Author Topic: Secular Buddhism  (Read 5707 times)

Offline Chaz

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #75 on: April 01, 2017, 01:18:44 pm »
Quote from: Ron
So, my question to all of you who say that "just sitting" is the solution:  Which of you have attained enlightenment

i'm finding that question puzzling, because its highly unlikely that any of us here have attained enlightenment, whether we meditate or not.

Yes, and I dind that kind of recalcitrance kinda disturbing coming from a Buddhist.

We have the Buddha as a refuge, who sat down to meditate and when that meditation was finished he had attained supreme enlightenment.

We have the Dharma as a refuge that confirms that this was the the case.  After trying every other means to seek the end to birth, old age, sickness and death, it was meditation that brought the enlightening answer.

This is enough.

Now if we choose hold that the Buddha did not achieved supreme enlightenment and the Dharma cannot confirm this, then can we truly think of ourselves as Buddhists of any sort, secular or otherwise?

My teacher is as close to a fully enlightened being as I am likely to find in this lifetime.  He hold a lineage of practice with enlightened beings for generations.  Teaches practice, first and foremost, because that will lead to enlightenment and Buddhahood and not because of what we know or believe.

Good enough for me.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #76 on: April 01, 2017, 01:52:08 pm »
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Pixie:  "i'm finding that question puzzling, because its highly unlikely that any of us here have attained enlightenment, whether we meditate or not."

My point was that meditation alone has never been demonstrated to lead to enlightenment.  Buddha went through several phases before his marathon meditation led to his enlightenment.  He first noted the dukkha (birth, aging, diease, and death) which is part and parcel of this samsaric existence of ours ( "this great ball of suffering" as he labled it.)  As a bodhisatta he then studied under various "guru's" and holymen, who sent him down numeous non-productive paths.  He tried starving himself, nearly to death in his ascetic phase.  Then, through a combination of observations, mindfulness, and yes meditation he vowed to sit until he was unbound and released, fought against the armies of Mara, the great temptor, and etc.  ***Note:  All of this according to variations of his life story told in The Dhamma Pada and though popular Buddhist lore.

Before any of this happened to him as a human, as Francis mentioned, he was "Teacher of The Devas and The Gods", and was asked to take his next rebirth in the human realm of The 31 Planes of Existence, by The King of The Gods and Devas, a great creator Brahma.  In the human realm he eventually became the latest rebirth of The Buddha, first realizing The Four Noble Truths, which contain The Noble Eight Fold Path, which, as Idle Chater pointed out, can be practiced in any sequence, as circumstance requires.  These steps, like the precepts, are personal commitments, which are not like commandments, but are to first be discovered, then studied, then pentrated through practice and experience, then reflected upon,corrected, improved (progress not perfection), and then inculcated into one's personal processes and procedures until they become part and parcel of our personalities (habituated), so we don't have to think about them, but just do them reflexively.  All of this describes his path to enlightenment, meditation is but one leg of a many legged stool called Buddhist practice. 

So, as a student of Buddhism, first learning from Zen monastics, Sitting and studying the works of Tich Nhat Hahn (SP?), then briefly with Tibetan lay persons such as on this board with Yeshe' and most notabley Idle Chater, and at some length through online lectures with HHDL, Dr. Bob Thurman, and Pema Chondron, then The Laotian Theravada and The Southern, Forest Ministry Theravadans with Bhikkhu Samahita, Bhikkhu Damanando, and many, many others through their literature....all of this over the last nineteen years of my life, I have chosen to explore as Solodris and Zafrogzen pointed out, what they all have in common.  In this way, in my way, because it is my path of discovery and practice, I hope to come to understand the meaning of Secular Buddhism.  I am not trying to reinvent the wheel, or found another of many schisms in Buddhism, I am just trying to learn in the way that works for me.

So, sorry if I come across as harsh as you stated in a previous post.  My apologies to you.  This was not my intention.

As a kind friend pointed out to me just recently, I have been "thin skinned" with regard to what I took to be ridicule:  (Ron-A-Yana), and etc.  If there is one thing I learned from Buddha's teachings regarding "emptiness", is the danger of being attached to the delusion of self.  And so, when I take offence to ridicule and ad hominem attack by others, I know that I haven't truly understood Buddha's teachings regarding emptiness / Anatta.

