While we cannot definitively know that secular Buddhism is the most ‘appropriate’ approach to the dharma in some universal sense, Mike Slott asserts that each individual can determine whether secular Buddhism is an ‘appropriate’ view and path for their own life based on their experiences, interests, and goals.
While the Eightfold Path is an essential framework and guide for traditional and secular Buddhists, the goal of the path for secular Buddhists is not nirvana but human flourishing in this life. This requires us to reinterpret the meaning and function of the eight path factors.
Meditation is invaluable in developing the skills and qualities for us to play a productive role in movements for social change, but engaging in social change with others is essential if we want to fully develop these skills and qualities. We should see individual and social transformation as a simultaneous, mutually interactive process.
As a ‘hub’ or space where dialogue is fostered and resources and experiences are shared among secular Buddhists, we will adhere to certain guidelines for contributors and readers’ comments which are consistent with our approach and our intention to play a constructive role in the development of a secular approach to the dharma.
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?
We need both the Buddha’s insights on the human condition and a non-deterministic, humanistic Marxism to create a ‘culture of awakening’ and just society in which all human beings have the opportunity to flourish. As each perspective has strengths and weaknesses, we need to bring these perspectives together in a complementary, mutually enriching way.
The Tuwhiri Project and the Secular Buddhist Network have created a free online course which explores the key ideas and practices of secular Buddhism. This course is mainly based on Stephen Batchelor’s 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.
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.