Stephen Batchelor’s ten theses of secular dharma

In his 2015 book After Buddhism: rethinking the dharma for a secular age Stephen Batchelor offered ten theses of secular dharma, summing up his perspective on secular Buddhism.

For Stephen, a secular dharma which promotes human flourishing and a culture of awakening needs to be democratic, compassionate and grounded in our everyday life. A secular dharma is both radical in its reconstruction of Buddhism while respectful and appreciative of traditional perspectives and practices.

The ten theses:

#1 – A secular Buddhist is one who is committed to the practice of the dharma for the sake of this world alone.

#2 – The practice of the dharma consists of four tasks: to embrace suffering, let go of reactivity, behold the ceasing of reactivity, and cultivate an integrated way of life.

#3 – All human beings, irrespective of gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, nationality and religion can practice these four tasks. Each person, in each moment, has the potential to be more awake, responsive and free.

#4 – The practice of the dharma is as much concerned with how one speaks, acts and works in the public realm as with how one performs spiritual exercises in private.

#5 – The dharma serves the needs of people at specific times and places. Each form the dharma assumes is a transient human creation, contingent upon the historical, cultural, social and economic conditions that generated it.

#6 – The practitioner honors the dharma teachings that have been passed down through different traditions while seeking to enact them creatively in ways appropriate to the world as it is now.

#7 – The community of practitioners is formed of autonomous persons, who mutually support each other in the cultivation of their paths. In this network of like-minded individuals, members respects the equality of all members while honoring the specific knowledge and expertise each person brings.

#8 – A practitioner is committed to an ethics of care, founded on empathy, compassion and love for all creatures who have evolved on this earth.

#9 – Practitioners seek to understand and diminish the structural violence of societies and institutions as well as the roots of violence that are present in themselves.

#10 – A practitioner of the dharma aspires to nurture a culture of awakening that finds its inspiration in Buddhist and non-Buddhist, religious and secular sources alike.


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One Reply to “Stephen Batchelor’s ten theses of secular dharma”

Dennis Olivet

Stephen’s insistence on the four tasks over the four ‘truths’ (and over the twelve aspects) seems to me to be unnecessary. From my first exposure to the dharma I have taken the truths not as ‘metaphysical’ statements, but as experiential realities, wholly in sync with the tasks and aspects. The priority of the tasks and rejection of the truths have been Stephen’s distinctive of HIS secular dharma. But my secular (and open) Buddhism does not hinge on this dualism.

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