Episode 4 :: Linda Blanchard, Dana Nourie, Jan Ford :: Virtual Dhamma

| April 4, 2010 | 0 Comments

Triple Gem of Skeptical Buddhism Online

Today’s interview is with the Triple Gem of the virtual secular sangha, Linda Blanchard, Jan Ford, and Dana Nourie. We’ll talk about how they came to have a less religious, but still buddhisty, practice, and the development of the online skeptical buddhist communities on FaceBook and Second Life.

Linda Blanchard

Linda Blanchard founded the Skeptical Buddhists’ Sangha in Second Life in 2007 to get her questions about Buddhism answered, and there discovered friends and community, along with a better understanding of the dharma. She is currently, very slowly, learning Pali, the language of the oldest Buddhist literature.

Jan Ford

Jan Ford teaches Sociology, Anthropology and Tai Chi Ch’uan at Santa Barbara City College and was a member of the Executive Board of the SBCC Instructors Association for the last few years. He has also taught at the University of Washington, Cal-State, Los Angeles and Antioch University.

He is celebrating his 51st year as a martial arts practitioner. He specializes in Chinese Arts, particularly Hung Ga Kuen, and now Tai Chi, but has also taught GoJu Ryu Karate, Thai Boxing and various grappling arts. Jan was well known as a fighting and kata competitor in the California tournament circuit for many years, and, at one time was ranked at the top of both classifications.

For many years he earned his living as the owner of Ford’s Martial Arts in Santa Barbara, but has also owned a bar, published a martial arts magazine, a community newspaper and was a community organizer. He also was a VD investigator for the US Public Health Service and drove a taxi.

Dana Nourie

Dana started her exploration of Buddhism in 2004 when she crushed her foot and a friend recommended Googling mindfulness. It may have been her friend’s way of telling her to watch what the hell she’s doing, but it brought up her discovery of Buddhism.

From there she took a course locally in Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, but became disenchanted with the rituals, prayers, and what seemed like very religious nonsense, and quit the course. She then explored Zen and Theravada Buddhism, and took a short course on the English translation of the Pali Canon. It was at this time she discovered the Skeptical Buddhist group in Second Life, the way they scrutinized the teachings, and based much of their attitude on Stephan Batchelor’s book Buddhism Without Beliefs.

She ended up dropping from the local sanghas as they are all based on a specific tradition, and instead Dana has stuck with the core teachings and a critical mind.

Dana does not label herself a Buddhist, though she does practice Buddha’s teachings and associates with Secular Buddhists. She feels that Buddhism should not be connected to any cultural or religious ties per say, and doesn’t care for the way some cultures have introduced superstitions and rituals, some stuff that is very “unbuddhist”.

:: Discuss this episode ::


Web Links

Note: The Skeptical Buddhist Sangha in Second Life no longer meets, but the Group still exists. Just as the Skeptical Buddhist email list spread into SL, the Skeptical Buddhist Sangha evolved into this website. While we no longer meet in Second Life, there are Buddhist groups in SL you  might want to check out. Just do a search in SL on Buddhism.

Since this podcast was recorded, the Secular Buddhist community has grown into multiple sites and virtual sanghas, including this one. If you are looking to meet virtually with other secular Buddhist practitioners, please check out our Practice Circle.

Music for This Episode Courtesy of Rodrigo Rodriguez


The music heard in the middle of the podcast is from Rodrigo Rodriguez. The tracks used in this episode are:

  • Traces of Truth

Category: The Secular Buddhist Podcast

Ted Meissner

About the Author ()

Ted Meissner is the host of the podcast Present Moment: Mindfulness Practice and Science. He has been a meditator since the early 90’s, has been interviewed for Books and Ideas, Mindful Lives, and The Whole Leader podcasts, spoken about mindfulness with various groups including Harvard Humanist Hub, and has written for Elephant Journal and The International Journal of Whole Person Care. He is the Executive Director of the Secular Buddhist Association, host of the SBA’s official podcast The Secular Buddhist, and is on the Advisory Board for the Spiritual Naturalist Society. Ted’s background is in the Zen and Theravada traditions, he is a regular speaker on interfaith panel discussions, and is interested in examining the evolution of contemplative practice in contemporary culture. Ted teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care & Society, where he is the Manager of Online Programming and Community Development.

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