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.
So folks, the Imperfect Buddha Podcast has a new home, at least the audio does. We’re leaving Soundcloud, heading off to new pastures, crossing the pond. The new home will be at the New Books Network. Episodes will continue to be posted here at the site too.
It’s currently the home for intelligent conversations intended to raise the level of public discourse and provide something along the lines of public education for thinking adults. So, if you wish to carry on listening to this lovely little pod, go and subscribe over at the site, and take a look around at their other offerings.
Our plan is to fire up the old podcast and bring you regular conversations and think pieces with a curvature towards the practising life and the application of the ideas and possibilities we have explored and will continue exploring.
Our next episodes over there will feature two interviews with folks from the world of Secular Buddhism; Winton Higgins and Stephen Batchelor, and two think pieces; the first Practice Item and the second, which is on practising with doubt. There may even be a third.
The podcast continues to be sponsored by O’Connell Coaching. Get in touch if you’re interested in engaging with the topics this podcast has explored and their impact on the practising life. Or perhaps you simply wish to start up a practice without the need to give up your critical faculties.
“It’s all imaginary anyway. That’s why it’s important. People only fight over imaginary things.” Mr Nancy (American Gods, by Neil Gaiman)
There’s a certain sense of absurdity in writing these posts. I can’t explain it yet, but I’m sure it’ll make sense as the process goes on. The premise is that each piece be an invitation to visit the Great Feast & that each be rooted in the world of practice. Don’t expect detailed, philosophical exposition of what are complex themes. You must head further into the Great Feast yourself and follow your curiosity for that.
This is the first practice item. Each of which is simultaneously complex and simple. Part of navigating them well involves managing this seeming duality and noticing how one or the other can be more prominent as we develop a relationship with it as a practice space; a practice space that is experiential, and rooted in quality thought, individual and social, current and historical. Remaining sensitive to how the prioritisation of one, or the refusal of the other, can be a practice of control and resistance is also worth reflecting on. And this serves as a nice take on an enduring feature of the practicing life: always take opposites as relational working pairs that should open to other possibilities. Take their formulations, friction, symbolic role, and absurdity, as part of the practice material that is not a problem to be solved, but rather a landscape to be explored. Please remember this whilst reading on for I am not in the role of truth teller or guru.
Finally, this piece is pretty long. It’s difficult to elaborate on a complex issue without saying quite a lot about it and even so I have been brief throughout on points that would warrant many more words. I have divided the text into sections and if you like the work here at the blog, you may find it easier to read it in stages. That said, the whole is more than the sum of its parts and reading it as such will likely prove more fruitful.
The choice is yours.
Item 01: No transcendence – banished to the earthly plane
“Have you thought about what it means to be a god? … It means you give up your mortal existence to become a meme: something that lives forever in people’s minds, like the tune of a nursery rhyme. It means that everyone gets to re-create you in their own minds. You barely have your own identity any more. Instead, you’re a thousand aspects of what people need you to be. And everyone wants something different from you. Nothing is fixed, nothing is stable.”Jesus (American Gods, by Neil Gaiman)
From immanent Buddhism to cruel optimism, from secular subjectivity to the unconscious material running through your personal practice, today’s episode features a returning guest in the figure of Richard K. Payne who is here to discuss his latest work and the contributions made by many great authors thinking deeply and critically about contemporary Buddhism.
Published by Shambhala Publications, Secularizing Buddhism was released on the 3rd August, so if you like what you hear, why not consider getting a copy. It features contributions from Ron Purser, David L. McMahan, Bikkhu Bodhi, Sara Shaw, Gil Fronsdal and many more.