Secular Buddhism

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Ceisiwr
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by Ceisiwr » Mon May 13, 2019 8:56 pm

DNS


I like inclusivity as much as possible, but at some point, a demarcation needs to be placed, in my opinion. Due to Ehipassiko, Kalama Sutta, and others, I believe secular buddhists can still be included in the banner of Buddhism, if they so identify.
That of course would depend on the type of secular Buddhism. I don't see how a SB which rejects kamma and rebirth because of materialism/physicalism or extreme scepticism can be classed as Buddhism, since that is blatantly wrong view.

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Aloka
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by Aloka » Mon May 13, 2019 9:35 pm

clw_uk wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 8:56 pm
DNS


I like inclusivity as much as possible, but at some point, a demarcation needs to be placed, in my opinion. Due to Ehipassiko, Kalama Sutta, and others, I believe secular buddhists can still be included in the banner of Buddhism, if they so identify.
That of course would depend on the type of secular Buddhism. I don't see how a SB which rejects kamma and rebirth because of materialism/physicalism or extreme scepticism can be classed as Buddhism, since that is blatantly wrong view.
Perhaps at some stage, being able to quieten our own discursive minds in order to notice genuine sincerity and purity of heart in some of the other people who are doing their best in one way or another, is more important than insisting they follow rules, regulations and lists, which we might already be having difficulties with ourselves. How much easier it is sometimes to look outwards rather than inwards, I do it all the time!

:anjali:

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Kim OHara
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by Kim OHara » Mon May 13, 2019 10:33 pm

Aloka wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 9:35 pm
clw_uk wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 8:56 pm
DNS


I like inclusivity as much as possible, but at some point, a demarcation needs to be placed, in my opinion. Due to Ehipassiko, Kalama Sutta, and others, I believe secular buddhists can still be included in the banner of Buddhism, if they so identify.
That of course would depend on the type of secular Buddhism. I don't see how a SB which rejects kamma and rebirth because of materialism/physicalism or extreme scepticism can be classed as Buddhism, since that is blatantly wrong view.
Perhaps at some stage, being able to quieten our own discursive minds in order to notice genuine sincerity and purity of heart in some of the other people who are doing their best in one way or another, is more important than insisting they follow rules, regulations and lists, which we might already be having difficulties with ourselves. How much easier it is sometimes to look outwards rather than inwards, I do it all the time!

:anjali:
:goodpost:

It might be useful, too, to remember the centrality of the not-self teachings in the Dhamma, and to resolve to do a bit less identity-defining.

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by DNS » Mon May 13, 2019 11:18 pm

Kim OHara wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 10:33 pm
It might be useful, too, to remember the centrality of the not-self teachings in the Dhamma, and to resolve to do a bit less identity-defining.
Yes, but one gets rid of the raft after one crosses over to the other shore, not before.

Nowadays it is somewhat popular to have no labels. This is fine, but that's a label too and one can even officially join them:

https://www.nolabels.org/ :tongue:

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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by Zom » Tue May 14, 2019 12:04 am

Nowadays it is somewhat popular to have no labels.
There's a joke -)

International gathering of "those-who-don't-care". One man is being interviewed:
- Do you really don't care about anything?
- That's right.
- What about money?
- I don't care.
- How about food?
- Don't care.
- Women?
- Well.... women... that's good.
- But you said you don't care about anything!
- I don't care about that.

8-)

SarathW
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by SarathW » Tue May 14, 2019 12:06 am

If we apply Ven. Rahula formula, how does Secular Buddhism fitting there?

=========
The Basic Points Unifying the Theravada and the Mahayana is an important Buddhist Ecumenical statement created in 1967 during the First Congress of the World Buddhist Sangha Council (WBSC), where its founder Secretary-General, the late Venerable Pandita Pimbure Sorata Thera, requested the Ven. Dr. Walpola Rahula to present a concise formula for the unification of all the different buddhist traditions. This text was then unanimously approved by the Council.

