Posts by Michael Slott

Secular Buddhism and the Real Reasons to Meditate

In the most recent issue of Lions Roar magazine (July 2018), Buddhist teachers representing Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajryana lineages discussed the “real” reasons to meditate. While the responses were insightful and reflected the full range of beliefs among Buddhist lineages, there is a glaring omission: no one presents a secular Buddhist view of the real…

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Three Paths for Secular Buddhists

Introduction As secular Buddhism has become an increasingly prominent trend in the U.S., it’s a good time to reflect on the diverse paths being taken by those of us who identify as secular Buddhists.  While these paths are not mutually exclusive and thus practitioners may be involved, to some extent, in all of them, they…

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Three Marks of Existence, or Three Factors of Human Experience?

Along with the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, one of the core beliefs of Buddhists is the notion that there are three basic characteristics or “marks” of existence – dukkha (suffering), anicca (impermanence), and anatta (not-self). In the Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta and other discourses the Buddha avoided entering into a debate over many…

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Strong Views and Skillful Action

Western Buddhists tend to be wary of strongly-held views. Holding and asserting views with strong emotion or passion is often seen as a form of unskillful clinging, based on an egoic need to be recognized as right, a competitive struggle over who has the best views, or an aversion to another person’s ideas. Strong views…

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Can You Be a Conservative and a Buddhist?

This question was recently answered in the affirmative by Christopher Ford, who argued in Elephant in the Meditation Room (October 14, 2016) that it’s possible to be both politically conservative and a Buddhist.  More, he thinks it’s crucial that Buddhism in the U.S. has a greater diversity of opinion among its adherents, for “a bigger…

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Taking a Second Look at Radical Dharma Through the Lens of Social Class

Mark Knickelbine’s positive appraisal of the recently-published book, Radical Dharma: Talking, Race, Love and Liberation, highlights the authors’ emotional honesty and integrity in navigating the relationship between Buddhism and radical activism in the context of pervasive systems of oppression which mark American society.  I had a similarly positive reaction to that aspect of the book,…

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Meditating With and For Each Other

While meditation retreats have always been challenging, rewarding, and in some ways, deeply moving experiences for me, I believe that they don’t sufficiently foster two key aspects of our practice: our ethical, socially-conscious engagement in the world and our active participation in sanghas. In a previous blog post I raised concerns about the negative effect…

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Meditating Without Nirvana

Introduction A specter is haunting secular Buddhism;[1] it is the ghostly remnant of the non-naturalistic, supra-mundane dimension of traditional Buddhism. While we, as secular Buddhists, embrace the core insights of the Buddha about our human- existential condition, we need to usher this specter – the notion of nirvana – politely but firmly away from our…

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Reflections on the Second Noble Truth: It’s More Than Craving

Buddhists (secular and non-secular alike) have it right: suffering is caused by craving. But that’s not the end of the story. While the Buddha’s views on suffering provide us with essential insights about how and why we suffer, we need to broaden our view of suffering beyond the explanation offered by mainstream Western Buddhists.  Introduction…

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Should Secular Buddhists be Engaged Buddhists, Too?

The SBA website has been an invaluable forum for discussion and dialogue about what secular Buddhism is and should be. What is the difference between secular Buddhism and more traditional forms of Buddhism? Which aspects of Buddhist theory, belief, and practice are consistent with secular forms of Buddhism and which are not? What distinctive role…

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