And so, I would like to move on to Emptiness from a Secular Buddhist Perspective.

I hope this answers your question.  Thank you for tolerating my shortcomings. :hug:
« Last Edit: April 01, 2017, 03:38:15 pm by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #77 on: April 01, 2017, 02:05:53 pm »
Quote
Idle Chater:  "Now if we choose hold that the Buddha did not achieved supreme enlightenment and the Dharma cannot confirm this, then can we truly think of ourselves as Buddhists of any sort, secular or otherwise?

My teacher is as close to a fully enlightened being as I am likely to find in this lifetime.  He hold a lineage of practice with enlightened beings for generations.  Teaches practice, first and foremost, because that will lead to enlightenment and Buddhahood and not because of what we know or believe."

My point and Francis's (see my previous post) was that there was much, much more preparation to Buddha's enlightenment than just sitting.  Nor can you know for a fact that Buddha was enlightened, nor that your Guru is going to become enlightened.  You can believe it.  You can have faith in it.  But, the only enlightenment you can yourself know for a fact is your own.  That is why I asked the question of you, "Have you become enlightened from just sitting?"

And your answer is? :listen:
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #78 on: April 01, 2017, 02:12:08 pm »
Emptiness from a Secular Buddhist Perspective.

There is nothing magic or mystical about Buddha's teachings regarding emptiness and Anatta:

It is a fact that we cannot identify any permanent, or unchanging self no matter where we look, nor how many times we subdivide our human forms.  Not in body.  Not in mind.  There is only dependently arisen,  impermanent, ever changing form and locus of energy, endlessly waxing, and waning in both body and mind.

Therefore, I have no problem accepting and embracing this teaching as a part of my personal secular practice.

Any thoughts or disagreement?   :listen:
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Pixie

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #79 on: April 01, 2017, 03:34:27 pm »
Quote from: IdleChater
My teacher is as close to a fully enlightened being as I am likely to find in this lifetime.  He hold a lineage of practice with enlightened beings for generations.  Teaches practice, first and foremost, because that will lead to enlightenment and Buddhahood and not because of what we know or believe.

Good enough for me.

My late (non internet) Tibetan Buddhist teacher always used to remind me to talk less and keep on practising. I think my (non internet) Theravada teacher would agree with that too.....so I'll say goodbye for now.

  _/\_

« Last Edit: April 01, 2017, 03:38:19 pm by Pixie »
May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May they all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they never be deprived of true happiness devoid of any suffering.
May they abide in great impartiality, free from attachment to loved ones and aversion to others.

Offline francis

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #80 on: April 01, 2017, 03:37:38 pm »
Yes.  It was meditation that led the Buddha to enlightenment.  Nothing else.  Everything else is merely elaboration. 

It's the only truly secular thing in this discussion so far.

Hi IdleChater,

Why do you say such things?

Because I believe it's true.


So you are a Secular Buddhist, if everything else apart from tn N8FP is an elaboration. The N8FP is the only path to enlightenment.
"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline Chaz

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #81 on: April 01, 2017, 04:53:43 pm »
My point was that meditation alone has never been demonstrated to lead to enlightenment.

Well, Ron, it has.  In the case of the Buddha, the Sidhas, Mahasiddhas and generations of others, meditation has be shown to lead to enlightenment.

You can't prove this scientifically.  It takes faith.

The Buddha taught 37 Factors of Enlightenment.  Faith appears twice in that list. Once as a Strength and once as a Faculty. (Anguttara Nikaya 7.67, Majjhima Nikaya 103, Digha Nikaya 16)

In the Mahayana we have the Vatamsaka Sutra where the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra states:

Faith is generous ...
Faith can joyfully enter the Buddha's teaching;
Faith can increase knowledge and virtue;
Faith can ensure arrival at enlightenment ...
Faith can go beyond the pathways of demons,
And reveal the unsurpassed road of liberation.

Faith is the unspoiled seed of virtue,
Faith can grow the seed of enlightenment.
Faith can increase supreme knowledge,
Faith can reveal all Buddhas ...
Faith is most powerful, very difficult to have;
It's like in all worlds having
the wondrous wish-fulfilling pearl.


As you can see, this has nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with the Buddha's teaching, which as Francis points out are secular.