The points were well written by Ven. Dr. Walpola Rahula and summarize Buddhism and provide foundational teachings which are common to all forms of Buddhism.
1.The Buddha is our only Master (teacher and guide)
2.We take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha (the Three Jewels)
3.We do not believe that this world is created and ruled by a God
4.We consider that the purpose of life is to develop compassion for all living beings without discrimination and to work for their good, happiness, and peace; and to develop wisdom (panna) leading to the realization of Ultimate Truth
5.We accept The Four Noble Truths, namely dukkha, the arising of dukkha, the cessation of dukkha, and the path leading to the cessation of duḥkha; and the law of cause and effect
6.All conditioned things (saṃskāra) are impermanent (anicca) and dukkha, and that all conditioned and unconditioned things are without self (anatta)
7.We accept the 37 factors of enlightenment as different aspects of the Path taught by the Buddha leading to Enlightenment.
8.There are three ways of attaining bodhi or Enlightenment: namely as a disciple (śrāvaka), as a pratyekabuddha and as a sammasambuddha (perfectly and fully enlightened Buddha). We accept it as the highest, noblest, and most heroic to follow the career of a Bodhisatta and to become a sammasambuddha in order to save others.
9.We admit that in different countries there are differences regarding Buddhist beliefs and practices. These external forms and expressions should not be confused with the essential teachings of the Buddha.

https://dhammawiki.com/index.php?title= ... d_Mahayana
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by DooDoot » Tue May 14, 2019 12:15 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 7:39 pm
a serious development in modern Christianity. For example New Zealand theologian Lloyd Geering's book Christianity Without God
Respectfully, the above does not sound "serious" to me. To me, the man doesn't really understand religion at all:



For example, above he says the ancients did not understand homosexuality. Personally, I would argue the opposite. Certain ancient people did not want homosexuality in their society because life was "tribal" or "clan" and the tribe had to protect itself & its future. The ideas of the man in the video appear to revolve around contemporary "individualism"; where as ancient & medieval societies revolved around the survival of the group.

I watched three episodes of the Turkish TV series below at my friend's place; which I found fascinating in its depiction of "clan" or "tribal" culture, which was the culture of the Hebrews (Jews) who composed the Bible and the culture of Buddha's society.

There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati

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cappuccino
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by cappuccino » Tue May 14, 2019 12:44 am

Zom wrote: - Women?
- Well… women… that's good.
He has compared sensual pleasures to a lump of flesh

Yodhajiva Sutta

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Dhammanando
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by Dhammanando » Tue May 14, 2019 1:00 am

clw_uk wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 7:55 pm
Yet you find they believe in Nibbana :shrug:
Well, not all of them. There is a sub-sect, the so-called "Jazz Buddhists", among whom Nibbāna is conceived as a useful idea but not something that anyone has ever actually attained.

An open letter from Richard Hayes to the Canadian monk Ven. Punnadhammo, posted on usenet about twenty years ago:
Richard Hayes wrote: Dear Punnadhammo,

[...]

Since my constant shifting of positions seems vexatious to you, let me state as clearly as I can what my position actually is (at the moment). I don't expect you or those who share your Transcendentalist tastes in religion to like my position at all, so my description of it is not meant to appeal to you or to convert you to my way of thinking. I shall simply state my position for you and anyone else to assess by whatever criteria you use and then to take it or leave it. If you leave it, then I trust you will also leave me alone, so that I can continue playing with those who like to play my kinds of games. Now, down to serious work.

My early training in mathematics and physics did more than anything else to enable me to understand the power of religion. Mathematics and science is built on a foundation of fictions and fantasies. Geometers live in a thought-world of perfect circles, straight lines, uniformly curved lines that follow formulae, planes, equilateral triangles and all manner of other entities that have never been found in the empirical world and that could never actually exist. Physicists live in a thought-world of standard temperature and pressure, friction-free surfaces, perfectly uniform inclined planes, and ideal gases.

Scientists of all kinds practise a discipline based on the noble but quite impossible ideal of perfect objectivity. The most important thing I learned from scientists and mathematicians was that nobody actually believes that any of these things exist. Everyone knows that these things are fictions. They are, to use the favourite term, heuristic concepts; they are ideals which enable one to think about the things that really do occur.

Scientists live in a world of make-believe, and they know it. They are masters of myth, and only the real hacks lose sight of the distinction between the ideals, Platonic forms and archetypes of the imaginal realm and the measurable data of the empirical realm. Only the most incompetent scientists think that mythology is history or that theory is fact.

Another activity that I used to indulge in during my misspent youth was playing in a jazz band. Before playing, we always tuned our instruments. And sooner or later one of us would finally say "Well, that's close enough for jazz." Every musician knows that no instrument ever made can be perfectly tuned. The perfectly tuned guitar or violin or piano exists only in Plato's world of archetypes, where good musicians and poets are not allowed to go anyway. Jazz musicians are perhaps more tolerant of the inherent perversity of real instruments than other musicians. They know that imperfection never gets in the way of making really listenable and meaningful music.

