Secular Buddhism discussion – live streaming

The secular Buddhism discussion this evening at the Buddhist Library will be live-streamed at Dhammanet. Thanks to Damith for making this happen! Hope to see you all there.


22 thoughts on “Secular Buddhism discussion – live streaming

  1. Dear Bhante Sujato,

    I wasn’t able to figure out where or how to see the live stream, so I listened instead to your talk on dependent origination and origin myths. Very interesting take on the Buddha’s teaching!

    I’m not sure you were entirely fair to The Lord when you called him a mediocre psychologist for pointing out a single fruit in the Garden and telling Adam and Eve – wink, wink – that they were forbidden to eat it. I’ve always thought of that part of the story as an explanation for the origin of free will.

    • But if he had read any stories about what happens when you forbid anything, he would have been able to predict the outcome…

    • The Lord is believed to be eternal. Therefore, according to Judeo-Christian beliefs, he didn’t have to predict it. He could see it, more or less in the same way that you or I see what’s happening in front of us in any given present moment.

      The point is that he had to create at least one rule to give them a choice to be tossed out. Otherwise, there’s no free will.

    • Or at least the possibility for disobedience! The Lord didn’t want us to be slaves stuck in his presence. So he didn’t screw up the good thing. We did!

      Plato’s Timaeus argues that the creator was eternal and that he created time as a copy of eternity. Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy near the end tries to explain this distinction between the eternal (divine perspective) and the temporal (human perspective).

      The Buddha taught that “eternal” and “temporal” are just concepts that humans thought up and that neither of them really reflects reality, right?

  2. I believe the discussion has not taken place yet — it is on the 14th at 7pm and where I am it is still the 13th — so they are probably preparing for the talk but haven’t held it yet. I was not able to determine from looking at the Dhammanet set how or where on the site we would be able to go to watch, either.

    • Yes, you’re right it will be this evening. Damith is sorting out details, it should be go for tonight. It’s 7pm Australian EST.

  3. There is now a link to the live stream at Dhammanet. But it says that the time will be 7pm Australia EST. what is Australia EST? None of the time converters I’ve found on the Google have an Australia EST.

    • Sadhu for getting up before 5am!
      Sorry I missed it!
      Hope we will be able to access it n the archives.

  4. Dr. Higgins also did a great job presenting clearly some of the core philosophical positions of Secular Buddhism. My thanks to both of you!

  5. Ven. Sujato: Thank you for the discussion you and Dr. Higgins had. I suspect I missed a few of the last points, especially during the Q&A — by 6 a.m. Texas time I had grown too sleepy to track, I’m afraid.

    But I did want to say how heartily I second what you said about the ending of “greed, hatred, and delusion” (or whatever 3 words you did use to translate the Pali) as nibbana, and that from what you see in your practice you can see no reason why it should be impossible for humans to do this. I liken it to quitting smoking: see the habit for what it is; recognize the ways it causes damage; then reduce the addiction to nicotine a little bit at a time, eventually we succeed in quitting. Why does the Buddhist equivalent need to be made out to be something just impossible for a human to achieve? (Well, it might have something to do with the way different people perceive that word y’all discussed: transcendence. But that’s a thought for another day.)

    As far as the stories of Mara are concerned, I was interested in your take which I would summarize (and please correct me if I’m wrong) as “stories are just stories, most interesting because they tell us a lot about what sorts of stories people told then” — as compared to Dr. Higgins take that the stories of Mara’s encounters with the Buddha later in life spoke to enlightenment *not* being a permanent state.

    I take the middle way here ; ) that stories are rarely “just stories” but are meant to convey information — usually “a lesson” — using a method that isn’t as direct-as-direct as logical allows — a narrative form of “show, don’t tell” to get a point across. It seems unlikely that the Buddha would ‘just tell stories’ with no point whatsoever, doesn’t it? I see the Buddha’s later encounters with Mara as expressing a point he makes in another way — when he talks about the five aggregates “of clinging” as opposed to just the plain old “five aggregates”. He seems to be saying that when one is enlightened, stuff still arises that we *might* cling to, but we don’t — that’s the whole difference. We see that pack of cigarettes, or smell tobacco smoke as it drifts by and think, “Mmmm, I used to enjoy a smoke” but we let the idea of following up on the thought blow away on the wind.

    So the Buddha would remain mindful throughout his life, keep on watching those sense doors, and when he hears mutterings around him, “The Awakened One is getting old and stiff, perhaps he should retire” he might well think… “Ah, retirement… how fine would it be to just sit and abide in equanimity for the rest of my time, apart from all these noisy young ones” but it would just be a passing thought, not something he needed to follow through on. Mara is called in to show us that, yes, these thoughts still do occur, but we recognize them as the Buddha recognized Mara, we know them for what they are, so they don’t really affect us.

    It seems to me this is the middle ground between “The Buddha was fully enlightened” and “Enlightenment as a permanent state is not possible.” Yes, the Buddha was fully enlightened, but that doesn’t mean he never had another thought that would, in someone else, be a part of greed, hatred, or delusion. We are humans: thoughts continue to arise; what’s important is recognizing them for what they are, for the part they can play, so we will not be deceived by that Great Deceiver.

    • Hi Star,

      Thanks for this. Just to clarify, in emphasizing that stories are stories I am not meaning to diminish them in any way: on the contrary, I believe that appreciating such things as stories opens up a far richer well of meaning. I was trying to make the point that we can’t infer from a story to what ‘actually happened’ in any literal or straightforward way. Batchelor’s argument about Mara and the Buddha essentially replaces a literal external interpretation (these tell about an actual encounter between the Buddha and a spirit called Mara) with a literal internal interpretation (they tell of the Buddha’s psychological struggle). My point was that you can’t make any such literal conclusions from the stories.

    • Actually, after Bhante made this point, Dr. Higgins mentioned a work of fiction (too quickly for me to note the title well enough for me to remember it) in order to make a point about how it revealed something that struck him as true or meaningful. I thought that Dr. Higgins unintentionally helped reinforce Bhante’s earlier point about how he interprets aspects of the stories about the Buddha.

  6. I want to thank those who made this recording.

    For those interested (& in case you didn’t know) – the audio is now available on Dhammanet.

    Excellent exchange between Bhante & Winton – fortunately two articulate people who really helped clarify their positions.

    Thanks again


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