Quotes

If you enjoy the occassional quote that gets put up on the FaceBook Fan Page and think you may have missed some, no worries, you don’t have to go through the history to find them all. Here are all the quotes I’ve posted on FaceBook since the beginning.

Stephen Batchelor

“It has taken four billion years of evolution to generate this kind of organism with this kind of brain, and yet we wake up in the morning and feel bored.” — Stephen Batchelor, article “Suspending Belief”, Inquiring Mind, vol. 27 no. 1.

“The idea that there will be something spiritual or subtle, some sort of consciousness that can escape the collapse of the body and brain, is not very credible in the modern scientific worldview.” — Stephen Batchelor, article “Suspending Belief”, Inquiring Mind, vol. 27 no. 1.

“He [Buddha] talks about consciousness as an emergent property that arises out of the interaction between an organism and its environment. Or as the Buddha would say, ‘The eye is impacted by a color or a shape. Dependent upon that, consciousness emerges.’” — Stephen Batchelor, article “Suspending Belief”, Inquiring Mind, vol. 27 no. 1.

“Living from our deepest understanding requires an enormous effort, especially when it goes against the stream of our instinctually programmed perceptions of the world.” — Stephen Batchelor, article “Suspending Belief”, Inquiring Mind, vol. 27 no. 1.

“Buddhism, I think, is probably facing the single most difficult transition from one historical epoch to another, which is really the transition to modernity.” — Stephen Batchelor, article “Suspending Belief”, Inquiring Mind, vol. 27 no. 1.

“… his [Buddha's] awakening is not about some privileged state of mind or the unconditioned state but rather about a complex of truths. He awakens to a way of understanding the world and then a way of behaving in the world.” — Stephen Batchelor, article “Suspending Belief”, Inquiring Mind, vol. 27 no. 1.

“So the Buddha is presenting awakening not as a single mystical experience that may come upon us at some meditation, some private moment of transcendence, but rather as a new engagement with life. He is offering us a relationship to the world that is more sensitized to suffering and the causes of suffering, and he gives rise to the possibility of another kind of culture, another kind of civilization.” — Stephen Batchelor, article “Suspending Belief”, Inquiring Mind, vol. 27 no. 1.

“I reject karma and rebirth not only because I find them unintelligible, but because I believe they obscure and distort what the Buddha was trying to say. Rather than offering the balm of consolation, the Buddha encouraged us to peer deep and unflinchingly into the heart of the bewildering and painful experience that life can so often be.” — Stephen Batchelor, The New Humanism article “No Future In A Parrot’s Egg”

“As for the law of moral causation (‘karma’): this is human justice dressed up as cosmic justice and then imputed to the impersonal workings of the natural world.” — Stephen Batchelor, The New Humanism article “No Future In A Parrot’s Egg”

“To preserve the integrity of the tradition, we have to distinguish between what is central to that integrity and what is peripheral. We have to discern between what elements are vital for the survival of dharma practice and what are alien cultural artefacts that might obstruct that survival.” — Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

“Modern democracy, science, and education have led to the role of the individual in society and the nature of social relations being radically different today from former times in Asia. Commensurably diverse processes of individuation and social engagement are needed for the realization of a contemporary culture of awakening.” — Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

“The individuation of dharma practice occurs whenever priority is given to the resolution of a personal existential dilemma over the need to conform to the doctrines of a Buddhist orthodoxy. Individuation is a process of recovering personal authority through freeing ourselves from the constraints of collectively held belief systems.” — Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

“Each time the dharma moved into a different civilization or historical period, it faced a twofold challenge: to maintain its integrity as an internally coherent tradition, and to express its vision in a way that responded to the needs of the new situation.” — Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

“The extent to which dharma practice has ben institutionalized as a religion can be gauged by the number of consolatory elements that have crept in: for example, assurances of a better afterlife if you perform virtuous deeds or recite mantras or chant the name of a Buddha.” — Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

“Just as technical proficiency in pottery is no guarantee of beautiful pots, so technical proficiency in meditation is no guarantee of a wise or compassionate response to anguish.” — Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

“Expectations of goals and rewards (such as Enlightenment) are recognized for what they are: last-ditch attempts by the ghostly self to subvert the process to its own ends. The more we become conscious of the mysterious unfolding of life, the clearer it becomes that its purpose is not to fulfill the expectations of our ego.” — Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

“We can be consicous of how we tend to ignore or escape anguish rather than understand and accept it. We can be aware that even when we gain insight into these things, we rarely behave differently in the future. Despite our overt resolve, we are still creatures of habit.” — Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

“Exotic names, robes, insignia of office, titles — the trappings of religion — confuse as much as they help. They endorse the assumption of the existence of an elite whose explicit commitment grants them implicit extraordinariness.” — Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

“A compassionate heart still feels anger, greed, jealousy, and other such emotions. But it accepts them for what they are with equanimity, and cultivates the strength of mind to let them arise and pass without identifying with or acting upon them.” — Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

“The greatest threat to compassion is the temptation to succumb to fantasies of moral superiority.” — Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

“Understanding the philosophy of emptiness is not enough. The ideas need to be translated through meditation into the wordless language of feeling in order to loosen those emotional knots that keep us locked in a spasm of self-preoccupation.” — Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

“The point is not to abandon all institutions and dogmas but to find a way to live with them more ironically, to appreciate them for what they are — the play of the human mind in its endless quest for connection and meaning — rather than timeless entities that have to be ruthlessly defended or forcibly imposed.” Stephen Batchelor, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist

“The Dhamma is a temporary expedient. To treat it as an object of reverence is as absurd as carrying the raft on your back even though you no longer need it.” Stephen Batchelor, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist

“Whenever a religion that is embodied in a culturally and historically alien form attempts to find its footing in a new culture and time, it is necessary that its concepts and symbols undergo a radical restructuring in order to attune with the prevailing ‘spirit of the times.’” — Stephen Batchelor, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist

“Without a rigorous, self-critical discourse, one risks lapsing into pious platitudes and unexamined generalizations.” — Stephen Batchelor, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist

“What draws me to Buddhism is not that it has a more convincing explanation of the nature of reality than other religions, but that it offers a methodology which might actually work in addressing the question of suffering.” — Stephen Batchelor, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist

“For pragmatist philosophers such as these, a belief is valued as true because it is useful, because it works, because it brings tangible benefits to human beings and other creatures. Siddhattha Gotama’s Four Noble Truths are ‘true’ not because they correspond to something real somewhere, but because, when put into practice, they can enhance the quality of your life.” — Stephen Batchelor, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist

“Consciousness is an emergent, contingent, and impermanent phenomenon. It has no magical capacity to break free from the field of events out of which it springs.” — Stephen Batchelor, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist

“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, podcast The Secular Buddhist

“While ‘Buddhism’ suggests another belief system, ‘dharma practice’ suggests a course of action. The four ennobling truths are not propositions to believe; they are challenges to act.” — Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

“Many Buddhists would argue that to jettison belief in the law of karma — a scheme of moral book-keeping mysteriously inhering within the structure of reality itself — would be tantamount to removing the foundation of ethics… Theists have said exactly the same about the consequences of abandoning belief in God and divine judgement.” — Stephen Batchelor, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist

“Yet Gotama’s Dhamma is more than just a series of axioms. It is to be lived rather than simply adopted and believed in. It entails that one embrace this world in all its contingency and specificity, with all its ambiguity and flaws.” — Stephen Batchelor, Confession of a Buddist Atheist

“It is no longer possible to maintain that dharma practice has remained unaltered since the time of the Buddha. It has evolved and continues to evolve distinctive forms peculiar to the conditions of the time. It has survived precisely because of its ability to respond creatively to change.” — Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

“Agnosticism is no excuse for indecision. If anything, it is a catalyst for action; for in shifting concern away from a future life and back to the present, it demands an ethics of empathy rather than a metaphysics of fear and hope.” — Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

“… I hoped that Buddhism Without Beliefs might stimulate more public debate and inquiry among Buddhists about these issues, but this did not happen. Instead, it revealed a fault line in the nascent Western Buddhist community between traditionalists, for whom such doctrines are non-negotiable truths, and liberals… who tend to see them more as contingent products of historical circumstance.” Stephen Batchelor, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist

“… Buddhist teachings are not consolatory – they’re confrontative. They’re not about telling us stories that appease our anguish, but they’re about telling us truths.” Stephen Batchelor, article Deep Agnosticism: A Secular Vision of Dharma Practice

“What that identification of Buddhism as a religion does is to distort and to obscure the encounter of the Dharma with secular culture.” Stephen Batchelor, article Deep Agnosticism: A Secular Vision of Dharma Practice

The Secular Buddhist

“Our contributions to the world are demonstrated by what we do, not in the beliefs we cling to.” — TSB

“We have a choice: opening doors to creative thinking, or adhering to the ferocity of our convictions. Ferocity may be be helpful in battle, but is an ineffective mode of communication.” — TSB

“There is an unfortunate paucity of licensure requirements prior to the exercise of language.” — TSB

“I am increasingly convinced that we could eliminate most of our problems by eliminating our allegiance to reified ideas, and shift our allegiance to each other.” — TSB

“For some, putting on the robes of a monastic is a reminder of the ongoing practice of disassembling the concept of self. For others, it enshrines the self with the same overtones of ascending a pedestal. Here’s the thing: we all have robes. How will we wear them today?” — TSB

“We spend so much time ruminating in an already completed past, or in a yet-to-be future. Real life is *right now*. Thinking is okay, but your life happens in the present moment. Be here for it.” — TSB

“Meditation can help move us from spinning lots of plates on poles, to having one plate resting still in our open hands.” — TSB

“Past and future lives cause and are conditioned by this one, but the universe doesn’t take it personally. Neither should we.” — TSB

“The habits of who we have been do not have to determine who we will be.” — TSB

“The character of our thoughts help determine our character as a person. Take a look at your thoughts, not during meditation, but while living your life. What do they say about you? What would you like to change?” — TSB

“Today — respond with a heart of friendliness, rather than react with a knee of jerkiness.” — TSB

“Sometimes when we have an aversive reaction to a person, it’s not really the individual who sets us on edge. Rather, we’ve personalized a difference of view. That tendency can manifest as reacting to their expression of understanding with dismissiveness of them, personally — the ad hominem attack. It’s easy to think of another person as being wrong, stupid, or misguided, and hard to instead grapple with concepts. But people are more complex than just being bags of ideas, and we hinder the maturing of our compassion by dodging the harder but more fruitful work of real engagement with a *person* about a *view*. Sometimes the win isn’t counted by changing someone else’s mind, but by growing our heart by exercising our choice to disagree amicably.” — TSB

“It is through critical exploration of the mind that we come to understand so many of our troubles are created through our own devising. So are the solutions.” — TSB

“Belief is problematic when divorced from critical thought.” — TSB

“Secular Buddhism is no more opposed to traditional Buddhism than chocolate bars are to candy canes.” — TSB

“Facing our own limitations and stumbles head on offers us the greatest opportunity to learn and grow.” — TSB

“Aggressive dismissal from a state of ignorance doesn’t make up for having a valid question.” — TSB

“The difference between yesterday and today is that today, you have a choice.” — TSB

“Integrity isn’t just asking the tough questions, it’s also the open and proactive reply ‘I don’t know’.” — TSB

“Imagine what we could accomplish by shifting our society from one based on competition to one based on collaboration.” — TSB

“Think creatively in this moment. Look at what’s possible now.” — TSB

“Ego? Slytherin. Definitely Slytherin.” — TSB

“Walk softly and carry a big breath.” — TSB

“We don’t have to board every thought train that comes into the station of our mind.” — TSB

“It’s ironic that the course of development of mindfulness naturally results in it becoming a reflexive habit.” — TSB

“Traditional Buddhism holding Secular Buddhism to its own criteria of value is like alchemy criticizing chemistry because it’s not focused on turning lead into gold.” — TSB

“Traditional Buddhism holding Secular Buddhism to its own criteria of value is like a surgeon criticizing aspirin as treatment for a headache because it’s not surgery.” — TSB

“I’m very happy with a counter to tradition being innovation.” — TSB

“Breathing is non-denominational.” — TSB

“Using the supernatural to explain away gaps in our understanding is like using tile grout in brain surgery. Let’s be okay with not knowing… yet.” — TSB

“We are not well served by being anything but diligent in our expectation of unambiguous evidence for assertions about the natural world, simply because it makes someone uncomfortable with their inability to provide it.” — TSB

“The important thing to get out of this is our practice is for everyone, not just those who are willing to accept Buddhism the religion, whole cloth. We help raise awareness of the value of the dhamma by *demonstrating* how this applies, regardless of one’s ideological affiliation.” — TSB

“Although I’m an atheist, a scientific materialist, a secular Buddhist — I’m also culturally a mid-Western American. If you wish me Merry Christmas or happy holidays or whatever, I’ll wish it for you as well with many happy returns, with great joy and gratitude for the sentiment of friendliness.” — TSB, Dec. 19, 2012. 229 Likes, 28 Shares.

“Finding some resonance with a particular social identity doesn’t mean we stop thinking.” — TSB

“Faulty reasoning comes from assumptions. We can do better — not perfect, but *better* — if we base our understandings (not “conclusions”, which means we’ve closed our minds!) on demonstrable evidence.” — TSB

“It’s not about what you didn’t do yesterday, it’s about what you decide to do today.” — TSB

“Secular Buddhism is fundamentally distinct from religious traditions in one critical way: it is focused on dealing with samsara, not escaping from it.” — TSB

“Ending ideological one-upsmanship might be more beneficial to society than arguing about ending the rounds of rebirth.” — TSB

“Sure, could be wrong, and there are literal rebirths. I continue to be open to demonstrable and repeatable evidence which is unambiguous and controls for after-the-fact narratives. Otherwise, the concept of accepting it just to be on the safe side is the Buddhist version of Pascal’s Wager, failing in part because it is based on the presumption that a single post-mortem belief is the only possible correct one, which is why asking for evidence is a necessary component to meaningful understanding.” — TSB

“Welcome adversity like an old friend. You’ll see each other often.” — TSB

“There are precious jewels of wisdom scattered on the paths before us in life. I trip on those in plain sight, stumble, and fall spectacularly on my face every day. The least I can do is hold them up for others to see, enjoy their beauty, and chuckle at my having missed them.” — TSB

“Secular Buddhism is fundamentally distinct from religious traditions in one critical way: it is focused on dealing with samsara, not escaping from it.” — TSB

“Sometimes the finger pointing at the moon, is not the index finger.” — TSB

“Saying you can’t meditate because your mind wanders is like saying you can’t exercise because you’re out of shape.” — TSB

“There are courtesies we should extend to one another as thinking beings in dialogue, which move us forward rather than causing division. It’s expected we disagree in a diverse community. It’s not okay to abandon reason and compassion, or suggest flaws in each other to explain our different understanding.” — TSB

“I have trouble hearing valid points in reasoned dialogue over the din of name calling.” — TSB

“By anchoring our attention in the present, we’re practicing a skill that helps us with the future. We don’t have to accept an ideological stance about an afterlife to do that.” — TSB

“Provisional acceptance of ideas based on demonstrable, repeatable, and unambiguous test results is not ‘faith’, it’s confidence.” — TSB

“Treat everyone you meet as an old and dear friend, and that is exactly what they will become.” — TSB

“Secular Buddhism is not an ideological stance of obedience, but of inquiry.” — TSB

“Our measurement of success has nothing to do with “getting Asians to come over” to any team — it is measured by increasing awareness of this practice being for everyone, regardless of ideological stance, race, gender, or any other characteristic irrelevant to relating to others more positively.” — TSB

“When not constrained by fear of retribution or hope for reward: this is when our character shows most purely. Choose the form, Ray.” — TSB

“The doubt that is harmful, the hindrance, is the doubt that remains uninvestigated and unresolved. Its arising is an indication of a need for clarity, not a need for the continued ignorance of blind faith.” — TSB

“Ironic and wonderful thing about minds: they hold more when they’re open.” — TSB

“One disaster, one problem, one day, one *breath* at a time.” — TSB

“We see it as a strength of secular Buddhism, that we do have a diversity of ideas and practices. When coupled with the often humbling and intellectually honest understanding that we could be wrong, it fosters respectful and frankly fun dialogue with friends on the path.” — TSB

“How appealing, the innocent belief in one’s own position of privilege as the focus of tremendous power. When we allow ourselves to grow beyond the expectation that we have the attention of a supreme being, can direct invisible energies with our will, or that magic is at our command, we can shift our wonder and our excitement to the truly magnificent possibilities of reality, and what we actually can do for one another.” — TSB

“Although I’m an atheist, a scientific materialist, a secular Buddhist — I’m also culturally a mid-Western American. If you wish me Merry Christmas or happy holidays or whatever, I’ll wish it for you as well with many happy returns, with great joy and gratitude for the sentiment of friendliness.” — TSB, Dec. 19, 2012. 229 Likes, 28 Shares.

