SBN’s online discussion group

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. Below the contact form are brief reports from our meetings.

You can join us by completing this form.


Discussion Group Meetings – 2022

19 May 2022

31 participants from eight countries participated: the UK, Ireland, Australia, Costa Rica, Canada, India, Germany, and the U.S.

Here are the key points of the discussions in the four breakout sessions:

Secular Buddhism and Psychotherapy – The group focused on the emotion of anger, in particular, its role in our day-to-day life experiences. They discussed how both Buddhism and psychotherapy can help us respond skillfully to this difficult emotion.

The Evolution of Secular Buddhism –  The group agreed that an ‘engaged’ form of Buddhism does not necessarily entail political activism but encompasses a broader relationship to society. They also explored the need for secular Buddhists to engage with perspectives outside of Buddhism, including western philosophy and science.

Political Action and Secular, Socially Engaged Buddhism – The group discussed what secular Buddhism can provide to political activists to help sustain our activism and avoid ‘burn out’. In this context, the notions of non-self and interconnection are key concepts in developing a secular Buddhist approach to political activism.

Exploring Key Concepts in Secular Buddhism – The group discussed and explored the role of hope in a secular approach to the dharma. A key question: How can individuals use hope in a skillful way to become models of generosity and kindness for others.

21 April 2022

30 participants from seven countries participated: the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Hungary, and the U.S.

Here are the key points of the discussions in the four breakout sessions:

Secular Buddhism and Psychotherapy – The group discussed some process issues and what topics the group will be working on. They decided to focus on how we can respond skillfully to difficult emotions.

The Evolution of Secular Buddhism –  The group discussed what role the Secular Buddhist Network can have in the ongoing development of secular Buddhism. They agreed that SBN should continue to be a facilitator of discussion rather than a sangha and to help practitioners by curating or selecting valuable resources.

Political Action and Secular, Socially Engaged Buddhism – The group discussed two articles: Seth Segall’s view of eudaimonic flourishing and David Loy’s view that engaged Buddhists need to deal with plutocracy and socio-economic injustice as part of dealing with the climate crisis. They also shared their responses to the brutal invasion in the Ukraine.

Exploring Key Concepts in Secular Buddhism – The focus of the discussion was exploring the relevance and connection of the Four Noble Truths and Fourfold Task. In this context, the group members discussed the interactive relationship between craving and dukkha.

17 March 2022

29 participants from five countries participated: New Zealand, the UK, Australia, Canada, and the U.S.

Here are the key points of the discussions in the four breakout sessions:

Secular Buddhism and Psychotherapy – In addition to clarifying the mission of the group, the participants explored the human capacities for both good and evil, and the impact of our complex nature on developing a mindful, compassionate path in life.

The Evolution of Secular Buddhism –  The group came to a consensus that we we need to focus as much or more on what secular Buddhism is rather than on what secular Buddhism is not. They also agreed that, while some structure is necessary, it’s important that secular Buddhist groups avoid top-down, rigid forms of structures in their internal functioning.

Political Action and Secular, Socially Engaged Buddhism – The group continued to discuss the revised version of an article written by Mike Slott, Katya de Kadt, and Karsten Struhl, The core life tasks and beliefs for a radically engaged Buddhist. Participants discussed whether enlightenment has any role in secular, radically engaged perspective and explored the differences between reform and radical versions of social engagement.

Exploring Key Concepts in Secular Buddhism – In response to several quotations from Thich Nhat Hanh on social conflict and peace, the group discussed how we can apply Hanh’s insights to the current crisis in the Ukraine. In addition, the group noted that, while the outpouring of sympathy and support for the Ukrainian people is laudable, the fact that there has been less support for people in other countries facing similar crises, including Somalia and Syria, may, in part, be due to racism.

17 February 2022

34 participants from six countries participated: Costa Rica, the UK, Australia, Germany, Canada, and the U.S.

Here are the key points of the discussions in the four breakout sessions:

Secular Buddhism and Psychotherapy – The group discussed the intersection of our daily lives, meditation, and therapy, with a focus on the specific practices which help us deal with the challenges of living.

The Evolution of Secular Buddhism –  The group explored the relationship between individual practice and the need to make social changes. While a secular approach doesn’t require that one be engaged in political movements, it is consistent with political action. Secular Buddhism allows us to act mindfully in whatever context we act.

Political Action and Secular, Socially Engaged Buddhism – The group discussed an article written by Mike Slott, Katya de Kadt, and Karsten Struhl, The core life tasks and beliefs for a radically engaged Buddhist. Participants explored the relationship between flourishing and nirvana, as well as whether social engagement needs to challenge systemic systems of oppression and exploitation.

Exploring Key Concepts in Secular Buddhism – The group focused on the meaning and various forms of suffering in this world. Key questions that were discussed included: How can we embrace or be with suffering? How do we work to reduce suffering? How does Stephen Batchelor’s fourfold task (ELSA) help us respond to suffering?

20 January 2022

33 participants from eight countries participated: Costa Rica, Colombia, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Canada, and the U.S.

Here are the key points of the discussions in the four breakout sessions:

Secular Buddhism and Psychotherapy – The group discussed how we can use meditation practice and Buddhist insights to deal with anxiety, which has become more widespread due to COVID and other social crises. However, to have more transformative effects, meditation practices need to be combined with an ethic of care and a recognition of the importance of community in our lives.

The Evolution of Secular Buddhism –  The group explored the the practical impact of a secular approach to the dharma. Several other issues were discussed: defining what makes a good teacher, the role of online sanghas in secular Buddhism, and the value of study groups.

Political Action and Secular, Socially Engaged Buddhism – The group discussed two articles regarding Martin Hagglund’s notions of secular faith and spiritual freedom in the context of our finite, limited existence. They also examined the difference between equanimity and detachment.

Exploring Key Concepts in Secular Buddhism – The group discussed our tendency to ‘label’ people as a form of reactivity which leads to personal and social divisions. The group then explored how to move from reactivity to a responsive approach based on discernment, not judgment.

Click here for summaries of the discussion group meetings in 2021

 


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