You can't even begin to understand what the Buddha taught let alone find or understand enlightenment without faith.  Waiting for "science" to prove it or some other factors is a fool's errand.

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #82 on: April 01, 2017, 07:21:10 pm »
Dealing with a crisis, like the death of a loved one, will often cause folks to seek comfort in religion. I can certainly understand that impulse. The Christians have Christ, the bible and the church. In Islam it’s the prophet, the Koran and the Ummah. And of course the Buddhists have the Buddha, the dharma and the Sangha for refuge.

But a person who has applied themselves assiduously to meditation practice will have a place of refuge within, without reliance on externals -- a place where everything is resolved, which is beyond defilement and change, yet is not apart from this life or this present moment.

Someone who has not meditated much may not appreciate how meditation can open one up to insights that are very unlikely to occur otherwise. A person who has not meditated much is also likely to waste a lot of time reading and thinking and going down other less productive paths.

A person who has never meditated enough to have an insight is likely to think that it is too difficult for an ordinary person to master in this lifetime.

Someone who has never had an enlightenment experience is also likely to maintain that no one else has either. A person who has never had even a small experience of enlightenment is likely to think that it is an either/or proposition -- that when one is enlightened all bad habits and problems will suddenly cease and one will become some kind of special person, different from everyone else. That is an idealistic view and not what I’ve experienced, read or heard to be the case.

In zen, “kensho” is an initial experience of satori or enlightenment in which one sees the true nature of this life for the first time. It is not an uncommon experience for anyone who has sincerely applied themselves to meditation practice. Such experiences vary greatly in degree and depth. A few lucky individuals have one very deep experience. But even then it is only the beginning of real practice. Zhaozhou, one of the most famous of Chinese zen masters, was first enlightened at the age of 19 but trained hard with several different teachers until he finally begin to teach at the age of 60.

Many of us have numerous smaller experiences over the course of decades of meditation practice. Early experiences tend to be intense but after awhile the fireworks die down and the insights become more frequent and ordinary. One no longer needs to take comfort in faith or belief but knows for certain the truth about birth and death.

Eventually it is even possible to find peace right in the midst of the ups and downs of ordinary life.


My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline francis

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #83 on: April 01, 2017, 08:25:52 pm »
My point was that meditation alone has never been demonstrated to lead to enlightenment.


I think what may be missing here is the value of following the Buddha’s N8FP and how that sets up the opportunity for right concentration (samma samadhi), step eight. 

That is, right concentration would be almost impossible to achieve without following the rest of the path.
"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #84 on: April 01, 2017, 08:57:32 pm »
Quote
Idle Chater:  "It takes faith."

Yes.  I have always looked at faith differently than religiostics.  For example:  I developed faith in The Buddha, The Dhamma, and The Sangha (The Triple Gem) because over time and with experience most of what was promised was delivered.  I liken this to why we return every so many years to buy the brand of vehicle in which we have grown to value, because of its reliability.  For the same reason I always return to the same stock broker / business advisor, who has consistently provided me with great returns on my investments.   In chemistry we call this "precision", reliability of results,  validated with contols called known quantities.

By the same token we should not have faith in those people, places and things, which promise one thing and deliver another, or promise  a thing and deliver nothing, but excuses as to why they haven't been delivered as promised.  Politicians,  used car salesmen, and evangelists of any "faith" are good examples of this type of individual.  A good friend and coworker on this very board once as a child had undue faith in his Buddhist spiritual director ( his term for him, not mine ).  My friend suffered serious medical consequences as a result of his undue faith, which ultimately took his life.

Faith is earned with a long term record of successes, not unfulfilled promises in this world, nor promised in the next, or at some other future date.

Faith is due The Buddha, only because what he recommends as documented in the suttas works.  You find that out, verify and validate this by first studying it, trying it and seeing if it works for yourself. 

Faith is earned by The Dhamma, because it essentially documents what works.  You cannot know what it says, unless you read it, study it, penetrate it and practice it for yourself.

Faith is earned by The Sangha in the same way as it is earnd by The Buddha.  Here I am talking about the members of Buddha's original sangha, those called The Elders, Arahants, and Saints, because of their accomplishments, their demeanor, and the long lines of those they provided beneficial assistance.  Buddha stated, (paraphrasing)  " He who knows The Dhamma knows me."  In this case, the dhamma is know to be truth.