Buddhism (or any other religion) has always struck me as very much like science and mathematics. Buddhists live in a thought-world of archetypes of perfection. There are Buddhas who have discovered without any help from anyone how to completely eliminate all their afflictions and impurities and who can teach others to do so. There are arhants who never generate any further karma, because karma is produced only by those who have a lingering and very subtle attachment to self.

There are bodhisattvas who go around perfecting everything from conduct to wisdom and who never draw a selfish breath through millions of billions of incalculable aeons of tireless service to suffering sentient beings in realms as uncountable as the grains of sands along the banks of the Ganges. Buddhists take these mythological ideals very seriously. They go to them for refuge. They live their lives by them, just as skilled navigators steer their ships by stars that they can never reach. To be a Buddhist is to steer one's lifeboat by a particular constellation of archetypal images, available only to the imagination, never to be reached in the empirical realm.

Some Buddhists (among whom I count myself) are Jazz Buddhists. We know that there is no such thing as getting one's instrument perfectly tuned, but we believe it is possible to get close enough for jazz. We know there has never been an actual arhant, or a real Buddha, or a true bodhisattva on the face of this or any other physical world, but we also think that some people probably get close enough to be worthy of real, heartfelt admiration and perhaps even a bit of awe. Was Siddhartha Gautama a perfect Buddha? Of course not. But he could sure as hell play that thing. He was good, damn good. But in this he was not so unique.

The world is full of class acts. Siddhartha just happens to be my favourite, but I know full well that other people have other tastes, and there is no point in my saying they have bad taste, because that would spoil everyone's enjoyment of all the great jazz that is going down.

As everybody and his Uncle Fred knows, there is an old Zen saying "If you meet a Buddha on the road, kill him." What that saying means is that if you ever meet someone who thinks that he or she is the actualization of an archetype, avoid that person like the plague. People who think they are real instantiations of mythical archetypes are almost always very bad news.

Readers of talk.religion.buddhism have an instinctual understanding of the real meaning of this saying. There is this guy named Joseph M. Emmanuel who claims to be Maitreya. The very idea makes any real Buddhist puke. Why? Because we all know that Maitreya is an archetypal image who lives only in Plato's realm of forms or in Jung's collective unconscious. We are quite happy rubbing his fat tummy in our imaginations, but when somebody who eats, drinks, sleeps and wets comes along and says "I'm Maitreya", we go right for the jugular. We kill this soi disant Buddha right there on the road.

Killing the Buddha on the road is also what any of us would have done if we had met anyone in real life who acted the way the character Siddhartha Gautama is portrayed as acting in that magnificent work of inspirational fiction known as the Tripitaka. I can guarantee you, Punnadhammo, that if you ever met a real man who spoke to you the way the Buddha spoke to his disciples, you'd be the very first to start pointing out all his character defects, his imperfections, his doctrinal inconsistencies and his failure to live up to his own impossibly high standards of moral perfection. Reality sticks in your craw, and you keep trying to spit it out. But it can't be done, because reality is the only game in town.

You and I differ. And I'm sure each of us rejoices in our being different from the other. I wouldn't be like you for all the incense in India, and I hope you feel the same about me. How do we differ? Probably any attempt to articulate it would only tell a lie. All I can do, perhaps, is to get close enough for jazz. The way I think we differ is that I go for refuge to what I know to be an ideal of perfection, and I do not care in the least whether this ideal can ever actually exist. Based on my observation of life so far, I would say probably not.

In my rare moments of intellectual honesty, I would just say "I don't know." And I would quickly add "I don't care, because it just doesn't matter." I get the impression that it does matter to you. I think you would like to believe in the Tripitaka as history, not as myth. I orient myself by unreachable stars; whereas you seem to feel disoriented if you begin to think that the stars cannot eventually be reached. Correct me if I'm wrong.

There, that's as clearly as I can say it. I'm a Jazz Buddhist ready to make roadkill out of any hitchhiker who claims to be playing a perfectly tuned sax. Deep down inside, so are you, I think. It's just that you don't realise it yet. But then again, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe deep down inside you really do believe in actual arhants and actual Buddhas. If so, God help you, son.

With best wishes, as always,
Richard

“Keep to your own pastures, bhikkhus, walk in the haunts where your fathers roamed.
If ye thus walk in them, Māra will find no lodgement, Māra will find no foothold.”
— Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta

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cappuccino
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by cappuccino » Tue May 14, 2019 1:09 am

Dhammanando wrote: They know that imperfection never gets in the way of making really listenable and meaningful music.
:shrug:

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Ceisiwr
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by Ceisiwr » Tue May 14, 2019 1:31 am

Dhammanando wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 1:00 am
clw_uk wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 7:55 pm
Yet you find they believe in Nibbana :shrug:
Well, not all of them. There is a sub-sect, the so-called "Jazz Buddhists", among whom Nibbāna is conceived as a useful idea but not something that anyone has ever actually attained.

An open letter from Richard Hayes to the Canadian monk Ven. Punnadhammo, posted on usenet about twenty years ago:
Richard Hayes wrote: Dear Punnadhammo,

[...]

Since my constant shifting of positions seems vexatious to you, let me state as clearly as I can what my position actually is (at the moment). I don't expect you or those who share your Transcendentalist tastes in religion to like my position at all, so my description of it is not meant to appeal to you or to convert you to my way of thinking. I shall simply state my position for you and anyone else to assess by whatever criteria you use and then to take it or leave it. If you leave it, then I trust you will also leave me alone, so that I can continue playing with those who like to play my kinds of games. Now, down to serious work.

My early training in mathematics and physics did more than anything else to enable me to understand the power of religion. Mathematics and science is built on a foundation of fictions and fantasies. Geometers live in a thought-world of perfect circles, straight lines, uniformly curved lines that follow formulae, planes, equilateral triangles and all manner of other entities that have never been found in the empirical world and that could never actually exist. Physicists live in a thought-world of standard temperature and pressure, friction-free surfaces, perfectly uniform inclined planes, and ideal gases.

Scientists of all kinds practise a discipline based on the noble but quite impossible ideal of perfect objectivity. The most important thing I learned from scientists and mathematicians was that nobody actually believes that any of these things exist. Everyone knows that these things are fictions. They are, to use the favourite term, heuristic concepts; they are ideals which enable one to think about the things that really do occur.

Scientists live in a world of make-believe, and they know it. They are masters of myth, and only the real hacks lose sight of the distinction between the ideals, Platonic forms and archetypes of the imaginal realm and the measurable data of the empirical realm. Only the most incompetent scientists think that mythology is history or that theory is fact.

Another activity that I used to indulge in during my misspent youth was playing in a jazz band. Before playing, we always tuned our instruments. And sooner or later one of us would finally say "Well, that's close enough for jazz." Every musician knows that no instrument ever made can be perfectly tuned. The perfectly tuned guitar or violin or piano exists only in Plato's world of archetypes, where good musicians and poets are not allowed to go anyway. Jazz musicians are perhaps more tolerant of the inherent perversity of real instruments than other musicians. They know that imperfection never gets in the way of making really listenable and meaningful music.

Buddhism (or any other religion) has always struck me as very much like science and mathematics. Buddhists live in a thought-world of archetypes of perfection. There are Buddhas who have discovered without any help from anyone how to completely eliminate all their afflictions and impurities and who can teach others to do so. There are arhants who never generate any further karma, because karma is produced only by those who have a lingering and very subtle attachment to self.

There are bodhisattvas who go around perfecting everything from conduct to wisdom and who never draw a selfish breath through millions of billions of incalculable aeons of tireless service to suffering sentient beings in realms as uncountable as the grains of sands along the banks of the Ganges. Buddhists take these mythological ideals very seriously. They go to them for refuge. They live their lives by them, just as skilled navigators steer their ships by stars that they can never reach. To be a Buddhist is to steer one's lifeboat by a particular constellation of archetypal images, available only to the imagination, never to be reached in the empirical realm.

Some Buddhists (among whom I count myself) are Jazz Buddhists. We know that there is no such thing as getting one's instrument perfectly tuned, but we believe it is possible to get close enough for jazz. We know there has never been an actual arhant, or a real Buddha, or a true bodhisattva on the face of this or any other physical world, but we also think that some people probably get close enough to be worthy of real, heartfelt admiration and perhaps even a bit of awe. Was Siddhartha Gautama a perfect Buddha? Of course not. But he could sure as hell play that thing. He was good, damn good. But in this he was not so unique.

The world is full of class acts. Siddhartha just happens to be my favourite, but I know full well that other people have other tastes, and there is no point in my saying they have bad taste, because that would spoil everyone's enjoyment of all the great jazz that is going down.

