#11 August 2020
Welcome to our August 2020 newsletter.
This month we introduce new articles by Bill Gayner and Alex Carr, as well as a recent dharma talk by Stephen Batchelor. We announce a new online course on secular Buddhism, which will begin in September. The secular Buddhist glossary item for the month is SANGHA. Finally, our feature is an excerpt from a new article by Stefano Bettera.
Teaching the dharma, avoiding ‘the ego trap’
When we teach the dharma, we can fall into ‘the ego trap,’ where the focus is one’s self and making sure the ego is gratified in our role as the teacher. Alex Carr explores how easy it is to fall into the trap and how to avoid it by fostering a sense of equanimity and non-reactivity.
SBN’s online course on exploring a secular dharma begins in September
The Secular Buddhist Network is offering a free online course, called After Buddhism: exploring a secular dharma, as a group learning experience. Participants in the course will go through the course modules, discuss the topics in each module with each other, and meet on Zoom every two weeks with the instructor for the course.
Update on Touching the Earth
Bill Gayner provides an update on Touching the Earth, a non-teacher-centric, democratic self-help community for cultivating mindfulness as an embodied social practice. Practices include meditation, journaling, sharing and exploring meditation experience in triads or dyads, and then gathering back in the larger group to reflect on the process.
Connect with Secular Buddhists worldwide
If you have a sangha, centre, meditation group, resource or website, or are an individual who would like to connect with other secular Buddhists, fill out our simple form and we can add you to our listing of secular Buddhist groups and individuals.
We’ve also developed an interactive map as a visual aid to encourage communication and also make it easy to see where we might find others travelling the same spiritual path.
Stephen Batchelor on ‘Everyday Nirvana’
In a dharma talk given to the Community Meditation Center (New York City, USA), Stephen Batchelor emphasized that nirvana should be understood as an experience of the cessation of reactivity rather than an end state or experience of complete and ultimate freedom from the poisons of greed, hatred, and confusion.
Buddhist terms from a secular perspective
A word in both Pali and Sanskrit that simply means ‘community,’ this should be understood not as a sociological group but as the process whereby people actually associate with one another to pursue a common interest. In the dharma context of the three jewels (the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha), it refers to our working practice communities – our spiritual friends who accompany and support us on the path.
Sanghas vary greatly in size and the degree to which they are formalised. Many nowadays are completely informal, inclusive and egalitarian.
Secular Buddhists believe that our communities need to thoroughly reflect the contemporary, progressive values of equality, democracy, participation, and inclusiveness. That is, in contrast to the sanghas of virtually all Buddhist lineages, which to one degree or another are founded on hierarchical notions of the teacher–student relationship, secular communities need to be based on the equal participation of members, each sharing their knowledge, life experiences and meditative practices.
– You can read the complete glossary here:
Laughing is a serious matter on the secular Buddhist path!
– by Stefano Bettera
….What arouses laughter has always depended not only on the receptivity of those who perceive it, but also to factors related to the cultural and political context. Even denigration and self-denigration find a key role in triggering humor because they are another expression of this tension, of this comic tragedy that represents the trait of every human being’s life.
Aristophanes is the father of the comic literary tradition of ancient Greek theater where humor was shown by the use of sexual allusions, as well as invective against the leading figures of Athenian political life in the 5th century BC. The ruthless criticism of the society of his time is characterized by an abrupt, parodistic, sometimes vulgar and blasphemous tone. In this case, too, satire responds to a need of the human spirit: the oscillation between the sacred and the profane functions to bring to light alternative points of view In this context, laughter conveys small truths, sows doubts, unmasks hypocrisies, attacks prejudices and questions beliefs. What makes this tragic is because everything, especially clichés, must be the subject of laughter and desecration and, in the final analysis, they restore man’s most authentic humanity.
The destabilizing sarcasm of Zen
“How does a one-handed applause sound?”: In Buddhist tradition, ironic tricks like this koan are often used. The paradoxical and destabilizing sarcasm of Zen has a place of honor in the Pantheon of human intelligence at the service of spirituality. Not only because it is able to ‘lighten’ the burden of thoughts but precisely because the famous Zen stories show us how clinging to those thoughts that we continually generate and which are only points of view, is our own way of complicating things.
After all, the heart of wisdom contained in humor lies right here: in avoiding weighing facts down with interpretations and egocentricity and in trying to look at reality for what it is, regardless of the narrative we make up in our minds. Irony is one of our best allies because it breaks the usual patterns, questions rigidity, changes the frame of reference and allows us, without judgment, to realize the tragic paradox of our inadequacy. The lightness of laughter can therefore help us to break the connected dualisms of right/wrong, true/false, internal/external, and us/the others. These standard ways of viewing the world keep us hooked to our ego and hold us back from the freedom to experiment, to be open, to enjoy the time we have and all our experiences, including the negative ones.
– you can find the complete article here: