#13 October 2020
Welcome to our October 2020 newsletter.
This month we highlight recent dharma talks by Winton Higgins and Stephen Batchelor, as well as new articles by Dr. Cathryn Jacob and Bernat Font. Our feature is an excerpt from a provocative, new article by Stefano Bettera on the ‘God of the Buddha.’
Mortality and spiritual freedom
In an August 2020 talk to Bluegum Sangha in Sydney, Australia, Winton Higgins offered some thoughts on This life: secular faith and spiritual freedom, a recently published book by the Swedish philosopher, Martin Hägglund. He explored some of the ways the book might prompt us as dharma practitioners to refocus our practice by clarifying some of our underlying assumptions.
The Secular Buddhist Recovery Facebook Group
Dr. Catherine Jacob discusses the Secular Buddhist Recovery Facebook Group, a sangha of individuals who wish to learn, help and support each other in recovery from alcohol, drugs and other addictions using the practices and teachings of a nonsectarian approach to the dharma. The group is for those who seek or are in recovery from addictions and for those with an interest in addiction recovery using a secular dharma perspective.
Stephen Batchelor on ‘Imagination, Creativity, and Magic’
At the 6 September online sangha meeting of the Community Meditation Center, an Insight meditation center based in New York City, USA, Stephen led an online meditation session and then offered a dharma talk on ‘Creativity, Imagination, and Magic.’
Thanks to Tim Clark for sending us this cartoon. Originally appeared in Buddhist Humor Cartoons – http://www.buddhisthumor.org/pblaw_cartoons.html
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.
The simile of the raft: another interpretation
Bernat Font argues that the point of the simile of the raft is to realize that holding one’s own version of the dharma as the only valid one and considering the others wrong is a form of attachment that will not lead to anything good and that contradicts the practice itself. In the long run a closed and dogmatic attitude will reinforce harmful mental patterns.
The God of the Buddha
– by Stefano Bettera
The absolute escapes our innate instinct to want to dominate and understand it. It is like the water of the ocean where fish swim in search of the water itself without realising that they are already in it. The same goes for the God of the Buddha. To seek him, to define him, is to lose him. We are already in this process; we are already swimming in the sea. We need silence to listen to the sound of the waves. In this vision the Buddhist idea of salvation, of liberation, finds its place. If we want to save ourselves, if we want to free ourselves from suffering, from what prevents us from grasping the profound interconnection with the world, with the absolute, we need to change perspective, mechanisms, and habitual patterns. We need to challenge our usual tendency to appease what binds us to the running train of everyday life and denies us calm, silence.
In the other path of silence, which is a profound expression, lies the road to salvation. And as a way of salvation there is no doubt that the Buddhist path is totally and profoundly religious in a certain sense. That is why it is inadequate to call Buddhism, as often happens, a religion without God. Because it is not God who is lacking in Buddhism. Instead, it is the recourse to the habit of discourse and the need to box in, by conceptual categories, the process.
This letting go of opinions, said the famous Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna, is experiencing emptiness. Like silence, emptiness does not mean absence of expression and experience, but the end of any crystallization, of any attempt to define it. Attempting to define emptiness, nirvana or the absolute, means falling again into the same trap of thought that leads us to a deadlock and certainly far from the absolute.
What Gotama does not feel the need for in order to free human beings from our solitude and our suffering and open us to the dimension of interconnection, is the need for a reason, a truth, a theoretical foundation that justifies this experience of liberation. Instead, he strongly claims, that the experience of interconnection, the absolute, is not only as possible but also experiential and immediate, within the reach of every wise person. Nirvana is immediate, but we cannot see it because we are distracted by our own discourse about it, about God, about the absolute In this way, not only does the need for a divine principle relegated to the perfect world of ideas become less relevant, but also the presence of a person-like God to whom we turn to listen to us.
– you can find the complete article here: