Episode 24 :: Stephen Batchelor :: Secular Buddhism Arising

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Stephen Batchelor

Stephen Batchelor

Today we speak with the author, teacher, and Atheist Buddhist, Stephen Batchelor.

When ancient religion encounters a new culture, there can be radical change in one, the other, or both -- rarely do religion and culture simply part ways. Modern culture is no different. Though we may not be any more aware of it as the fish is aware of the ocean in which it swims, as human beings we are inextricably linked to the culture in which we live.

The historical figure we commonly call the Buddha would also have been a product of his time and the society in which he lived. And happily, due to the particular nature of how his teachings were passed through the ages, we have some idea of what those early teachings were. Our ideas about those teachings, however, are changing and becoming a part of the culture in which it finds itself -- ours. Some of the demands of our modern views, like personal involvement in our spiritual practice rather than dependency on a religious figurehead, and a strong desire for the validation of what we're taught, finds a particularly well fitting partner in early Buddhism.

Today we investigate that partnership and evolution, as secular Buddhism finds the core teaching and practice to be pragmatic, verifiable, and as helpful today in leading a happy life as it was 2,500 years ago. Our guest is Stephen Batchelor, author of the well-known Buddhism Without Beliefs, Living With The Devil, Alone With Others, and Confession of a Buddhist Atheist.

Stephen Batchelor is a contemporary Buddhist teacher and writer, best known for his secular or agnostic approach to Buddhism. Stephen considers Buddhism to be a constantly evolving culture of awakening rather than a religious system based on immutable dogmas and beliefs. In particular, he regards the doctrines of karma and rebirth to be features of ancient Indian civilisation and not intrinsic to what the Buddha taught. Buddhism has survived for the past 2,500 years because of its capacity to reinvent itself in accord with the needs of the different Asian societies with which it has creatively interacted throughout its history. As Buddhism encounters modernity, it enters a vital new phase of its development. Through his writings, translations and teaching, Stephen engages in a critical exploration of Buddhism's role in the modern world, which has earned him both condemnation as a heretic and praise as a reformer.

So, sit back, relax, and as Niles Crane from Frasier would say, have a "Double Cappuccino - half-caf, non-fat milk, with just enough foam to be aesthetically pleasing but not so much that it leaves a moustache."



"A secular approach is not a dumbing down, it's not reductively identifying Buddhism with one or two particular techniques of meditation, but it is actually a complete world view and way of life in this world." -- Stephen Batchelor



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Music for This Episode

Shakuhachi Meditations

Shakuhachi Meditations

The music heard in the middle of the podcast is from Rodrigo Rodriguez's CD, Shakuhachi Meditations. The tracks used in this episode are: