now!) rather than follow my many distracted thoughts.

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A few notes:

 

1. The idea of anatman is not a denial of any metaphysical aspect of existence. Anatman is the idea that there is no permanent and independent essence. If there is a metaphysical component of existence, it too must be interdependent and interpenetrated with all other phenomena.

 

2. My opinion of "secular Buddhism" is this: Its proponents are just another bunch of people professing to possess the One True Dharma and deriding other views as inferior.

 

My advice? If there are teachings and practices within the various schools of Dharma that you wish to include in your personal philosophy, go for it. If you want to learn Buddhism, study Buddhism. Not just what you hear in a podcast, or what you read in a comparative religion book or something from the last 40 years. Read the sutras, read the writings of the old masters, read criticism and history. See for yourself what it's all about. If you don't see the same principles operating in your own life, forget about it and do something that resonates more with your experience. The Buddha suggested the same thing.

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I certainly refuse to get embroiled in "what did the Buddha actually say", after umpteen years of the same thing in Christianity. My whole approach is that it totally doesn't matter to me what someone said or didn't say over two thousand years ago. If it is useful, and sounds correct, I try to adopt it.

 

One thing is certain, the Buddha was a Hindu and he made some departures from Hinduism, but personally I think there are fewer departures than many seem to think. If he really existed, he was a very intelligent person, not insisting that anyone believe things that he said, but to test them and see if they work. I completely agree that the anatman doctrine was not a denial of any metaphysical aspect. It has sure been debated a lot online, by people who don't want any metaphysical ideas at all. That is what I think about it.

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as I have said before:

 

Two starving men arguing

which wax apple looks more real

They ignore

the feast placed before them

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