This month’s glossary item is Dukkha and we introduce two new posts to the Secular Buddhist Network website: an interview with meditation teacher Dave Smith and an unconventional glossary of attitudes, qualities, and insights relevant to the Buddhist path developed by Nelly Kaufer. We also introduce a new feature of the website, an interactive map that connects secular Buddhists worldwide. Our feature article is by Stefano Bettera, called Defining secular Buddhism: beware of certain traps.
Dave Smith on teaching meditation & the Secular Dharma Foundation
Dave Smith is an internationally recognized Buddhist meditation teacher, addiction treatment specialist, and published author. We recently interviewed Dave about his approach to being a meditation teacher and his Secular Dharma Foundation.
In the short time since secular Buddhism has emerged as a distinct trend among practitioners, a number of communities have been set up around the world. One of our primary objectives at SBN is to facilitate connection between secular Buddhists wherever they may be in the world.
If you have a sangha, centre, meditation group, resource or website, or are an individual who would like to connect with others, 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.
This Pali term is one of the key words in the dharmic lexicon. It stands for all the difficult and inevitable aspects of our lives: birth, ageing, sickness, death, being separated from whom or what we love, being thrown together with whom or what we detest, not getting what we want, and our overall psycho-physical fragility.
The commonest translation of dukkha is ‘suffering’; others include ‘unsatisfactoriness’, ‘anguish’, ‘stress’ and ‘distress’. All of these translations are too narrow, so most dharma practitioners leave the word untranslated.
It really refers to the human condition, so words like ‘poignancy’ or simply ‘life’ might give a better idea of what is understood by this term.
The Tuwhiri Project and Secular Buddhist Network are co-sponsoring an online course to explore a secular dharma based on Stephen Batchelor’s, After Buddhism (Yale 2015), and Winton Higgins’ After Buddhism: a workbook (Tuwhiri 2018).
The course is available on an individual (self-paced) basis or by participating in the course as part of a learning cohort, with opportunities for discussion and feedback.
Defining secular Buddhism: beware of certain traps
– by Stefano Bettera
How secular Buddhism/Dharma will be is an open question and the solution does not lie in a conflict or in a contraposition with traditional Buddhism. It is perhaps easier to imagine a path that is the fusion of both these elements. A new path that requires confrontation, dialogue, openness and a not inconsiderable dose of risk and unconsciousness.
This is what always happened when Buddhism encountered new cultures and there is no reason why this should not happen now. The basic point is whether to stand on the side of this unknown or to embrace any kind of orthodoxy, traditional or not.
It should be remembered that the word Buddhism itself was created by Westerners, to define in one place the boundaries of the teaching of Buddha. Yet, in so defining Buddhism, those who created the label did not take into account that this perspective and practice highlights impermanence, emptiness and the absence of a definitive and immutable reality. We must honestly admit that even Buddhism itself is unreliable, impermanent, and empty – an unfinished product in constant change. And that every definition is valid as a communication tool but remains an imperfect definition and unable to include every nuance of experience, just as the Buddhist wisdom suggests.
Again, the trouble we have with definitions and creating orthodoxies is nothing new. It may seem odd that Buddhists should fall into the trap of thinking that one form or tradition is the repository of a single truth. But it is clear that human beings like very much to have certainties and are not particularly inclined to open their eyes to the mystery of the sublime.