Faith is both developed and earned. Faith is not like belief,and not synonymous with belief.  Blindly given faith is nothing but gullibility.

In this same context Christ stated, "We know the tree by its fruit."  If you see pears hanging on a tree, you can have faith in the fact that what you have before you is a pear tree.

My Father, an Insurance Broker during the final decade of his life trained me: "You can have faith in the fact that a check is good only when you take it to the bank, cash it and  have currency in hand."  He was of course talking about brick and mortar banks.  Today we transfer money via the internet, and open bank accounts when asked to do so by Nigerian Princes.  Not much faith due there.

And last, but not least: You can have absolute faith in the fact that "Ones, who claim they are attained, unbound and released, enlightened, or will be so shortly are usually not, and probably not ever going to be.  Why?  Because one of the telling characteristics of Attained Ones is "humility".  None of these seek attention or praise.  Such as these The true saints only seek to demonstrate and disseminate "The Dhamma" for the benefit of mankind.

 :r4wheel:
« Last Edit: April 01, 2017, 09:20:17 pm by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Chaz

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #85 on: April 01, 2017, 09:16:33 pm »
Quote
Idle Chater:  "It takes faith."

Yes.  I have always looked at faith differently than religiostics.  For example:  I developed faith in The Buddha, The Dhamma, and The Sangha (The Triple Gem) because over time and with experience most of what was promised was delivered.  I liken this to why we return every so many years to buy the brand of vehicle in which we have grown to value, because of its reliability.  For the same reason I always to to the stock broker / business advisor, who has consistently provided me with great returns on my investments.   In chemistry we call this "precision", validated with contols called known quantities.

We should not have faith in those people, places and things, which promise one thing and deliver another, or promise  a thing and deliver nothing but excuses as to why they haven't been delivered as promised.  Politicians,  used car salesmen and evangelists are good examples of this type of individual.  A good friend and coworker on this very board once as a child had undue faith in his Buddhist spiritual director ( his term for him, not mine ).  My friend suffered serious medical consequences as a result of his faith.

Faith is earned with a long term record of successes, not promises not yet fulfilled in this world, but promised in the next, or at some other future date.
Faith is due to The Buddha, because what he recommends works.  You find that out by trying it and seeing if it works for yourself.
Faith is earned by The Dhamma, because it also works.  You cannot know what it says, unless you read it, penetrate it and practice it for yourself.
Faith is earned by The Sangha.  Here I am talking about the members of Buddha original sangha, those called Arahants and Saints, because of their accomplishments, their demeanor, and the long lines of those they provided beneficial assistance.
We develop faith, it is not like belief, or exercises in gullibility.
Christ stated, "We know the tree by its fruit."  If you see pears hanging on a tree, you can have faith in the fact that what you have before you is a pear tree.
My Father, and Insurance Broker trained me:"You can have faith in the fact that a check is good only when you have cash in hand."
And last, but not least: You can have absolute faith in the fact that "Ones, who say they are attained, unbound and released: enlightened are usually not.

So what is the problem?   If you have faith, no further proof is needed.

Offline Pixie

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #86 on: April 01, 2017, 11:37:16 pm »
In my opinion one can spend all of one's spare time typing discussions and arguments with others on a screen, when its so much more beneficial to  make the effort to get out there and find a teacher (or spiritual friend), who doesn't want sex or a lot of money, to communicate with face to face. There are some mainstream teachers (and maybe some of the newer "Secular Buddhism" teachers) who are more relaxed in their approach and don't focus on all the superstitious and cultural beliefs which can be prominent for others.

 One can then know for oneself the results of his/ her instructions, and this creates confidence in the practice, rather than having blind faith in a person or an idea, or endless talking round in circles on the internet.

There are already established Secular Buddhism courses taking place, by the way. Here's one of them:

https://bodhi-college.org/programme#programme-chart


Quote from: Zafrogzen

... a person who has applied themselves assiduously to meditation practice will have a place of refuge within, without reliance on externals -- a place where everything is resolved, which is beyond defilement and change, yet is not apart from this life or this present moment.

Someone who has not meditated much may not appreciate how meditation can open one up to insights that are very unlikely to occur otherwise. A person who has not meditated much is also likely to waste a lot of time reading and thinking and going down other less productive paths.


