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.


Key elements of secular Buddhism – a framework 

While secular Buddhism is not a ‘school’ of Buddhism with a set of orthodox beliefs and established institutions which represent this trend, secular Buddhists do share some common perspectives.

By SBN Editor

Secular Buddhism is not an attack on religion or God 

Despite the claims of some critics, secular Buddhists are not anti-religious and the goal of a secular dharma is not simply stress reduction but a radical transformation of individuals and society.

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 Stephen Batchelor


Free Thinking – Rana Mitter in conversation with Stephen Batchelor

By SBN Editor

Sylvie Vanasse on secular Buddhist sangha: admirable friendship

By Sylvie Vanasse

Four US teachers discuss secular Buddhism

By Ramsey Margolis

Stephen Batchelor’s ten theses of secular dharma

By Stephen Batchelor

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

By Jim Champion

On freedom and nirvana

By Stephen Batchelor

Reflections for ‘Pluralism Sunday’ at St Andrew’s on The Terrace

By Ramsey Margolis

A secular approach to the dharma will take how long to develop?

By SBN Editor