A moment of freedom is a freedom from something, but it’s also a freedom to something. It’s not just that you’re freed from something, let’s say, attachment or anger or self-centredness, but that that freedom clears a space to act in a way that is not conditioned by your anger or self-centredness.
The community of practitioners – the sangha – is a crucial aspect of the dharmic path for secular Buddhists. But what do we mean by community? How is a community different than other forms of collective organizations? How do we create a true community of practitioners that help each other develop their practice and contribute to a ‘culture of awakening’?
In his 2015 book After Buddhism: rethinking the dharma for a secular age Stephen Batchelor offers ten theses of secular dharma, summing up his overall perspective on secular Buddhism.
Stephen Batchelor explains how ‘community is not something you join or something that you find. It’s something you create. Community is a practice of … forging and developing connections and friendships and relationships.’
According to Winton Higgins, the foundation of Buddhists’ political engagement is the overarching ethical commitment to care, the responsibility to be ‘engaged as a moral agent in what is going on in one’s own life’.
When Stephen Batchelor first self-identified as a secular Buddhist in 2012 he said that ‘I see the aim of Buddhist practice to be the moment-to-moment flourishing of human life within the ethical framework of the eightfold path.’
Stephen Batchelor’s books, articles, and dharma talks have offered a compelling vision of a secular dharma based on individual transformation and creating a “culture of awareness” in this world.
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.
Despite the claims of some critics, secular Buddhists are not anti-religious and the goal of a secular dharma is not simply stress reduction but a radical transformation of individuals and society.
Stephen and Martine Batchelor’s retreats explore key ideas in secular Buddhism, including the fourfold task, the importance of doubt and uncertainty on the path, and the need to create a culture of awakening.