As everybody and his Uncle Fred knows, there is an old Zen saying "If you meet a Buddha on the road, kill him." What that saying means is that if you ever meet someone who thinks that he or she is the actualization of an archetype, avoid that person like the plague. People who think they are real instantiations of mythical archetypes are almost always very bad news.

Readers of talk.religion.buddhism have an instinctual understanding of the real meaning of this saying. There is this guy named Joseph M. Emmanuel who claims to be Maitreya. The very idea makes any real Buddhist puke. Why? Because we all know that Maitreya is an archetypal image who lives only in Plato's realm of forms or in Jung's collective unconscious. We are quite happy rubbing his fat tummy in our imaginations, but when somebody who eats, drinks, sleeps and wets comes along and says "I'm Maitreya", we go right for the jugular. We kill this soi disant Buddha right there on the road.

Killing the Buddha on the road is also what any of us would have done if we had met anyone in real life who acted the way the character Siddhartha Gautama is portrayed as acting in that magnificent work of inspirational fiction known as the Tripitaka. I can guarantee you, Punnadhammo, that if you ever met a real man who spoke to you the way the Buddha spoke to his disciples, you'd be the very first to start pointing out all his character defects, his imperfections, his doctrinal inconsistencies and his failure to live up to his own impossibly high standards of moral perfection. Reality sticks in your craw, and you keep trying to spit it out. But it can't be done, because reality is the only game in town.

You and I differ. And I'm sure each of us rejoices in our being different from the other. I wouldn't be like you for all the incense in India, and I hope you feel the same about me. How do we differ? Probably any attempt to articulate it would only tell a lie. All I can do, perhaps, is to get close enough for jazz. The way I think we differ is that I go for refuge to what I know to be an ideal of perfection, and I do not care in the least whether this ideal can ever actually exist. Based on my observation of life so far, I would say probably not.

In my rare moments of intellectual honesty, I would just say "I don't know." And I would quickly add "I don't care, because it just doesn't matter." I get the impression that it does matter to you. I think you would like to believe in the Tripitaka as history, not as myth. I orient myself by unreachable stars; whereas you seem to feel disoriented if you begin to think that the stars cannot eventually be reached. Correct me if I'm wrong.

There, that's as clearly as I can say it. I'm a Jazz Buddhist ready to make roadkill out of any hitchhiker who claims to be playing a perfectly tuned sax. Deep down inside, so are you, I think. It's just that you don't realise it yet. But then again, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe deep down inside you really do believe in actual arhants and actual Buddhas. If so, God help you, son.

With best wishes, as always,
Richard



Wow


Yes I’m aware that some people claim to be Buddhist yet don’t believe in Nibbana or redefine it to mean something else entirely (I once heard someone say it’s “being the best person I can be”), but personally I don’t see how they can be a Buddhist. Buddhist inspired, sure.

SarathW
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by SarathW » Tue May 14, 2019 1:41 am

cappuccino wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 1:09 am
Dhammanando wrote: They know that imperfection never gets in the way of making really listenable and meaningful music.
:shrug:
I can agree to that.
Michael Jackson said that any note is a musical note.
Last edited by SarathW on Tue May 14, 2019 1:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

SarathW
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by SarathW » Tue May 14, 2019 1:43 am

Well, not all of them. There is a sub-sect, the so-called "Jazz Buddhists", among whom Nibbāna is conceived as a useful idea but not something that anyone has ever actually attained
In my opinion, he is an Arahant or at least Anagami.
:woohoo:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Will
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by Will » Tue May 14, 2019 2:05 am

Henry Olcott in the 1890s & Christmas Humphreys in the 1940s? also had their lists of things common to all Buddhists. These items were signed & agreed to by many Theravadin & Mahayana sages.

This attitude of Western folk is both sensible & respectful of the Dharma traditions. They went to Buddhist leaders and got their input about what is essential to all forms of Buddhism.

The secular twits on the other hand start out from their personal views and give thumbs up or down to whatever doctrine, belief, scripture etc. they wish. It is just pitiable self serving shopping at Dharma Mart. Personal views rule and they put too much emphasis on weaving intellectual threads into a comfortable robe which they will only wear at proper times when in the proper mood.

The only absolute essential is a sincere Refuge in Buddha, His teachings & the Arya Sangha.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by DNS » Tue May 14, 2019 2:07 am

There is no one type of "secular buddhism" so I'd say those that outright reject the Buddha's enlightenment, outright reject nibbana, the Path -- are not Buddhists. However, those that are simply agnostic about it and set it aside for now; those could be called buddhists (if they wish to be called that).

(in my opinion)

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