Essential elements and key ideas of secular Buddhism

Adhering to the pragmatic and ethical guidelines for human flourishing taught by the historical Buddha, Gotama, secular Buddhists set aside the cultural and supernatural overlays that Buddhism has acquired as it has traveled around the world. We do not pretend that ours is the definitive version of Buddhism, but we do regard it as having its foundation in Gotama’s original teachings, and being in tune with key progressive values in the modern world – democracy, social justice, and equality.  

On this page, you will find recommended reading that will introduce and explore this subject, as well as articles by a number of writers that will help you to dig deeper.


A secular reinterpretation of the Eightfold Path 

While the Eightfold Path is an essential framework and guide for traditional and secular Buddhists, the goal of the path for secular Buddhists is not nirvana but human flourishing in this life. This requires us to reinterpret the meaning and function of the eight path factors.

By Mike Slott

An introduction to secular Buddhism 

For those who are curious about or interested in secular Buddhism and want to learn about this relatively new trend within Buddhism, this article will provide a helpful starting point for exploring a secular approach to the dharma.

By SBN Editor

Stephen Batchelor on coming out as a secular Buddhist 

When Stephen Batchelor first self-identified as a secular Buddhist in 2012 he said that ‘I see the aim of Buddhist practice to be the moment-to-moment flourishing of human life within the ethical framework of the eightfold path.’

By Stephen Batchelor

The core concept of secular Buddhism: a fourfold task 

The core teachings and insights of Gotama are not ‘truths’ to be believed but a ‘fourfold’ task to help us live our lives in a mindful and compassionate way.

By SBN Editor

Creating a Buddhist community – connections that work 

Stephen Batchelor explains how ‘community is not something you join or something that you find. It’s something you create. Community is a practice of … forging and developing connections and friendships and relationships.’

By Stephen Batchelor


The simile of the raft: another interpretation

By Bernat Font Clos

Jim Champion on meditation: what if I’m doing it wrong?

By Jim Champion

Robert M. Ellis’s rejoinder to Winton Higgins’s comments on ‘Middle Way Philosophy and Secular Buddhism’

By Robert M. Ellis

A secular Buddhist perspective on the threat of climate extinction

By Stephen Batchelor

Why I am not a secular Buddhist

By Seth Zuihō Segall

Secular Buddhism and the western search for meaning

By Winton Higgins

Take on the challenge of the unknown

By Stefano Bettera

Wellington’s Simply Meditation renamed: One Mindful Breath

By Ramsey Margolis