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Prescott Freethinkers Message Board › Secular Buddhism

Secular Buddhism

Serah B.
Phoenix, AZ
Hey everyone -

Thanks for a great discussion last night! I'm just following up to share Ted Meissner's podcast (which also has links to other great blogs on the subject):­ Ted is smart, funny, and (importantly) skeptical; in fact, his partner, Melissa Lee, is the organizer of the Minnesota Skeptics. I met them both when I gave my talk to that group on Reality-Based Government.

I'm looking forward to continuing the discussion on secular/naturalistic Buddhism!

- Serah
Serah B.
Phoenix, AZ
Post #: 47
Jonathan K.
user 76725872
Prescott, AZ
Post #: 1
Buddhism, in its traditional form in Asia is about as mystical as any Western counterpart. There's encounters with demons and angels, supernatural beings, premonitions, etc etc. I suppose you could distill some of the core teachings out of Buddhism and redress them into a more rationalistic form (which is what looks like is being done), but this could honestly be done with Abrahamic religions as well if you really wanted to go to the effort. The latter would probably be a better choice for social reasons anyway, as opposed to addopting a religious identity from a different culture. Sorry to rain on your parade, but this is my honest assessment about secularizing Buddhism.

Now don't get me wrong. I think there may be merits to meditation, (the practice of strengthening the abillity to sustain mental silence) in the same sense that there's merits to physical strength training. I think there's merits to being less attached to material possessions and mental hangups in the same sense that there's merits to not over-eating junk food. However, I don't see why this all has to be wrapped up with the religious iconography of the Buddha. Anyway, this is just my two cents. I respect your choice nonetheless, and if it speaks to you in a healthy way and helps you relate to others in a better and healthy way, more power to you.

As for the article on Transcendence, the author is splitting hairs when he speaks of "supernatural" in a negative sense and "Transcendence—experience beyond the ordinary" in a positive. Experience beyond the ordinary is precisely what the concept of "supernatural" is referring to. It addresses experience outside of what is natural in the sense of what is day to day experience, whether it be encountering fairies or having a self actualizing revelation in which you realize your ego self is a tiny drop in a cosmic ocean of inescapable unity. Whether these things are real or not is missing the point. They're supernatural in the sense that they supersede the mundane experiences of daily life.

Also when he speaks positively of "a state which fully transcends the apparent boundaries of the self" and "experiences and understandings beyond our individual lives" and negatively of "complete loss of individuality to a greater power", it really seems like the same thing. These kind of "transcendent" experiences of awe and inspiration are what the religious are referencing when they talk about God. When they say "Jesus spoke to me" or "Allah came to me", they really mean the same exact thing the author is talking about with "transcendence" (or "peak experiences" for those who favor the drabbest. dampest language possible). The issue with organized religion isn't that people have the personal experiences they have. The problem is that they think its exclusive to their religion and are unaware that everyone else in the world has the same experiences, regardless of what its codified or understood as in the context of a holy text. Whatever it is, it is what it is, and trying to name it and frame it under a construct doesn't do it any justice. These types of experiences should just be respected for what they are, because imposing labels only reduces it to an abstraction, and people begin to confuse the abstraction for the actual experience.

Its a game of semantical gymnastics that I think the author is caught up in. I do agree that supernatural vs. natural is a false duality, and it really comes down to "does it really exist or not", despite how common or uncommon it is to daily experience. Although, I just got the impression that the author is reacting to buzzwords in a similar manner to how the religiously indoctrinated respond to buzzwords.
user 177295582
Prescott, AZ
Post #: 1
Well said Johnathan!
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