Some of Secular Buddhism’s Roots are in South Asia

| June 12, 2017 | 2 Comments

Secular Buddhism has roots that go well back into 19th c. South Asia. We will look at some of that history here.

For more on this general topic see: Secular Buddhism’s Roots in South Asia.

Erik Braun’s book “The Birth of Insight” is a wonderful resource for the history of Insight or Vipassana Buddhism.

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Doug Smith

About the Author ()

Doug is Study Director of the Secular Buddhist Association. He has a PhD in Philosophy, with a minor in Buddhist philosophy and Sanskrit. In 2013 he completed the year-long Integrated Study and Practice Program with the BCBS and NYIMC. A long time scientific skeptic, he pursues a naturalized approach to practice. He is also interested in scholarship about the Tipiṭaka, and the theoretical and historical origins of the dhamma. He posts videos at Doug's Secular Dharma on YouTube. Some of his writing can be found at

Comments (2)

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  1. Doug Smith Doug Smith says:

    The below comment was sent to me for inclusion in the comments by José Antonio Vergara, who has been having trouble posting:

    Thanks for this very interesting article, Doug. To my modest view, it is fair and encouraging to reclaim the roots of the current secular Buddhism movement back to the very origins of Western Buddhism, through the endeavour of those two innovators.

    It is interesting your use of the term ‘post-colonial Buddhism’ to encompass these important developments, considering the fact that for instance Anagarika’s impressive activism didn’t emerge after the end of the British rule in Sri Lanka but during it. In a sense, it was a sort of contra-colonial or preter-colonial Buddhism.

    I’m well aware that this is just a minor linguistic detail concerning the actual meaning of the Latin prefix “post-“ in this particular case: after what? Is it to be understood “after the colonial period started” or “after the formal independence from colonial rule” (ex Sri Lanka 1948)? Of course, I do understand that the consequences of the interactions between the European imperial nations and the societies recently colonized by them (between the late 19th and WW2) are complex and processual, with deep historical links between the present and the past.

    • Doug Smith Doug Smith says:

      Right, good point José Antonio. I mean “post colonial” in the partial sense that these innovations have persisted past the colonial administration of the area, and have made up part of the culture that has persisted past that period. But yes, it could also be seen as “colonial” at the time,

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