Rethinking the Dharma / Reimagining Community #49 October 2023

October 1, 2023

Welcome to our October 2023 newsletter.

This month we highlight two educational programs: an online course on secular Buddhism and socially engaged Buddhism in October and a retreat in December led by Stephen Batchelor, Winton Higgins, and Lenorë Lambert on secular dharma and ethical living.  We also feature a review by Mike Slott of David McMahan's new book on meditation, a practitioner's account of his journey to secular Buddhism, and a new article by Jochen Weber. 

Secular dharma and ethical living: a retreat

Led by Stephen Batchelor, Winton Higgins, and Lenorë Lambert, this residential study retreat will explore how a secular approach to the dharma can help provide the ethical perspectives and practices needed to engage effectively with the various interconnected crises our world faces in the twenty-first century. The retreat will be held in person at St. Joseph's Retreat Centre in Kincumber, NSW, Australia and online from 3 December to 10 December.

Find out more.

A review of David McMahan’s new book, Rethinking Meditation

In his review of David McMahan’s Rethinking Meditation: Buddhist Practice in Ancient and Modern Worlds, Mike Slott argues that McMahan’s insightful analysis of meditation misses one key factor: the impact of neo-liberal capitalism on contemporary meditative practices.

Find out more.

A practitioner’s journey to secular Buddhism: Craig

Craig Murphy was already skeptical of religious orthodoxies when he encountered Buddhist-inspired meditation practices through John Kabat-Zinn’s MBSR approach in the early 1990s. As Craig deepened his involvement through discussions with Buddhists and a meditation group in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he has found that a secular approach which eschews metaphysics and highlights an ethics of pragmatism to be most consistent with his overall perspective toward life and society.

Find out more.

Secular Buddhism briefly explained

Jochen Weber offers his perspective on the key elements of a secular approach to the dharma. Highlighting the ethical aspect of this approach, Jochen argues that Secular Buddhism reminds us that our individual actions have a collective impact and that we have the power to bring about positive change – for ourselves, for other living beings and for the earth as a whole.

Find out more.

At the crossroads of secular and socially engaged Buddhism – a four week course

Facilitated by Katya de Kadt, Mike Slott, and Karsten Struhl, this four-evening online workshop series will explore two key trends in Buddhism today: a secular or naturalistic approach to the dharma and socially engaged Buddhism. The workshop, which is sponsored by New York Insight, will explore how the secular dharma and socially engaged Buddhism contribute both to individual transformation and social change.

Find out more.

Connect with the Secular Buddhist Network

Looking for a sangha?  - To facilitate the development of local sanghas, SBN has established a listing for individuals looking to meet others in their geographical area. When you join the listing, you'll have access to a private listing of individuals who are seeking sangha-mates.

Online discussion group  - meets the third Thursday of each month on Zoom. It’s a great opportunity for secular Buddhists and those who are interested in learning more about a secular approach to the dharma to connect with each other and to discuss key issues.

Online meditation group - Our Sunday group meets every Sunday at 11 am US Eastern Time. After brief meditation instructions, we meditate silently for 30 minutes, followed by a period of sharing our experiences with each other. For more information, click here.

Online reading group - meets the first Thursday of each month. The readings are chosen by the participants and focus on issues related to a secular Buddhism, including basic concepts of a secular approach, meditation, mindfulness, and the relationship between secular Buddhism and traditional Buddhist lineages and practices.

Online group on Exploring aging from a secular Buddhist perspective - meets the last Monday of each month. The group shares experiences of aging and how we can use our practice to respond skillfully to the process of aging.

Online group on Secular Dharma in the Community  - meets the first Friday of every month. This discussion group is for those who wish to share their experiences of and discuss new possibilities for bringing secular Buddhist ideas, ethics, and practices to community groups, social service organizations, and political movements. 

SBN online course on Exploring a secular dharma - Learn about the basic ideas and concepts of secular Buddhism through a free online course.

Upcoming Events, Workshops, and Retreats

SBN's Calendar of Meetings and Courses  - A calendar of SBN sponsored discussion and meditation groups, as well as SBN's courses on secular Buddhism.

Upcoming courses and retreats  - Click here for a listing of upcoming courses, programs, and retreats of interest for secular Buddhists and socially engaged Buddhists.

Workshops by Martine Batchelor on feeling tones and strong emotions -  25 November and 26 November, at the Buddhist Library in Camperdown NSW Australia and online.

Each workshop stands on its own, but they are also complementary as a pair. In the first daylong workshop, Martine will guide participants in exploring mindfulness of feeling tones, which is the second foundation of the practice of mindulness. The second workshop will focus on creatively engaging with strong emotions through the lenses of the 3 characteristics of existence: impermanence, dukkha and not-self. Through insights into the three characteristics, we can connect with a sense of stability, well-being, and confidence. For more information, click here.

Tuwhiri Reading Group on What is this is? Ancient questions for modern minds-  21 Jan to 28 Apr 2024 on Zoom (Timed to suit people in the Americas, Europe and Africa)

What is this? contains a series of talks given by Martine and Stephen Batchelor during a Sŏn (Chan/Zen) retreat in England. Leading us through the practice of radical questioning at the heart of this Korean Buddhist tradition, the authors show how anyone at all can benefit from this form of radical inquiry today. Stephen and Martine show how a practice with its origins in China 1000 years ago can meld with insights from the natural sciences, classical and modern western philosophy, Romantic poetry, and early Buddhism. Facilitated by Gaia House teacher, Tony O’Connor, the reading group will discuss one chapter each week, and Martine Batchelor will take questions during a special session on 5 May 2024. For more info and to reserve your place email

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