“Finding some resonance with a particular social identity doesn’t mean we stop thinking.” — TSB

“Faulty reasoning comes from assumptions. We can do better — not perfect, but *better* — if we base our understandings (not “conclusions”, which means we’ve closed our minds!) on demonstrable evidence.” — TSB

“It’s not about what you didn’t do yesterday, it’s about what you decide to do today.” — TSB

“Secular Buddhism is fundamentally distinct from religious traditions in one critical way: it is focused on dealing with samsara, not escaping from it.” — TSB

“Ending ideological one-upsmanship might be more beneficial to society than arguing about ending the rounds of rebirth.” — TSB

“Sure, could be wrong, and there are literal rebirths. I continue to be open to demonstrable and repeatable evidence which is unambiguous and controls for after-the-fact narratives. Otherwise, the concept of accepting it just to be on the safe side is the Buddhist version of Pascal’s Wager, failing in part because it is based on the presumption that a single post-mortem belief is the only possible correct one, which is why asking for evidence is a necessary component to meaningful understanding.” — TSB

“The story is irrelevant, whether it’s an experience of heaven or of pink unicorns farting pixie dust. If we can’t in any way check it, they’re equal in validity. If we accept either one, we need to ask ourselves why we’re setting our reasoning on a shelf.” — TSB

“Getting distracted by an experience you had in meditation is like driving in circles around the sign that says you’re five miles from your destination.” — TSB

“If you haven’t been able to provide unambiguous evidence for your assertion, can’t demonstrate causation, and aren’t able to make predictions with any proven success when controls are in place, what makes you think telling me to ‘take it on faith’ is the least bit compelling when you dismiss every other tradition’s assertions for the very same reasons?” — TSB

“I don’t adhere to the goal of ending the rounds of rebirth any more than contemporary chemists adhere to the goal of turning lead into gold.  Chemistry and dhamma can have more evolved applications than those espoused by their pre-scientific roots.” — TSB

“Transformation requires questioning the narratives of privilege.” — TSB

“It is disingenuous to call it ‘blind faith’ when someone else accepts stories for facts, but ‘faith’ when we do it. We can do better. We can be honest enough to say ‘I don’t know’, and still gain inspiration and guidance from the narratives that resonate with us. It does not lessen us or stories to understand them as stories.” — TSB

“My understanding of the world is provisional. That is, it is subject to revision based on new evidence. And so my understanding evolves, becoming more accurate. Assertions that cannot be tested cannot have new evidence, cannot evolve, and cannot become more accurate. They are dead-end conjectures masquerading as Understanding.” — TSB

“That our forebears may not have questioned, does not mean we should not question. Respect and admiration for our tradition are not in conflict with inquiry and evolution.” — TSB

“The full spectrum of our engagement with life, from the brilliant light of generosity, love, and understanding to the utter dark of greed, hatred, and delusion are ours to choose with the very next breath.” — TSB

“I choose appreciation for the dynamic magnificence of the natural world over a belief in the supernatural.  Magic and the invisible should not have privilege over the intellectual honesty of the simple phrase ‘I don’t know’, nor should it make not knowing a bad thing — it is the start of learning.  If we disallow not knowing and replace it with assertions that cannot be demonstrated, we drown free inquiry.” — TSB

“Mindfulness helps us to not just go through the motions.  Instead, we’re fully engaged in the rich and incredibly diverse experience of each moment.  We don’t just tell someone we love them out of habit, we put to voice the tremendous depth of that lightness of heart and mind.  There’s no need for the supernatural when the natural world holds such wonder.” — TSB

“Compassion  must have *passion* at its core or it loses any value, and is reduced to ineffectual navel gazing and toothless passivity.” — TSB

“The problem isn’t how to preserve the dhamma.  That’s attachment to religion.  The root problem is suffering, and that may mean tradition adapt to the cultural environment of our contemporary society, while still providing pragmatic value.” — TSB

‎”Condescending certainty is too often the transparent substitute for modest evidence.” — TSB

“Much better to have the ability to think critically, than the ability to quote scripture. One says you have a functioning mind. The other says you’re a parrot.” — TSB

“The realization that we’re sophisticated meat is more liberating than the belief in upredictable whims of the supernatural.” — TSB

“Changing your perception is one of the greatest favors you can do for yourself.” — TSB

“My dream is that we come to see claims not in evidence as unfortunate historical artifacts of maturing as a diverse, global society.” — TSB

“Intimate engagement with suffering opens the possibility for expansive energizing of compassion.” — TSB

“Our practice is intended to get us closer to understanding how things really are, not how things *might* be.” — TSB

“Anger isn’t a solution, nor is the violence from it. It’s normal to experience that mind state — but effective to channel the energy positively.” TSB

“I would rather be shown wrong and have the opportunity to correct my understanding, than maintain a comforting delusion.” — TSB

“When we shift our answers on the question of life’s struggles from the supernatural and what is not in evidence, we shift those answers to our own efforts and to each other. This is a tremendous strength of a secular world view — effecting demonstrable change.” — TSB

“We don’t believe in this practice. We accept the evidence that it is effective.” — TSB

“By setting aside the non-evident concept of mind body duality, we free ourselves from the unknowable trap of doing what we guess is right by the cosmic bank account, and shift instead to doing what’s demonstrably right in this precious lifetime.” — TSB

“The natural world is not moved in the least by our desire for continued existence after the break up of the body.” — TSB

“Curiosity and reason lead to experience and confidence. We should stop referring to that wonderful process, out of laziness, as ‘faith’.” — TSB

“Buddhism in general and meditation specifically seem to have an unfortunate entanglement with superstition. But it is not quantum entanglement, and what is natural and beneficial does not have to rely on woo for efficacy.” — TSB

“The most trivial moment can be the most expansively joyous moment, with a single choice to make it so.” — TSB

“I think the Buddha was a human, perhaps a fantastic teacher, brilliantly insightful. But also subject to human flaws, however unintentional, and if he did teach such things as out of body experiences, I’m going to do him a solid and give him the benefit of not knowing what we do today about how the *brain* can be fooled.” — TSB

“Buddhism is not about physics, despite our seeing false patterns of synchronicity between the two.” — TSB

“The guidance to ‘fully know suffering’ isn’t just the bummer side of our own hurts. It’s understanding such depth of everyone else’s, too. And that brings with it tremendous compassion, and joy.” — TSB

“In the face of more accurate information in the context of the culture in which one find’s oneself, it is just another attachment to insist on adherence to information thousands of years ago from a completely different culture. That is not growing, that is not learning. We can build on our past rather than live in someone else’s.” — TSB

“When a question is evaded by antagonism, avoidance, or mockery, you know you’ve asked a good question.” — TSB

“When you let go of doing it right? That’s when you’re doing it right.” — TSB

“Secular Buddhism is about this world, and what is in evidence in human experience of the path that positively contributes to one’s engagement with this life. So it is not uncommon for atheists and skeptics to find this approach more suited to them, as would Hindus, Christians, etc.. One has exactly *zero* need to adopt any kind of culture, assertions, or religious tradition whatsoever with secular Buddhist practice.” — TSB

“Society would benefit from the maturity to welcome and encourage questioning in a meaningful and sincere fashion.” — TSB

“There are people who see us as having a lesser spiritual practice, because we don’t accept claims not in evidence. What should we call people with this attitude? Let’s go with “human”. Maybe even “friend”. I’m going to do my best to engage positively, and see where that takes us.” — TSB

“The mind is a magnificent laboratory for the study of the process called You.” — TSB

“… there is a difference between the naturalistic, human practice we refer to as Buddhism, and the religion of Buddhism. You don’t have to adopt a new religion or culture in order to do the practice.” — TSB

“Make no mistake, the talk about the validity of secular Buddhism isn’t a discussion between Buddhists. This is a core disagreement between the asserted privilege of fundamentalism, and free inquiry.” — TSB

“The more I engage with traditionalists who demand obeisance to supernatural claims made thousands of years ago, the more inclined I am to exploring understanding the evidence of beneficial present moment practice.” — TSB

“Our mindfulness practice isn’t just bare attention, that’s just a first step. We need to become aware of our own conditioning and bias, and change it.” — TSB

“Assertions which are true have evidence.” — TSB

“Engaging in civil discourse isn’t being accommodationist. It’s being mature.” — TSB

“The heart would make a lousy bridge partner.” — TSB

“Having a goal of complete enlightenment is like having a goal of running a one-minute mile. How many of the 360 million Buddhists just alive today have done it? Isn’t a four-minute mile enough?” — TSB

“The practice is about reforming who we are in each moment, replacing delusion with understanding, ill will with friendliness, greed with generosity of mind, moment-brick by moment-brick. Doing it right takes time, and each moment is a new opportunity to refine.” — TSB

“Gradually awakening over the course of a lifetime of transformation is quite sudden enough. I’d rather have the complete coming to awareness of a Sunday morning than the startled abruptness of Monday’s alarm.” — TSB

