Definition

“It is important to adopt the essence of Buddha’s teaching, recognizing that Buddhism as it is practiced by Tibetans is influenced by Tibetan culture and thus it would be a mistake to try to practice a Tibetanized form of Buddhism.”
— The Dalai Lama

  1. Secular Buddhism is not a religion. It is referred to only as a practice or a path. It accepts all the teachings of  The Buddha as passed down through history except for any form of theism or reincarnation or karma beyond this life.
  2. It is atheistic and devoid of spirituality. There are no deities other than those metaphorical, no heaven or hell realms, no soul and no afterlife. It does not deny however that there are forces and forms of existence possible beyond those we can currently comprehend or explain.
  3. There are no supernatural powers expected or sought through its practice.
  4. It is a unique form of Buddhism in that there is no consideration of reincarnation or karma as traditionally presented. It reinterprets these as processes which take place within a single lifetime i.e. given The Buddha’s teaching on Dependent Origination, we are in a constant process of incarnation/reincarnation during our lifetimes. Karma is understood to mean that every thought or act will leave an impression on our mind or to some degree effect a previously made impression.
  5. Secular Buddhism recognizes all Buddhist writings, from the Pali Cannon to contemporary works, save those based on concepts of theism and rebirth.
  6. The core forms of practice are the study and teaching of essential Buddhist concepts, including meditation. Prostrations, chanting, koans and other practices based on specific lineages or cultures are not incorporated.
  7. Secular Buddhism uses exclusively the language of the native population including terms that have been adopted into common usage such as karma, nirvana or Namaste.
  8. Secular Buddhism recognizes no authority outside one’s self. There is no lineage, no priesthood, no titles. Nor is there any recognition of external authority be it cultural, traditional, academic or otherwise. Respect yes, but not authority.
  9. There are no special forms of dress or rituals.
  10. Also unique to Secular Buddhism, yet in keeping with The Buddha’s teaching, is an emphasis on social time, encouraging and facilitating connection with others who seek freedom from suffering.
  11. Secular Buddhism does not speculate beyond the bounds of The Buddha’s teaching. Although other teachers provide welcome and complimentary perspectives and it is encouraged they be studied with respect and sincere interest, Secular Buddhism maintains its focus on the Buddha’s teaching of suffering and the end of suffering.
  12. Secular Buddhism is a path of intense self-effort. No one and no thing can intercede on one’s behalf. Progress is entirely dependent on one’s own diligence and practice.
  13. In addition, Secular Buddhism can be further characterized as follows:
  • It is therapeutic. It is directed specifically at the lessening of human suffering.
  • It is psychological. Its focus is only on the human condition.
  • It is scientific. It is based solely on the natural laws of cause and effect.
  • It is pragmatic. It is defined by its usefulness alone.
  • It is empirical. Personal experience and direct validation are the only authority.

See also Guiding Principles published by the Secular Buddhist Association.

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Posted July 18, 2010 by Rick Bateman

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