Thursday, 22 May 2014

BS:Approaches to Practice: Secular Buddhism? by Chris Ward

Approaches to Practice: Secular Buddhism? 

by Chris Ward 

Published on May 13, 2014
Even a cursory glance at news and internet sources suggests that the world of Buddhism is changing. The traditional Asian Buddhist schools that have been the focus for our practice for the past fifty years or so, now sit alongside very popular new forms such as that characterised as the 'mindfulness movement'.

As someone who has been teaching meditation groups for a long time, I now find that many newcomers have become interested in Buddhism through attending Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses. Mindfulness training also sits within a growing trend towards Secular Buddhist practices.

How should those of us who may have spent many years engaging with traditional Asian Buddhism now view the emerging secular forms? Is this the long prophesied Western Buddhism that many have hoped for or an unwanted watering down of the Dhamma? Should we welcome the fact that mindfulness is now being taught in many secular institutions including UK schools, hospitals and businesses, or be concerned that it is being taught outside of a traditional context? And how should Buddhist institutions respond to these changes?

In this lecture I will outline what is meant by Secular Buddhism, provide evidence for its growing popularity and propose that this is broadly to be welcomed and embraced -- and that many traditional Asian Buddhist schools are doing just this.

Chris Ward is a mindfulness and meditation teacher, blogger and independent Buddhist researcher specialising in modern UK Buddhist history, contemporary secular Buddhist teaching frameworks, and early Pali and Theravada Buddhism. He has led one day and weekend retreats for over fifteen years at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery and taught Buddhist and meditation groups at a range of venues. He has acted as Secretary of the Amaravati Lay Buddhist Association (ALBA) since its inception. He edited the ALBA Community magazine for many years and has published several articles on Buddhism and mindfulness practice.

For several years he was the Buddhist representative on the Hertfordshire Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE).
Chris was Secretary and Trustee of the Network of Buddhist Organisations from 2010 until 2013. He has also played a leading role in several national projects for the Buddhist community most recently including -- 'EarthKind' -- in July 2012 for the Year of Service diamond jubilee project sponsored by the Department of Communities and Local government (DCLG).

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