Secular Buddhism is relatively new on the scene, and gaining momentum in contemporary culture as a viable way to practice. Inherent in the early stage of its development, however, is some expected confusion about the nature of having a secular approach to an ancient religious tradition.
What appears below is not intended to be seen as dogmatic rules but helpful suggestions for practice and hopefully will clarify some of the larger questions. More will come in the form of books, articles and hopefully taking some of these principles into account. It is not a perfect description of this practice, but a starting point and it is hoped it will continue to be developed by those practitioners who have an interest in Secular Buddhism.
Secular Buddhism :: Definition
Secular Buddhism is concerned with the practice of Siddhattha Gotama’s Four Noble Truths in this world. It encourages a practical approach to the teaching using reflective human experience as a basis of judgement, and seeking to provide a framework for personal and social development within the cultural context of our time.
Secular Buddhism :: Guiding Principles
- Secular Buddhism understands Siddhattha Gotama as a human being, who lived within the cultural context of his time.
- Secular Buddhism understands the Four Noble Truths as a practical description of the experience of living, and as a methodology of understanding, social behaviour, and mental development.
- Secular Buddhism understands the community of practitioners as integral to the positive development of society.
- Secular Buddhism supports a culture of awareness, encouraging the availability of this teaching and practice.
- Secular Buddhism supports a culture of development, incorporating personal growth with interpersonal growth to improve social interactions and society.
- Secular Buddhism supports a culture of awakening, finding its inspiration from Buddhist and non-Buddhist, religious and secular sources alike.
- Secular Buddhism uses reflective human experience as a basis of judgement.
- Secular Buddhism is universal in aspiration, making it flexible for integration into daily life in a variety of cultural contexts.
- Secular Buddhism is inclusive, fostering learning and practice across cultural and traditional bounds.
Secular Buddhism :: Values
- Secular Buddhism values all people as being capable of, and having equal rights to, understanding and practice.
- Secular Buddhism values sharing authority and responsibility among peers.
- Secular Buddhism values meaningful dialogue and critical examination for the purpose of continued improvement of understanding and practice.
- Secular Buddhism values the stories of Buddhist traditions as metaphorical expressions of meaningful and practical insights.
- Secular Buddhism values the texts of Buddhist traditions as tools for study, learning, and practice.
- Secular Buddhism values individual preference and creativity on the forms of practice appropriate to each individual
The first version of Secular Buddhism’s Guiding Principles was not the work of one mind, but of many. Contributors to this include but are not limited to Stephen Batchelor, Stephen Schettini, Glenn Wallis, Rick Bateman, Stanford M.Forrester, Marc Wilson, and Ted Meissner. Any omissions are entirely my error.
Following agreement on the steering committee of SBUK in May 2013, Robert Ellis made some changes to these guiding principles which mean that this second version now diverges to some extent from the US original.