“Mistakes are things we do. Setbacks are things life does.” — TSB

“If my more traditional fellow Buddhists would stop treating me like a second-class citizen when I simply ask them why they believe what they believe, I might start to think they’re not being total jack-holes.” — TSB

“I confess, everyone, that I’m tired of being called a Hinayana practitioner because I question rebirth and claims of spiritual privilege and superiority. Secularists are the new lepers of the Buddhist world, simply because we dare to question. Let’s do *our* best not to treat the next evolutionary branch of Buddhism that may come after us with anything but open and sincere dialogue and friendliness.” — TSB

“When other’s capacity of compassion and forgiveness exceeds our habits of reactivity and burning bridges — that is a door kept open, we honor them by stepping through it.” — TSB

“Maybe a more fruitful endeavor is friendly engagement on the mutual goal of ending suffering, instead of disparaging one another’s form of practice.” — TSB

“Without the common framework of references demonstrable in the natural world, we not only can’t see the moon, we don’t even have a finger to point at it!” — TSB

“Dismissing Batchelor’s ideas about Buddhism because he’s not ‘doctor Batchelor’ is like dismissing the physics of e=mc2 because Einstein happened to work in a patent office.” — TSB

“In all the discussions, assertions, arguments, scripture quoting, and debates about a literal truth of rebirth, one thing has been conspicuously absent: Evidence.” — TSB

“Secularists may question religious assertions, asking for evidence about them, as anyone should when faced with what is often a belief enjoying the status of privileged exemption from free inquiry.” — TSB

“Secular practice varies from traditional practice in essentially just one way: claims not in evidence are set aside.” — TSB

“Friendliness, compassion, altruistic joy, and equanimity. These are not static traits, but skills we can develop. So are antagonism, cruelty, jealousy, and volatility. Which are we choosing to practice, moment by moment?” — TSB

“With reason, evidence, and experience on our side, we need neither supernatural agency nor angry words. That is our strength, and we weaken ourselves when we rely on ad hominem attacks to make our point.” — TSB

“To attribute the circumstances of a life as having a single causal thread, that of karma, is to be willfully ignorant of the totality of the vast tapestry of interwoven conditions of existence.” — TSB

“To say Buddhism is not a religion, is not true. To say Buddhism does not speak of a literal rebirth, is not true. To say Buddhism does not speak of deities and invisible beings, is not true.

“To say Buddhist practice is dependent on these, that we can’t realize tremendous benefit and positive change without them, is also not true.” — TSB

“Meditation’s base awareness and observation of what arises is a starting point, not an end goal. Harder still, yet incredibly beneficial, is to intentionally change what comes up to more positive outcomes. Again, taking advantage of brain plasticity and the moment by moment workings of it to literally change your mind.” — TSB

“Your cushion isn’t Vegas. Take what you learn there off the cushion and into daily life.” — TSB

“Accepting the Buddha as a human being means accepting the possibility of his fallibility. That’s part of being human.” — TSB

“Asking you to help me understand why you have a belief I don’t share, doesn’t mean I don’t see that your belief is wonderfully transformative for you. I ask for the same courtesy.” — TSB

“In a world where people have managed to slow light itself to within suburban street speed limits, I’m perfectly content to be awestruck with the wonders of the natural world, and don’t need magical thinking to make it any more grand.” — TSB

“It’s indicative of the validity of one’s stance when rather than enter into discussion, one tries to silence dissent. Let’s enter into honest and sincere discussion.” — TSB

“Our traditions can guide us, point us in the right direction, but the real question that’s harder to answer because you have to answer it yourself is, ‘What do *you* find of value?’” — TSB

“People have a very important trait in common: we’re fallible. We all make simple mistakes, are fooled, misperceive, draw incorrect conclusions, and don’t account for personal bias. It’s why evidence — based on double-blinded, controlled, repeatable experiments that account for these errors — is so important, and far more meaningful and reliable than the comforting, fascinating, but unreliable hearsay.” — TSB

“The sincerity of an apology is inversely proportional to our resistance making it.” –TSB

“Practicing in only one tradition and concluding it’s the ‘right’ one is like flipping a coin once and concluding it will always come up ‘heads’.” — TSB

“Let’s not settle disputes by silencing the other voice. We need to open up our own views to constructive criticism and analysis.” — TSB

“The stories of our traditions can be meaningful and inspirational, but they are not evidence any more than another tradition’s stories. Do you accept the faith of Thor, mighty god of thunder?” — TSB

“No one should have to go through mental contortions to justify the ridiculous. We should be mentally mature enough to question it, and if it is found to be unbeneficial, dispense with it.” — TSB

“Positive change can start in the wonderful silence of an open mind. Then we must stand up, speak up, act up! Make it happen!” — TSB

“Part of the practice is letting go and seeing things as they are, not as we want them to be. Yet so many of us grasp tightly to mystical claims with no evidence whatsoever, and dismiss actual evidence that these are natural biological events in the brain. Maybe more practice is in order.” — TSB

“I would also like to see peer reviewed, double blinded, repeatable studies supporting collective unconsciousness. That is, by the way, not the same as being part of phenomenological (real world) existence; natural dependencies and cause / effect are not even vaguely like ‘collective unconsciousness’ as it is used by new age pop mysticism.” — TSB

“It’s an unfortunate fact that this practice can lack a certain visceral appeal to newcomers when we start with the first noble truth.” — TSB

“If an ideology says kill people who disagree with you, I’m going to suggest saying that’s wrong. We’re wearing big boy pants now, let’s take a stand in them.” — TSB

“Meditation may be used as a practice of disassembling the process of Self indulgence.” — TSB

“We have an idea that enlightenment is a fundamental change in the person – but there is no externally measurable criteria. This results in not so nice folks making claims that can’t be disputed, and good people giving up because some magic hasn’t happened instead of continuing with this ongoing development practice.” — TSB

“What we desperately need as a species is to look to the future as being what we make it, with every bit as much energy and enthusiasm as we’ve been fighting about the past. I don’t care if your god can beat up my god. Grow up already!” — TSB

“That which does not evolve, dies out. Spiritual practice that does not adapt to its environment, the cultural setting, also passes.” — TSB

“Why do I identify as secular Buddhist? Because if someone burns the Dhammapada, retributive murder isn’t on my mind. Toasting marshmallows and counseling the person on the suffering they’re causing is.” — TSB

“A long time ago, there was a profoundly meaningful insight into the nature of existence. This realization about how things work is not just materially beneficial for a particular culture, ethnic, or religious group. It is an understanding about existence itself, based on observable phenomenon everyone can and does experience for themselves.” — TSB

“Our disbelief extends through every faith — except our own. That saves us from several worlds of nonsense, and we have no problem calling it nonsense. Perhaps we should maintain that useful practice during our examination of our own tradition.” — TSB

“I refuse to be bullied by superstition. I will not be held hostage by ideological claims not in evidence.” — TSB

“It doesn’t matter if someone else is or was ‘enlightened’, even Buddha. What matters is if this practice is positively benefitting you.” — TSB

“Kindness is amazingly free for such a valuable commodity. Ill-will has lots of hidden costs, and some not-so-hidden.” TSB

“Ugliness is when views surpass compassion.” — TSB

“My two favorite Pali words are ‘ehi passiko’, ‘come and see’. Not ‘come and believe’. It’s an invitation that also works very well as an admonishment.” — TSB

“It’s important to not mix being open minded to new evidence, with accepting *no* evidence.” — TSB

“No ideology has a Get Out Of Reality Free card. It’s important to not mix being open minded to new evidence, with accepting no evidence. I’m perfectly happy being a materialist. And when someone provides evidence for the supernatural, I’ll assess it. Until then, I’ve seen nothing the least bit materially convincing.” — TSB

“It’s okay to question claims not in evidence, or practices that actively cause harm. That is simply diligent application of critical thinking.” — TSB

“I view secular Buddhism like, say, physics. The advantage is that the practice is uncoupled from any need for historical veracity, or religious Truth claims. What matters is what works. Light still travels at 186,000 miles per second, regardless of what Einstein ever said about anything at all.” — TSB

“Secular Buddhism allows the actual practice to become open to other cultural and religious contexts. It’s training the mind, like one trains the body. Most cultures don’t appear to have a religious prohibition against doing jumping jacks.” — TSB

“The secular approach means we can suspend the place of privilege enjoyed by metaphysical claims, which are not in evidence. Interestingly enough, religions do this, too — with other religions.” — TSB

“If we’re not thinking critically about our ethical decisions, we may not be making ethical decisions.” — TSB

“Whether we have happiness or sadness arising from the ever-changing landscape of our lives, we can learn from it, and grow. Choose the direction of that growing.” — TSB

“We can do better than mend fences. Fences divide us. Let’s build bridges.” — TSB

“Giving up my adherence to the belief in past lives is giving up my adherence to the belief in a permanent self.” — TSB

“Religious structures are organizations one is born into, or that one converts to. Secular Buddhism isn’t something you join, it’s something you do.” — TSB

“Theistic traditions have followers who give up themselves to a higher power. Buddhism, even traditional Buddhism, has practitioners dissembling the very idea of self as being demonstrably false. No self to give, and no one to give it to.” — TSB

“Skillful Means can be thought of as a measure of how well our action matches our intention.” — TSB

“Our intention is not to get good kamma, it’s to reduce suffering. BIG difference.” — TSB

“One of the struggles we face as secularists is how to clear away rigid forms that impede meaningful interpretation, without also losing that beneficial teaching and practice.” — TSB

“We shouldn’t feel constrained in our meditation to do just one thing. Sometimes we can freshen our minds as we train them by switching it up, doing another kind of practice.” — TSB

“Good ol’ breath. It’s always there, and if it isn’t, you don’t care.” — TSB

“There are stories and points of view from other traditions we question. We should question our own with the same rigor.” — TSB

“We tend to accept the most flimsy of stories, dismissing hard evidence to the contrary, simply because we’re inclined to the comfort those stories bring.

“That doesn’t make them true.” — TSB

“I didn’t try meditation out of faith any more than I tried sushi out of faith — I tried it out of curiosity. I don’t continue meditating (or eating sushi) out of faith, either, I continue out of confidence based on experience.” — TSB

“However we view rebirth, as metaphor or reality about the next life, doesn’t mean we should engage in complacency about this life. Quite the opposite.” — TSB

“If we’re practicing loving friendliness and compassion solely from the expectation of self-benefit from a cosmic justice system, we’ve already failed. Sure, good deeds get done. But our minds are still trapped in the web of selfishness. The practice is about transforming that here and now, not about getting magic brownie points.” — TSB

“Integrity is being honest with yourself, about yourself. Bravery is intentionally seeking out who you really are.” — TSB

“Modern culture is a nutrient-rich environment in which secular Buddhism can thrive. There is interest in questioning, learning, and practicing what we can do for ourselves, experiencing the results, and inspiring us to create positive change.” — TSB

“I find it incorrect to say if we question or voice disbelief, we’re being negative; that’s simply a way to silence free inquiry, and it’s toxic to growing.” — TSB

“If we discover that Einstein had a belief in flying monkeys, that wouldn’t change e=mc2. Nor should Gotama’s historicity, or the potential limitations implicit to his human origins, add *or* detract from the four noble truths as valid and pragmatic for improved well-being in the natural world.” – TSB

“If we find a lost notebook of Darwin, and it proves he thought elves caused evolution and not natural selection, it would not change the process of natural selection. Secular Buddhism is a description of a natural process, too. One can accept Buddha as ‘The Tathagata’, or not. The practice – what we do – is the same.” — TSB

“That’s a part of secular Buddhism we’re trying to foster: that you don’t have to adopt a dogmatic set of “truths” and become anything other than what you are, any more than starting to jog means you’ve joined the mighty cult of Hermes.” — TSB

“We should not, in an irrational attachment to the purity of the term ‘agnostic’, suffer from an ongoing tolerance of unsubstantiated supernatural claims. The intellectual honesty of saying ‘I don’t know’ should not be confused with accepting the Likelihood of the Ludicrous. It is ridiculous to entertain the notion the universe is run by an invisible pink unicorn.” — TSB

“This practice gives us back control, not just about how we’re going to respond to stress, but what our entire frame of mind will be. That is transformative, in that it extends beyond the individual event, and can be brought to bear on positive cultural change.” — TSB

“Secular Buddhism reverses the common theistic religious paradigm:

    • the adherent
    • submits
    • to a rigid set of beliefs
    • about what happens after you die
    • based on an external judge

and instead

  • the practitioner
  • investigates
  • a methodology
  • for improving what happens every moment you live
  • based on what you do” — TSB

“Here’s a measure of your practice: how much is it transforming not just your life, but how much is it transforming the lives of others?” — TSB

“Whether Buddha was, as the teaching tells us, a fully realized being with a recollection of very real past lives stretching behind him without a beginning found, or a reverse-engineered myth, my actual practice doesn’t change — not one little bit. It’s about what we do.” — TSB

“Stories inspire us to reach farther than we may have done on our own, they excite our imagination, and energize us by the examples they provide. We can learn from stories, even if Br’er Rabbit turns out not to have been an historical figure.” — TSB

“The great truths are great not because they were described by people of distinction, but because of their unique contribution to the development of human knowledge.” — TSB

“Mindfulness is a great tool, but it’s not the goal, it’s a starting point. It helps us notice our state of mind, so we can take the next step of positive change. That’s where the work comes in.” — TSB

“When we say ‘still the mind’ in meditation, we’re laying the groundwork for the time *off* the cushion, when it’s the environment you’re in that’s chaotic — still the mind, and we make better decisions.” — TSB

“Pretend you can read someone else’s mind. What are the thoughts that arise in them? What causes them, what are their reactions to them, what do these thoughts lead them to do? Very revealing! You are that person. What do your thoughts say about you?” — TSB

“Praying to Buddha makes about as much sense as sacrificing a goat to Jesus. Even if we accept Gotama as an historical figure who really taught this method for the ending of suffering, the message is clear: your own efforts make the difference in the quality of your experience in life, not devotion to an external figure who is gone, gone, gone with no remainder.” — TSB

“I admire Gotama the human, respect Gotama the teacher, and love Gotama the story. “The” Buddha is a being with whom I can’t relate. How much more inspiring that a person like the rest of us could do so much! How much better we understand the teaching when we see that we ourselves can ease our suffering! How wondrous the realization of the practice in this very lifetime, here and right now!” — TSB

“There is tremendous beauty in hearing the wondrous depths of silence, once the mind’s chattering quiets down.” — TSB

“A secular approach to practice can expand personal development beyond the confines of the institution of religion. This frees us from the course plotted by pre-determined answers of dogma, allowing us to question with confidence the personal and individual experience of growth.” — TSB

“There is no greater opportunity for positive transformation than tragedy. Each breath we take can be one of gratitude and joy, rather than resentment and despair, because we recognize that we have a breath to take.” — TSB

“No one asks us to accept gravity, thermo-dynamics, or evolution on faith. ‘Take it on faith’ means there is no compelling evidence, or we wouldn’t have to resort to the suspension of our critical thinking. Our practice has nothing to do with faith, even as a starting point. It starts with curiosity, then inquiry, and then testing the veracity of the practice in the practical laboratory of our daily life.” — TSB

“Our practice is about developing skills. These skills are not just for positively transforming our lives, but for fundamentally changing how we live.” — TSB

“Buddhism was never intended to be a hidebound dogma — whether Gotama was an historical figure or mythic construct, the message is one of direct and intentional personal effort. Not worship, nor removal from the process of living.” — TSB

“Our thoughts and resulting behavior creates what is metaphorically referred to as grooves in our mind. There are two sides to that coin in our conventional experience: unmindful habit, in which we don’t really pay attention to the action, and volitional proliferation, where we are fully aware of what we’re doing. Either can be positive or negative — feeding the birds at the park vs. lighting up another cigarette on the unmindful side, or making a special dinner for someone vs. grand theft auto on the volitional side. Meditation shows us that even the unmindful options are still a choice.” — TSB

“Meditation helps us build the skill of observing our mind’s operation, moment by moment, and expand it to something we can work with.” — TSB

“Kamma addresses our desire to have meaning to existence. Having reasons Why We’re Here seems more comforting than undemonstrable and uncontrollable randomness. That doesn’t make it true. Insight to that — not merely intellectual understanding, but insight — brings with it the opportunity to let go of the suffering that actually comes with comforting delusion.” — TSB

“Perhaps the biggest challenge for secular Buddhism to grow and thrive in the West is correcting a misperception. This is not a belief system. It is a practical method for reducing suffering in your moment-by-moment experience of living.” — TSB

“We hear the term ‘Christian’ values. Does attaching your tradition’s name in front of positive human behavior give you exclusive ownership rights to it? Of course not. Nor is there anything specially Buddhist about metta, karuna, mudita, and upekkha. These are traits we can all develop, regardless of our religious… — or non-religious –background.” — TSB

“There is sincere and insincere acknowledgement of personal flaw. The distinction is that the first is designed to continue investigation of the problem and actively engage with the process of corrective practice, the other is designed to simply end the uncomfortable truth of criticism — which preserves the problem. Seeing which choice we’re making may be the hardest first step.” — TSB

“Good friends help you through hard times. Great friends help you understand how you caused them.” — TSB

“Theistic traditions provide comforting validations. You’re chosen. You’re going to heaven. You’re the elect. Buddhism is precisely the opposite, disassembling the false comfort of self validation. And only through honest investigation can we truly grow.” — TSB

“Sometimes it’s challenging being a rational voice for knowledge in a choir of placebo belief.” — TSB

“It may not always be comfortable, but on the conventional level we do live in a tangible world of cause and effect. If we try interacting with that real world with beliefs based in delusion, suffering follows. I’m going with reality.” — TSB

“Remember learning to ride a bike, the first few times you found balance for a few moments before meeting the pavement again? Stillness in the mind can be like that, until you find your balance. But expect some face planting as you learn.” — TSB

“Superman inspires. He’s superhuman, and still chooses to do right. Batman inspires and we can relate with him, because he has no power at all, he’s just a human being. If we see Buddha as Gotama, just a man — that’s inspiring and we can relate to this practice that we ourselves can do, without magic, without superpowers.” — TSB

“Secular Buddhism is merely a reference for another way to positively engage with the process of living.” — TSB

“Without forgiveness, we’re not allowing people to make mistakes, learn from them, and make better choices next time. Including ourselves.” — TSB

“Sometime you can learn more from the skillful application of silence, than from someone else’s words.” — TSB

“When I sit in meditation, I’m not training my body to sit still. I’m training my mind. The rest follows.” — TSB

“A view in opposition to many schools of thought does not make it incorrect. It is only the validity or invalidity of something that makes it correct or incorrect, nothing else. Not lineage. Not because it was written. Not because it was divinely inspired.” — TSB

“Taking a secular perspective of Buddhism frees one from adherence to dogmatic interpretations, superstitious views, and unverifiable claims with no basis in nature. The practice of the eightfold path is then liberated from hindering cultural accretions, and opens the way to personal development in a modern context.” — TSB

“Classic Buddhism says life is fraught with suffering, and that’s because of attachment. Let go of all attachment, and rebirth ends. I’d suggest that the only attachment needing release is the expectation of a life free from suffering. Release that, and life is no longer something so horrible that it requires escape; it is something known to be imperfect, and worth making better.” — TSB

“Sometimes it’s only when we lift our eyes from the traditional expression of ideology, that we see the practice best suited to us.” — TSB

“If we ask for valid evidence for rebirth, we find only anecdotes. This doesn’t disprove rebirth, but it certainly doesn’t provide meaningful support. And if we are asked to believe because the Buddha said it, I direct you to the Kalama sutta. Asking us to take it on faith is no more valid than asking us to believe in any other religious claim on faith.” — TSB

“Sitting in meditation, mind focussed on the present moment — where is your past life?” — TSB

“The wonder and value of a teaching isn’t because Buddha, Mohammed, or Jesus said it, or because ‘it was written’. The wonder and value comes from the positive, tangible benefit the *practice* of that teaching creates in this very lifetime, in this very moment.” — TSB

“I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that maybe the quality of your practice isn’t determined by having robes and a transmission paper.” — TSB

“Someone who’s convinced of the fact of rebirth, with absolute certainty, should be required to provide their incontrovertible evidence for that assertion.” — TSB

“Secular Buddhism is the study and practice of the eightfold path, focussed on practical application in this lifetime. It is a flexible framework of questioning, encouraging meaningful dialogue and critical examination of the dhamma.” — TSB

“Secular Buddhism recognizes, accepts, and fosters the evolution of the practice of the eightfold path into the cultural context of the time.” — TSB

“Letting go with your hands is easy. Letting go with your mind, not so much. First we have to understand what we mean by that, and then how to do it.” — TSB

“Sometime today a stressful moment will set the stage for our role in an unskillful habituated response. Recognize that moment, and change the play.” — TSB

“Secular Buddhism isn’t about detracting from traditional religious practice. It’s about opening the dhamma to more people by making it okay to not have to be religious to be a good Buddhist.” — TSB

“Have a hard time admitting when you’re wrong? Don’t worry. As insight practice matures, you’ll realize you have plenty of opportunities to practice!” — TSB

“Having the right to do something, and doing something right, are not always in synch. What’s the goal? What do you reasonably know will happen by exercising that right? Will it make things better, or will it cause very real harm?” — TSB

“Any time I’ve reacted in anger, I’ve been wrong. Factually in error, ethically in error, and mentally in error. Anger is never justified, that’s a total copout for losing your cool. Sure we get angry — than happens — but ‘righteous anger’ doesn’t help, it warps what you could otherwise approach with equanimity and energy.” — TSB

“What’s our definition of karma? Cause and effect is great, as long as we can show the chain of causation. If it’s, “I did something nice, and then found a twenty dollar bill”, we can’t show the chain, and I at least don’t find that to be compelling as evidence. If it’s “I did something nice, and someone noticed that, and they did something nice because of it,” we’ve got a chain of causation.” — TSB

“Doing good deeds to get a good rebirth is like being nice the week before Christmas. Maybe being nice when there is no Christmas is a little more sincere.” — TSB

“Our practice manifests our intention. We choose, each moment, what that intention is. Today? My intention is to build bridges with people. Might not work. But that’s okay. We can dare to fail.” — TSB

“Whenever someone says, ‘that’s the way the world is’ when faced with something negative and then never takes action, I call bullshit. What’s the world made of? People. Who decides what we make that world? We do. Off the cushion, putting those positive mind states into practice.” — TSB

“Perspective. Maybe the only person who expects you to be mindful every moment is you. Is that helping you, or causing more suffering because you’ve set such a high standard? This is about leading happier lives, not tying yourself into knots.” — TSB

“Shit happens. Suffering is optional.” — TSB

“The ‘rightness’ of an ideological view should be evaluated by one thing first and foremost: does this demonstrably contribute to the reduction of suffering?” — TSB

“Okay, show of hands — how many of us have ever said something like, “I’m so mad right now!” The fact is, most of us were probably raised with the idea that there is a Me who Is Angry. And that at least double misperception makes it that much hard to escape from the suffering inherent in the habit of ill-will.” — TSB

“Having a Buddhist practice but only doing meditation for stress reduction? That’s like having a Lamborghini Diablo GT but only doing 25 m.p.h. to get the groceries.” — TSB

“I want to listen to my inner voice when it calls for rational thought, rather than smother it with the murderous pillow of blind faith.” — TSB

“Buddhism is a flexible framework rather than a rigid structure, making it more adaptable to the cultural context in which it can flourish.” — TSB

“Dogmatic expression of ambiguous opinion is not a valid source of spiritual development.” — TSB

“I never said I was a good Buddhist. I said I was a secular Buddhist.” — TSB

“Sure, it’s a long and hard hike up the mountain, but the views are spectacular.” — TSB

“Worrying about the future is just borrowing suffering. With interest.” — TSB

“The moment you stop, take a breath, and hit the reset button on your mind is the moment you choose to change the course of your life. What’s best about that is you have that opportunity, with every breath. Every moment, you choose. Make it a good one.” — TSB

“If your intention in meditation is concentration and you try to squish your mind into a fine point, of course your retreat experience is going to be stressful rather than uplifting. If your intention is to release, you rest the mind on the breath, your experience will be totally different. One pointedness will naturally unfold, instead of your meditation being the path of most resistance.” — TSB

“The Buddhist concept of non-attachment is such a bugaboo. It doesn’t mean, in our conventional meaning, DEttachment. Of course you still love your kids, your dog, your partner! You don’t go all Fatal Attraction; you love more purely, without that Big Self attachment brings. You think Buddha didn’t love Ananda, or Rahula? Why do you think he was teaching? Love.” — TSB

“Religious texts are not superior as a source of wisdom or truth, just because they were written a long time ago. All the more reason to examine them critically.” — TSB

“That’s the thing about this modern culturalization of the early Buddhist practice — it lends itself very well to secularism.” — TSB

“Sure Buddhists have a Hell. Remember the last time you got really, really pissed off? So, you’ve even been there!” — TSB

“Only a weak faith is intolerant of questioning. A strong faith encourages it, sincerely, without an underlying requirement that you find their own answers.” — TSB

“Approaching a problem like addiction with thoughtfulness and compassion is certainly the mind we need to bring to the table. That doesn’t mean we ignore the hard realities of addiction treatment. This practice isn’t a magic cure all — use that mind to help with what works!” — TSB

“Anyone who thinks we don’t get a sense of self and permanence early in life should ask a little boy if he prefers peeing in the shower, or writing his name in the snow.” — TSB

