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A Secular Buddhism

by Stephen Batchelor

 

Abstract
This essay explores the possibility of a complete secular redefinition of Buddhism. It argues that such a secular re-formation would go beyond modifying a traditional Buddhist school, practice or ideology to make it more compatible with modernity, but would involve rethinking the core ideas on which the very notion of “Buddhism” is based. Starting with a critical reading of the four noble truths, as presented in the Buddha’s first discourse, the author proposes that instead of thinking of awakening in terms of “truths” to be understood one thinks of it in terms of “tasks” to be accomplished. Such a pragmatic approach may open up the possibility of going beyond the belief-based metaphysics of classical Indian soteriology (Buddhism 1.0) to a praxis-based, post-metaphysical vision of the dharma (Buddhism 2.0).

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Originally published in the Journal of Global Buddhism, Vol. 13, added to the Spiritual Naturalist Society member archives with permission of the author, Stephen Batchelor.