While meditation retreats are extremely valuable, they are limited in some important respects. We need to develop more inclusive forms of intensive practice which help us cultivate each of the essential dimensions of of the Eightfold Path in an integrated way.
While sanghas in traditional Buddhist lineages are often founded on hierarchical notions of the teacher–student relationship, secular Buddhists emphasize that sanghas should be based on a more equal participation of members. The New Jersey, USA, sangha is one example of an effort to develop more democratic, participatory sanghas.
Mike Slott argues that the purpose of meditation for secular Buddhists is to cultivate certain virtues and insights which are crucial to promoting human flourishing in this world, not the attainment of nirvana.
Mike Slott explains why secular Buddhists should be socially engaged, from service work with individuals to participation in radical political movements.
Mike Slott identifies three trends or paths within secular Buddhism: 1) a dharmic-focused effort to reconstruct Buddhism, 2) bringing a secular form of Buddhism into the mindfulness movement, and 3) integrating secular Buddhist perspectives and insights into projects for radical, political transformation.
Mike Slott argues that Buddhists need to broaden their understanding of the causes to suffering (the Second Noble Truth) to include not only the inevitable sources of dukkha (sickness, death, etc.) and our own unskillful ways of being in the world due to craving, but also social and economic structures which harm human beings.
Mike Slott contends that, from secular Buddhist perspective, it is more appropriate to view impermancence, not-self, and dukkha as aspects of our experience rather than ontological characteristics of reality.
From a secular Buddhist perspective, Mike Slott contends that meditation should not be about reaching or accessing nirvana, but developing the capacity to become wiser, more compassionate, and mindful.
Mike Slott argues in this article that traditional meditation retreats in insight and Zen centers are too individually-focused, that there needs to be more opportunities to develop a sense of community and comraderie among retreat participants. He offers “practical suggestions on how solidarity and support between retreatants, as well as a greater focus on our engagement in the world, can become part of meditation retreats.”
This online course explores the key ideas and practices of secular Buddhism, based on Stephen Batchelor’s recent book, After Buddhism: rethinking the dharma for a secular age, and the companion book published by The Tuwhiri Project, After Buddhism: a workbook, by Winton Higgins.