“Meditation is like a game of Simon Says with the most devious, misleading, and clever Simon ever — your mind. In absolute silence, with no distractions, and you focussing on only one thing, your mind can send you careening off of stillness in less than a single breath.” — TSB

“‘Mind’ doesn’t mean ‘brain’ any more than ‘sight’ means ‘eye’. Mind is a much more broad term encompassing the internal processes that lead to volitional action.” — TSB

“Gently attending to the present moment, or practicing like your head’s on fire. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that though energy is important, there may be more growth with a liberal application of a fire extinguisher.” — TSB

“‘Emptiness’ isn’t ‘meaninglessness’. It’s a reference to the inaccuracy of our concepts. We put so much importance to emptiness that it gives it an entity, a self.” — TSB

“Rebirth is recognition of an ongoing process of change. How you view it, as a psychological reference to mind states in this finite life, or as a literal ‘again becoming’, matters only in it moving your forward in your development as a better person. What works best to foster your practice?” — TSB

“Spiritual practice, and I don’t mean that in the Casper sense, is like music. You might not like a particular kind of music (tradition), some songs (rituals) might hold little appeal, or an artist (teacher) may really be dissonant in their lyrics (teaching). But some songs are still worth singing if you change it to a tune with which you resonate. Some songs can become quite uplifting, educational, and helpful with that adaptation to our perspective, even when we’re not even in the choir (we’re an atheist). Secular Buddhism is making music that’s right for us.” — TSB

“Early Buddhist teaching isn’t a rigid set of rules. It provides a flexible structure through which we can process life’s daily experiences. This is why it’s been so adaptive for various situational and cultural environments.” — TSB

“Differences are inevitable. Conflict is not. Conflict is only one way you choose to address differences, but not the only way.” — TSB

“Helping another living being is a gift we give to ourselves.” — TSB

“Secular buddhist practice lacks the religious trappings, lacks the supernatural, and just talks about the practice itself and the rational, natural, and demonstrable framework that helps us lead happier lives.” — TSB

“Science isn’t the culprit for suffering any more than cabinetry is the culprit for stubbed toes.” — TSB

“It does no good to know Do This, if you don’t know you’re doing That. That’s where meditation comes in.” — TSB

“We’re just Process.” — TSB

“Confidence grows naturally out of what you experience for yourself that validates presented evidence. Its close enemy is blind faith.” — TSB

“What we do with the events in our lives creates the environment in which we live. We decide, every moment — the Shire, or Mordor.” — TSB

“Meditation isn’t about attaining altered states of mind. It’s about being a better person in normal states of mind when you’re not meditating.” — TSB

“To question is to demonstrate a desire to find the truth. And that quest can only strengthen us, however much it may weaken our cherished views.” — TSB

“Feel good helping the ones you love when they’re hurting? So why should you deny them that joy when you’re hurting? Let them love you, too.” — TSB

“Extending a hand with sincerity is no guarantee it will be taken. What’s the measure of success? Keeping it extended, with sincerity. Knowing it may not be taken, it’s one more thing in a rough week, and no one person is ever entirely at fault. That’s the practice sometimes, too. How to fail. And we’re always going to have opportunities to practice and learn from that.” — TSB

“It doesn’t matter if rebirth isn’t any more factual than the idea of a Christian heaven. My actions shouldn’t be based on an agenda of anything beyond doing what’s right, here and now. That’s the only kind of action that’s sincere — action without a self-based agenda.” — TSB

“Mindfulness might make our lives better, but it’s not easy. It exposes our shortcomings, and doesn’t let us hide from even our own thoughts. That alone can dissuade us from continuing to train the mind. We may not get to a point where we can start to intentionally change the direction our mind takes us — to us taking the mind where we decide, instead.” — TSB

“Shared human experiences, wonders, uplifting moments of intense joy, do not provide validation of a religious interpretation of those experiences. We all feel them, they’re not owned by any single group. Correlation is not causation.” — TSB

“The vehemence with which the word ‘blasphemy’ is used by the religious seems to be directly proportional to the validity of the criticism.” — TSB

“So, you won’t try meditation because of your religion? Meditation is about reducing suffering, what the heck is your religion about?” — TSB

“I was never very honest with myself before taking up a regular meditation practice. Now it’s hard not to be. For which I’m grateful, and utterly resentful.” — TSB

“When you do it, it’s cherry picking, or quote mining. When I do it, it’s valid support for my case.” We all do this. Do you avoid practices that prevent your intellectual honesty – even when it’s inconvenient? — TSB

“My cushion is sometimes wonderful and all Disney glowey. And other times it’s just covered with the porcupine quills of uncompromising honesty. Okay, that would be most of the time!” — TSB

“Lately, it seems religions are attempting to bolster some sense of legitimacy by co-opting science as ‘validating’ religious claims. I find it irrelevant to this practice. It’s in the brain. Fine. It could be in the big toe, too, that’s not the important thing. What’s important is: What do we do with our experience in meditation?” — TSB

More Really Neat People

“It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas … If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you … On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful ideas from the worthless ones.” — Carl Sagan, “The Burden of Skepticism”, Skeptical Inquirer Vol. 12, Issue 1

“If you really want to open your mind, there’s no room for magical thinking or spiritual speculation. Taking comfort in supernatural forces, amazing prophesies, tales of rebirth, almanacs, astrology, palmistry or tarot may make you think you’re living life differently from the masses, but you’re not; you’re just dressing up the same old escape patterns in fancy clothes.” — Stephen Schettini, The Naked Monk blog, 5/20/2011

“Maybe we should forget about ‘enlightenment’ and focus on being decent, loving, and open-minded citizens of earth, stewards of the planet, and caretakers for one and other. Focus on that intention long enough and we might just accidentally get enlightened.” — Ethan Nichtern, FaceBook, 5/7/2011

“Intelligently Designed Buddhism. IDB. Come for the martial arts, stay for the suffering.” — Dana Nourie

“I believe in the power of stories to shape the meanings of our lives. I don’t need to resolve the factual accuracy of the story for it to still speak to me. When I go to an historical play by Shakespeare, I don’t fuss over whether he got his facts straight. When I read the Illiad, I’m not concerned with Homer’s retelling of mythic history. Anything we receive through oral tradition has been enhanced to make it a better story. Any miraculous content in the stories operate to magnify the drama rather than undermine the meaning the stories convey. Great stories survive over many generations because of the seeds of truth they carry between the lines. Our task is to find those seeds, plant them in our hearts and encourage them to grow.” — Sam Trumbore — http://blog.timesunion.com/trumbore/a-christmas-eve-homily-and-prayer/632/

“I’ve found that human beings are capable of grace and goodness, and they don’t need to be propped up by mystical ju-ju to do good — and in fact it detracts from virtue when it has to be cajoled into existence with promises of rewards or retribution in an imaginary afterlife.” — PZ Myers, Pharyngula, 12/22/2010

“Ultimately, everything we do to try to advance a secular dharma practice needs to be weighed on the basis of how well it brings us together and strengthens our practice, nourishes our hearts and transforms our lives.” — Mark Knickelbine, The Secular Buddhist Facebook Fan Page comment, 12/23/2010

“The important thing is that we have better human beings around. It doesn’t really matter if you call them Bodhisattvas or Buddhist or atheists or Christians for that matter… We’re making the world a better place, one person at a time.” — Stephen Schettini, The Secular Buddhist podcast interview

“The challenge was to bridge the insights of Buddha’s homeless life with 21st century realities.” — Stephen Schettini

“Years of meditation, studying and reflection have led me to believe that the Buddha Siddhattha Gotama was what I can only call a humanist and skeptic of the first order. He had no time for the religion of his day or the eternally inconclusive debate as to whether or not there is a creator God. His question wasn’t why are we here, but here we are — now what? Clearly, he saw philosophy as a way of life to be put to use, not as an emotional crutch or a merely conceptual structure.” — Stephen Schettini

“Today there’s a new wave of Westerners interested in Buddhism. They don’t want to join any exotic belief system and are motivated more by pragmatism than any visceral need for religion. That motivation is deeply rooted in daily experience.” — Stephen Schettini

“Analytically, scepticism was my yardstick. Emotionally, I kept the faith. The two formed a dialectic that spurred me with sufficient focus to stay on track and enough doubt to remain alert. The fact that it left me vaguely uncomfortable was actually reassuring. To this day, the deadening weight of comfort makes me… nervous.” — Stephen Schettini, The Novice

” I do not need to believe that reincarnation exists to be an ethical person and practice Buddhism. Reincarnation is another stick (like hell) to make people behave. I would like to think that people behave because they have chosen to lead a moral, compassionate life.” — Margaret Michal, TSB Facebook, December 2, 2010

