Category: Buddhism

Buddhism

Is Secular Buddhism Possible?

The question whether secular Buddhism is possible might seem absurd at first. Varieties of what has been, or could be called “secular Buddhism” have been around for well over a century, and there is a sizable group of people who consider themselves “secular Buddhists”. So, of course, “secular Buddhism” is possible. So, let’s be a bit more precise. My question is not really whether there are “things” (in a rather broad sense of “thing”) that could be or have been called “secular Buddhism”, but whether there could be something that is genuinely secular and simultaneously genuinely (a variety of) Buddhism....
Buddhism

A Note on the Pāli Canon

(Originally posted on April 27. Major revisions on June 3, 2022.) In chapter 5 of A Buddha Land in This World, I wrote that until the sūtras in the Pāli canon were written down they were recited in periodic meetings of monks, but we have no consistent evidence about the nature, form, and frequency of these meetings, nor about how reliable this process was. However, when I reread this, I wasn’t entirely happy with this sentence because it seems to suggest that I think that oral transmission is the biggest problem for the authenticity of the content of the Pāli...
BuddhismPhilosophy

A Buddha Land in This World (New Book)

My new book, A Buddha Land in This World: Philosophy, Utopia, and Radical Buddhism, has just been published. Here is the abstract/back cover blurb: In the early twentieth century, Uchiyama Gudō, Seno’o Girō, Lin Qiuwu, and others advocated a Buddhism that was radical in two respects. Firstly, they adopted a more or less naturalist stance with respect to Buddhist doctrine and related matters, rejecting karma or other supernatural beliefs. And secondly, they held political and economic views that were radically anti-hegemonic, anti-capitalist, and revolutionary. Taking the idea of such a “radical Buddhism” seriously, A Buddha Land in This World: Philosophy,...
Buddhism

Nan-in and the Professor — A Western Zen Parable

“A Cup of Tea” is a short Zen story that is quite famous and popular among Western (Zen) Buddhists. It’s a bit of a peculiar story, however, as I hope to make clear in the following. Before we turn to that, let’s start with the story itself: Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.The professor watched the [cup] overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”“Like this...
Buddhism

On Secular and Radical Buddhism

In a number of influential books and articles, Stephen Batchelor has proposed, developed, and defended something he has called (among others) “secular Buddhism” and “Buddhism 2.0”. The idea of such a secular or scientific or naturalistic or otherwise not traditionally religious kind of Buddhism isn’t new – it has been especially popular among 20th and 21st Western converts to Buddhism, but there have been Asian precursors as well. Nevertheless, the idea is also somewhat controversial. Adherents of “secular Buddhism” like Batchelor typically consider it a return to the roots of Buddhism and to the original teachings of the Buddha, but...
BuddhismPhilosophy

Book Review of Jay Garfield’s Engaging Buddhism — Extended Version

When the Australasian Journal of Philosophy (AJP) asked me to review Jay Garfield’s (2015) book Engaging Buddhism I didn’t realize that they have a 400-word limit for “Book Notes”. That’s the book-review equivalent of a haiku, which posed an interesting challenge, but which also required cutting 90% of the things I have (or want) to say about Garfield’s book. This “extended version” of my review includes both the pre-publication version of my “Book Note” for AJP and a some additional, more detailed comments. pre-publication version of my “Book Note” for AJP In the preface of his book Garfield observes that...