i hope this email finds you in good health.
I was wondering if you will be running a New Year Retreat this year.
Sevapuri and i would be very interested, i spoke with Gareth today and he would also like to come and I know two other friends who are looking for a NY retreat.
It would be lovely to spend the NY in the company of the quiet.
I have been enjoying your podcasts with Ted Meissner & Ajahn Sujato etc
I have been reading a bit of Glenn Wallis’ material recently, especially from his Speculative Non Buddhism website and I would be interested in your views, especially as he seems to take shots at all forms of Buddhism, secular or traditional. (He’s had some interesting run-ins with Sujato on the latter’s blog.)
(I know you have shown some interest in Glenn Wallis eg you recommend reading his “Buddhist Manifesto” on the Beaches Sangha site.)
My main acquaintance with Glenn Wallis has been using his edited collection of 16 key suttas, ‘Basic teachings of the Buddha’, in sutta study at Bluegum and Beaches sanghas. A post-Buddhist school seems to be emerging at the moment, an alternative to secular Buddhism. The former wants to draw on the Buddha’s tradition without being included in it or beholden to it; the latter seeks to renew the traditiion from the inside. Very roughly, you could place GW in the post-Buddhist camp. He’s interesting because he knows a lot of dharma, but I find his recent writings more whippersnapperish than clear and illuminating.
Ramsey Margolis has posted your essay on Buddhist Sexual Ethics on the NZ Secular site. I really like what you’ve said BUT feel uncomfortable with “Buddhist ethics” because it sounds too much like something one might sign up to.
Do you think that way at all? or are you happy to say Buddhist? I do understand that you are laying out what is in the Suttas and of course one would call those references Buddhist.
To me you still end up sounding too much like there are official ethics that Buddhist ascribe to and i suspect that you don’t mean that at all. I thought i’d ask.
It’s not my intention in writing to change you at all. I think that ‘modern dhamma’ [my preferred term, i tend to reserve 'Buddhism' for those for whom it is their religion] must be individual for genuine ownership, i’m just keen to learn through conversation.
You raising an interesting problem. First, though, one doesn’t ‘sign up to’ anything in the dharma, which has no ‘official’ existence at all, thanks to the Buddha’s wise decision not to appoint a successor (or pass on charismatic authority like the Catholic ‘apostolic succession’) in any way. Rather, it’s a matter of making a personal commitment to the dharma as an ethical system (which it surely is), and honouring one’s own commitment in that spirit. We know who we are by knowing where we stand, as Charlies Taylor puts it.
In my own private working vocabulary, ‘secular dharma’ rules. (Small-d ‘dharma’ is now an ordinary English word according to the major dictionaries of the various renditions of English; so, in the interests of acculturation I go with that, rather than the more exotic and terrorvardinish ‘dhamma’). But the rest of the world seems to want to stick with ‘Buddhism’, including the secular Buddhists I see as ‘my people’, as it were. They have a point, too. There’s no reason for us to concede the Buddha’s entire tradition to the monastic claimants thereto and their followers.
That said, I don’t think it’s a question of secular vs. religious, as you imply in your last paragraph. As Charles Taylor (‘A secular age’), Gianni Vattimo (‘After Christianity’) and your compatriot Lloyd Geering (‘in praise of the secular’) and others show, secularity is in part a product of long-run developments in Christian religious culture, which is why there’s been secular Christianity for the last half-century. Naturally, other influences have kicked in these days too, such as post-metaphysical continental philosophy, which secular Christians consume with as much gusto as we do.