Episode 200 :: Stephen Batchelor :: This Secular Age


Stephen Batchelor

Stephen Batchelor joins us once again to speak about the growing acceptance of a secular approach to Buddhism.

Hi, everyone. Before we get started with today’s episode, I want to remind the listeners that we’ve started a new podcast which may also interest you. It’s called Present Moment: Mindfulness Practice and Science, and appears every other week, alternating with The Secular Buddhist. You’ll find many of the same guests you’ve enjoyed and learned from here, as well as new researchers, teachers, and practitioners. You’ll find Present Moment in the Science & Medicine section of iTunes, in Natural Sciences, or just do an iTunes Store search for Mindfulness, and look in the results in the Podcasts section. You can also visit the website, PresentMomentMindfulness.com. Thanks for checking it out, and if you like what you hear, please feel free to share it with others.

As of this, our 200th episode of the Secular Buddhist, it’s appropriate to look at how far we’ve come just in the past few years as secular Buddhists. There are a dozen websites linked on our own Secular Buddhism.org that are specifically dedicated to Secular Buddhism, across nine countries. We have over 3,500 regular listeners to this podcast, over six thousand people registered to participate on the site, and over eight thousand Likes on FaceBook, with more people joining in the dialogue, even just to listen, every day. Though those numbers may be small in the big picture, when you consider how uncommon even discussing secular Buddhism was just five years ago, and the fact that this is all volunteer and we do no advertising, it’s amazing, and it’s here to stay.

We find ourselves in a unique position in this exploration and public dialogue about our practice, about how we live our lives. There is tremendous opportunity and openness with a secular dhamma, built as it is upon a foundational understanding of the uniqueness of the individual, and how it can impact the world we know. Our returning guest is perhaps the best recognized father of contemporary secular Buddhism.

Stephen Batchelor is a contemporary Buddhist teacher and writer, best known for his secular or agnostic approach to Buddhism. Stephen considers Buddhism to be a constantly evolving culture of awakening rather than a religious system based on immutable dogmas and beliefs. In particular, he regards the doctrines of karma and rebirth to be features of ancient Indian civilisation and not intrinsic to what the Buddha taught. Buddhism has survived for the past 2,500 years because of its capacity to reinvent itself in accord with the needs of the different societies with which it has creatively interacted throughout its history. As Buddhism encounters modernity, it enters a vital new phase of its development. Through his writings, translations and teaching, Stephen engages in a critical exploration of Buddhism’s role in the modern world, which has earned him both condemnation as a heretic and praise as a reformer.

So, sit back, relax, and have a nice Earl Grey.


“From the age of nineteen to twenty-seven, I trained with lamas of the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism who taught me that ultimate truth was an absence of something that had never been there in the first place. I have been guided by this sublimely absurd idea ever since. It has led me away from a religious quest for transcendence and brought me back to this secular world in all its contingency, poignancy and ambiguity.” — Stephen Batchelor


Web Links

Music for This Episode Courtesy of Rodrigo Rodriguez

The music heard in the middle of this podcast is from Rodrigo Rodriguez. You can visit his website to hear more of his music, get the full discography, and view his upcoming tour dates.