I agree, Zafrogzen.

May everyone find peace and happiness. _/\_

« Last Edit: April 02, 2017, 12:28:12 am by Pixie »
May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May they all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they never be deprived of true happiness devoid of any suffering.
May they abide in great impartiality, free from attachment to loved ones and aversion to others.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #87 on: April 02, 2017, 08:05:22 am »
Before proceding to the next topic, thank you all for your honest and very producive sharing.  Thank you for your constructive input.  Advice without having personal experience as an underpinning, a foundation is most often hollow, useless, and naive.  With that as a segue, I would like to move on to what I consider to be the last topic (for me) in this thread exploring Secular Buddhism. 

Some have already alluded to it.  Some, like Idle Chater, zafrogzen, and Pixie have insisted that it probably should have been first on the list:

The Practice.....Putting What You Have Studied and Learned to Work

This from here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_Buddhism

Quote
Within the framework of secular Buddhism, Buddhist doctrine may be stripped of any unspecified combination of various traditional beliefs that could be considered superstitious, or that can't be tested through empirical research, namely: supernatural beings (such as devas, bodhisattvas, nāgas, pretas, Buddhas, etc.), merit and its transference, rebirth, Buddhist cosmology (including the existence of pure lands and hells), etc.

Traditional Buddhist ethics, such as conservative views regarding abortion, and human sexuality, may or may not be called into question as well. Some schools, especially Western Buddhist ones, take more progressive stances regarding social issues.

Secular Buddhism proposes that we leave behind the metaphysical beliefs and soteriology of Indian religious culture. This culture saw human life as an irredeemable realm of suffering, from which one should seek transcendence in an enduring beyond-human condition – a stance that virtually all Buddhist schools, as well as Hinduism and Jainism, perpetuate. Secular Buddhism, on the other hand, seeks to deploy the Buddha’s teaching as a guide to full human flourishing in this life and this world.

Secular Buddhism likewise rejects the authoritarian structures of power legitimated by the metaphysics of orthodox Buddhist belief. It questions notions of spiritual progress based on standardized prescriptions for meditation practice, as well as the widespread idea that Buddhist practice is essentially concerned with gaining proficiency in a set of meditative techniques endorsed by the authority of a traditional school or teacher.[7] Instead, secular Buddhism emphasizes a praxis that encourages autonomy and encompasses equally every aspect of one's humanity, as modeled by the noble eight-fold path (right vision, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration). Such an approach is open to generating a wide range of responses to specific individual and communal needs, rather than insisting on there being "one true way" to "enlightenment" valid for all times and places.

And so, since I am just pushing off from my side of the bank in this regard, I am open to learning from the experience of others.  As many a science professor has stated:  "Modern Science is built upon the shouders of those who have come before us." 

As Idle Chater has offered in a previous post:
Quote
"My teacher is as close to a fully enlightened being as I am likely to find in this lifetime.  He hold a lineage of practice with enlightened beings for generations.  Teaches practice, first and foremost, because that will lead to enlightenment and Buddhahood and not because of what we know or believe.

Good enough for me."

So, what has been your experience?  And, how has your experience translated into your current practice? 

Are you considering making a change in the way you practice?  If so, in what way?   :listen:

Again, thank you for your constructive contributions. :hug:



« Last Edit: April 03, 2017, 05:21:29 am by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Chaz

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #88 on: April 02, 2017, 09:19:00 am »

So, what has been your experience?  And, how has your experience translated into your current practice? 

He has, almost from the beginning, been a firend, a guide, and an inspiration.

Working with my Guru's direction, my practice has become stronger and deeper.

Quote
Are you considering making a change in the way you practice?

No.  There is no need.  I could always improve on the frequency, but not the way.

« Last Edit: April 02, 2017, 09:21:01 am by IdleChater »

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #89 on: April 03, 2017, 02:49:36 am »
I think Secular Buddhism can be much more than a watered down version of Buddhism. It's a way of regaining control over ourselves as individuals, both in terms of how we see the world, and how we react within it. Too often religion has been used as a measure of control, socializing us into the prevailing culture, while holding out the promise of something good if things are done their way, as a carrot dangling before us. Secular Buddhism can do away with all of that by allowing each individual to develop as they can, not as they are told to be.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

 


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