James Mark Shields discusses the New Buddhist Fellowship (NBF), a group of roughly a dozen young scholars and activists in Japan who developed a more modern and secular version of Buddhism. In several important respects, the New Buddhists of early twentieth-century Japan lay the foundations for later movements such as socially engaged and secular Buddhism.
In his recently published book, the philosopher Evan Thompson critiques Buddhist modernism and the notion that Buddhism is superior to other spiritual traditions because it provides us with a scientific understanding of the mind and our world. Is Thompson’s criticism of Buddhist modernism valid? Do his criticisms apply to secular Buddhism?