Episode 17 :: Labels, or Mindful Sinning

| June 18, 2010 | 1 Comment

Linda Blanchard

Labels are invaluable as a tool in human communication. How we refer to ourselves and to our practice can help us find fellow students, and helps others understand what our point of view might be. But they can also hinder us as we either become to attached to our designations, or as we misunderstand one another’s intent in label use.

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.

“What you’re saying, though, when you say you’re an atheist is that you really don’t have any expectation of ever having a belief in god.” — Linda Blanchard

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”.

“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

:: Discuss this episode ::



Web Links


Music for This Episode

Hon Shirabe

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.

Comments (1)

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  1. NaturalEntrust says:

    One reason why labels may be used by many Western Buddhists
    are that it place their practice in a long long historical tradition.
    And that gives them a kind of identity as a Buddhist.

    Something that support my hasty thought about
    why this can be vital for them is that some of them
    protest against Secular Buddhism and tell SBA
    that if one don’t believe in some historical claims
    by Buddhism then one should not refer to it by that label.

    A kind of “loyalty” to the Brand name Buddhism
    that if one don’t live up to the norm then one
    have no right to use the label at all.

    Another more practical reason can be pragmatism.
    You get a lot of support from the civil society if
    you can refer to an established religion that is
    seen as something positive for to be of help
    to people in need. Some countries gives tax
    reductions and use other positive ways to
    make life easier for those of established faith.

    Atheistic practices that have tried to get same
    treatment has in some countries got turned down.

    Only religions that has a supernatural faith will
    get the support from the Civil society.

    Sweden has that law. Swedish Humanists has
    tried to lobby for a change of these laws but
    totally failed to get positive responses.

    Had Swedish Humanists renamed themselves
    to Swedish Buddhists then they would have got
    financial support from Swedish state.

    Maybe no Buddhist ever think of that consciously?
    But it could be part of the “identity” to belong to
    a long established tradition. Just my wild guess

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