“A lot of people look to Buddhism as a spiritual answer to their materialistic woes. But if Buddhism is just another form of spirituality, it’s as worthless as any other religion. We need something different. And Buddhism is something very, very different.” — Brad Warner, Sex, Sin, and Zen

“Knowledge and reality do not require belief. They do, however, require courage.” — Glenn Wallis

“Buddhism does not ask us to negate our personal rationality or our scientific rationality. It does not ask us to accept things on faith alone. That is not to say that faith is useless or silly. But it does mean that we cannot divinize our own wishful thinking into bogus cosmic principles, and then pretend like we’ve discovered them in the firmament of transcendental truth.” — Why I Am a Buddhist: No-Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey, by Stephen T. Asma PhD

“Quantum mysticism is a juvenile worldview. It starts from a belief that my mind can control matter and destiny, then casts about for any evidence to corroborate that solipsistic view, and finally takes a totally unrelated anomaly of subatomic particles as the aforementioned ‘evidence.’” — Why I Am a Buddhist: No-Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey, by Stephen T. Asma PhD

“If someone, especially a young child, says that they remember a past life, or even if they only appear to have a memory which cannot be explained, that is not the same thing as them actually having had a past life.” — Jayarava

“Buddhist methods aim to create the conditions for a useful investigation of the mind. Ethical practices create restraints that help us to focus on what is important, and to limit inputs – like the old adage ‘we are what we eat’ the mind is strongly affected by what comes in through the senses, and if we are to have any hope of understanding what is going on in our minds then we need to cultivate calm and contentment. Having attained some measure of calm we begin to examine the nature of experience and our relationship to it, in order to be liberated from the reactions. I believe that all Buddhist practice boils down to this.” — Jayarava

“To me, ‘secular’ is something distinguished from but not necessarily in opposition to religion.” — Barbara O’Brien, About.com article “Does Buddhism Have To Be Religious?”

“The teaching of the Buddha is qualified as ehi-passika, inviting you to ‘come and see’, but not to come and believe.” — Walpola Rahula, What The Buddha Taught

“Finally, embodiment of the teachings becomes similar to meditation, using our experience of engagement to refine our understanding of the teachings and eventually come to lasting wisdom about the way things are. We move between formal practice and practice in the world, each improving the other.” — Justin Kelley, Insight Journal, Summer 2010

“In general there seems to be a divide between those who can interpret ritual symbol metaphorically and those who insist upon literal interpretations. Whether pagan, christian, buddhist, or atheist this divide seems to be the greatest barrier to genuine synthetic and symbiotic growth and evolution.” — Earl Frank Rectanus, Discussion Episode 30

“Letting things be, without obsessing to change or improve them, could be seen as a highly developed form of compassion, one of the most central of all Buddhist virtues.” — Rita Gross, Tricycle magazine, Fall 2010

“Atheists recognize intelligence, curiosity, generosity, charity, kindness, etc., as human traits, and find nothing odd in the fact that people everywhere, no matter what their faith, can express them. Far too many believers, however, ascribe virtues to their particular faith rather than to any universally human properties, which means they rather too easily manage to mentally strip people of other faiths or no faith at all of those virtues.” PZ Myers, Pharyngula, 8/31/2010

“The goal of becoming a better person is within the reach of us all, at every moment. The tool for emerging from the primitive yoke of conditioned responses to the tangible freedom of the conscious life lies just behind our brow. We need only invoke the power of mindful awareness in any action of body, speech, or mind to elevate that action from the unconsicous reflex of a trained creature to the awakened choice of a human being who is guided to a higher life by wisdom.” — Andrew Olendzki, Unlimiting Mind

“Who needs to feel they will survive their death, either as a transcendent conscious soul residing in heaven or reentering nature again and again? What we are given is precious enough — a moment of awareness.” — Andrew Olendzki, Unlimiting Mind

“I think the danger of even non-theistic religion is the ease with which dogma, reference to authority, and suppression of unpopular views can impose orthodoxy and repress optimally creative dialogue and growth.” — Earl Frank Rectanus

“The issue is not whether the self really exists or not, but how one will regard phenomena in the moment of experience, as with or without self. Hence the Buddhist teaching of non-self is correcting a particular kind of wrong view, rather than negating the existence of an entity.” — Andrew Olendzki, Unlimiting Mind

“We have overcomplicated the crap out of Buddhism” — Dana Nourie

“Intelligent people often get caught up in their own brilliance and forget that most humanity is not brilliant or have the luxury to think about abstract ideas. They forget that ethics without compassion is like bones without flesh.” — Grant Steves

“… genuine Buddhism is the reverse of mystical, rejects miracles, is founded on reality, and refuses to speculate about the absolute and other so-called first causes.” C.T. Strauss, The Buddha and His Doctrine, 1922

“Rather than an integral part of monastic life bound up with its rituals, ethics, and cosmology, meditation has become something not only for lay Buddhists but for those of any religion or none.” David L. McMahan, The Making of Buddhist Modernism

“Stupid questions are questions that have no reasonable or rational referent, that out of the blue ask us to rationalize and reconcile, on the one hand, a patently silly fable with trivial content, to, on the other hand, the whole of known science. Just by asking, it’s an effort to equate the neglible to the substantial, to the benefit of the fluff and to the detriment of the serious.” — PZ Myers

“My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.” — Dalai Lama The Universe in a Single Atom

“… If you do have a sense of kindness for yourself, if you do want yourself to be well, it would be well to forgive… Otherwise, guess who’s making you uncomfortable? You! So, forgiveness is letting go of your own self-imposed discomfort over the various shenanigans of other beings… People are up to shenanigans all the time. And they’ve got their own shenaniganned idea why.” — Ajahn Sona

“Our thoughts have a semblance of substance that they really don’t deserve.” — Mark Nunberg, Common Ground Meditation Center

“… that there is something insulting to all of us in insisting on the social value of living by invented supernatural threats.” — Ophelia Benson, Free Inquiry, April/May 2010

” I would advocate for a definition of enlightenment that encompasses optimal psychological functioning. And that acknowledges that the majority of optimal psychological functioning is the quality of our relationships with others. The other parts being the quality of our intrapsychic relationships and the quality of our relationship with our environment.” — Will Davidson, The Secular Buddhist FaceBook Fan Page, April 4, 2010

“Metaphor is not a magic get-out-of-stupid card.” — PZ Meyers

“While a modest naturalism does not absolutely rule out the transcendent, it presents a powerful presumption in favor of natural causes. This is not an atheist dogma. It is a conclusion made on the basis of cumulative evidence.” — Austin Dacey, The Secular Conscience

“Sometimes people turn to faith and tradition to answer particular questions since they don’t like the answers offered by science. They find faith-based beliefs more reassuring, for instance the belief that the soul survives death. So here’s a question about your priorities: do you want the empirical truth backed up by evidence, or do you want to be reassured?” — Thomas W. Clark, Encountering Naturalism

When you find yourself asking, irritably and rhetorically, “Why the hell does he keep doing that?!”, I strongly recommend you answer the rhetorical question. The causal story revealed in the answer, which always has roots outside the person, might reduce counter-productive blaming and contempt, and it will give you vital information about how the behavior might be changed. — Thomas Clark, Encountering Naturalism

“We have to show the world doesn’t end once we give up the supernatural. We are still moral agents, we can still be held (compassionately) responsible, and we can still find meaning in life. We retain our real freedom and dignity, and we continue to love and value ourselves and other.” — Thomas W. Clark, Encountering Naturalism

“The mind is determined to this or that choice by a cause which is also determined by another cause, and this again by another, and so on ad infinitum. This doctrine teaches us to hate no one, to despise no one, to mock no one, to be angry with no one, and to envy no one.” — Baruch Spinoza

“The Dharma is meant to be enacted, it’s meant to be lived. It is a blueprint for how to reorganize the mind and body in the present moment, and as such its meaning can only be recovered if it is put to use. The best answer to the question of what the Buddha taught, therefore, will be found not in the texts but in our own experience.” — Andrew Olendzki, Unlimiting Mind

“When you act selfishly, you incrementally become more of a jerk than you already are. You’re more skillful at being a jerk.” — Andrew Olendzki, 7/20/2010

“The thing is, it’s very difficult for us to label ourselves because we are in constant change and growing and morphing, and labels just don’t do us justice when we try to pin ourselves down like that.” — Dana Nourie

“If there is something that sounds methaphysical or that can’t be well defined, we politely as we can challenge the thinker on that… even though it might be someone that we respect and be very old and have been written on a scroll or something, doesn’t mean that it’s particularly relevant and meaningful to what our life is like today. And we need to be okay with that.” — Jim Eubanks, The Secular Buddhist podcast