Responding to Winton Higgins’ criticism of his view of the relationship of tasks and truths in secular Buddhism, Mike Slott argues that in rejecting metaphysical truths as the basis of Buddhism, we don’t need to reject entirely the notion of truth as correspondence. The beliefs of secular Buddhists are provisional and conditional truth claims about our lived experience and the universe in which we are inextricably embedded.
In response to Mike Slott’s article on truths and tasks in secular Buddhism Winton Higgins argues that Mike’s critique of Stephen Batchelor’s formulation is misconceived; the issue is not the epistemological status of truth but about how we should live and practise. Dharma practitioners do have to choose: they can’t wish-wash over the truths/tasks distinction.
While Stephen Batchelor’s emphasis on the pragmatic and ethical meaning of the Buddha’s teachings has been crucial in the development of a secular approach to the dharma, Mike Slott argues that Stephen has not adequately addressed a legitimate concern about the role and meaning of truth in his approach. The secular dharmic path challenges us to assess constantly both our ‘tasks’ and the ‘truths’ on which they are based.
Winton Higgins reviews Lenorë Lambert’s new book, The Buddha for modern minds: a non-religious guide to the Buddha and his teachings. According to Winton, the book admirably achieves its purpose of preparing the newcomer for a promising ‘first date’ with the dharma and its practice. It does so in impeccably secular terms that are securely based in the early teachings.
Stephen Batchelor argues that a wise and compassionate response to the threat of climate extinction demands direct engagement with life itself irrespective of any a priori beliefs about the origins and end of suffering. By entering into a contemplative, empathetic, and existential relationship with the pain of the world, one seeks to respond with situation-specific compassion.
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.
This was the first of four talks given by Winton Higgins at a day-long workshop in New Zealand in 2013. He argues that the traditional formulation of the Four Noble Truths should be replaced by the fourfold task.