83. Stephen Batchelor on Secularizing Buddhism

Today I speak to Stephen Batchelor, figurehead for Secular Buddhism, well known author, and Scot. I present the lovely man some of the critique aimed at his work in the book Secularizing Buddhism, and from my previous interview with Richard K. Payne. We also discuss some of his intellectual influences, touch on phenomenology, Gianni Vattimo, and whether Stephen is fixated on the past in his relationship with early Buddhism. Stephen was game throughout for what turned out to be a constructive and illuminating conversation.

Next up will be one of Stephen’s collaborators and philosophically informed secular Buddhist teachers, Winton Higgins, all the way from Australia.

Matthew O’Connell is a life coach and the host of the The Imperfect Buddha podcast. You can find The Imperfect Buddha on Facebook and Twitter (@imperfectbuddha).



  1. I enjoyed this conversation. Thank you, Matthew and Stephen. As someone also positioned outside of both institutionalized Buddhism and academic Buddhist studies, I felt a certain kinship with him as he spoke about his relationship to these communities. The critical spirit of the Kalama Sutta and Stephen’s Tibetan teacher aside, it is understandable that traditional Buddhists ignore his (an my) work since their real interests lie in advancing their particular doctrine. It is also understandable–if less forgivable–that academics by turns ignore and misrepresent such “outsider” work. Why? It is understandable because the fact is, as Stephen said, Buddhist/religious studies academics as as beholden as traditional Buddhists to tradition, norms, values, methods, a snobbish myopia, etc., all of which allows only a very partial and prejudiced view. So, power to Stephen! This article, “The Marginal Figure: Communities, Conflict, and Change,” by Davood Gozli and Peter Limberg, might be of interest to listeners of this conversation. https://thestoa.medium.com/the-marginal-figure-communities-conflict-and-change-630b464d3fa1


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