by SBN Editor
The Secular Buddhist Network is sponsoring an online group which 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.
You can join us by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org and letting us know that you want to join the group. If you have a particular interest in a sub-group (see below for the 18 March 2021 meeting), please indicate that interest as well.
Below are brief reports from our meetings.
18 March 2021
There were 26 participants from eight countries: Costa Rica, Ireland, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, France, Canada, and the U.S.
During the meeting, we had a breakout session in which the participants chose among the following groups:
- Secular Buddhism and Psychotherapy
- Social Engagement/Political Activism and Secular Buddhism
- Exploring the Survival and Future of Secular Buddhism (sanghas and the role of secular Buddhism)
- Exploring Key Concepts in Secular Buddhism – The Fourfold Task & the Eightfold Path from a secular perspective
Each breakout group reported back to the whole after the breakout session and it was clear that the participants had lively, worthwhile discussions in each group.
At the next online meeting these breakout groups will continue to meet.
18 February 2021
There were 39 participants from eight countries: Costa Rica, Ireland, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Canada, and the U.S.
The focus for most of the meeting was a discussion of Stephen Batchelor’s ‘ten theses of secular dharma,’ which appears at the end of his 2015 book, After Buddhism: Rethinking the dharma for a secular age. Stephen offers in the ten theses a summing up of his perspective on a secular approach to the dharma.
The discussion occurred in six breakout groups on Zoom. While the general consensus was that the ten theses do provide us with a good overview of the key elements of a secular dharma, the participants raised some important questions which we need to further explore:
- How can meditation practices inform our understanding of the structural violence which Stephen identified as a source of suffering in thesis #9?
- What other, non-Buddhist perspectives, both spiritual and secular, can contribute to the ‘culture of awakening’ mentioned in thesis #10?
- With respect to thesis #8, how does an ethics of care lead to social and political activism?
- Do we need to have a stronger role for spiritual transcendence in a secular version of the Eightfold Path?
- How do we confront death (and the fear death) in a secular context?
- How has mindfulness practice been corrupted in various social contexts?
- What is the role of compassionate anger in individual and collective transformation?
- Is there room for people with religious beliefs in secular Buddhism?
In addition, there were brief breakout sessions based on various topics.
21 January 2021
At our first meeting 41 people participated in the Zoom meeting from nine countries: Costa Rica, Ireland, the UK, New Zealand, France, Australia, Germany, Canada, and the U.S.
The purpose of the first meeting was to introduce the participants to each other and to begin to explore the relevance of secular Buddhism in our lives.
The meeting was structured around two breakout group sessions:
Breakout Session #1 – We explored three questions:
- What is your current practice or connection with Buddhism?
- What got you to join this group?
- What would you like this group to focus on? (meditation practice, discussions of relevant topics, building secular Buddhist sanghas, etc.)
Breakout Session #2 – We explored the following questions:
- What does secular Buddhism mean to you?
- What key questions do you have about a secular approach to the dharma?
The response to the participants to the meeting was very positive. In response to the meeting, Kelly White, from Stroud, England, offered this appraisal:
….It was wonderful to meet so many likeminded people, feel part of a community and get to explore other opinions and experiences.
I thought that the format of the meeting was great; by using the break out rooms, everyone got to participate and have a voice and this would be a good format to follow in the future.