Secular Buddhism, or a secular approach to the dharma, is not based on some new orthodoxy which is intended to compete with or replace other trends within Buddhism. While all secular Buddhists share a skeptical view of supernatural entities (e.g. devas) and processes (e.g. rebirth) which are central to traditional Buddhism, there is a wide range of views among secular Buddhists concerning beliefs, perspectives and practices.
The same diversity characterizes the paths that led individuals to become interested in secular Buddhism and committed to living a life in which cultivating compassion, care, mindfulness, and wisdom help us flourish as human beings in the here and now.
On this page, we’ll feature personal accounts of individuals’ paths to secular Buddhism, as well as readers’ comments.
To start off, click here to read about Stephen Batchelor’s journey to a secular approach to the dharma.
Join the conversation, let us know about your path to secular Buddhism.
I was raised Protestant Christian but around age 14 became disillusioned with the dogmatic and supernatural elements of my religion. Education and science had made religious claims increasingly unbelievable. I made a vow to be completely honest about Christianity and it wasn’t long before I could no longer maintain the required beliefs in angels and demons, a father and son god, miracles, etc. I discovered Buddhism and came to appreciate its philosophy and meditation practice. But Buddhism also brought along various dogmas and supernatural beliefs – though these were not as central as with Christianity. So I did what many modern Western Buddhist converts did – ignored or desacralized ideas like karma, rebirth, etc. But this was of course also dishonesty, and was soon bugging me. It was only when I discovered Secular Buddhism that I felt I had finally found a path fully able to survive my honesty and to provide me with challenging and rewarding guidance for ethical living in the modern world. I feel I am home now.
I read a good deal, and mostly Buddhist/dharma books. I learned of the book “Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist” and was intrigued by that title on several levels. Once I had read Batchelor, I was hooked. This was a dharma path I could feel completely open and honest about. No “magic” or “Eastern Metaphysics” or New Age type “Spiritual Powers” or “Life is Suffering”, etc. to explain or downplay when engaging with others.
– Scott Henderson