Siddhattha Gotama (commonly known as the Buddha) lived in ancient India from 480 to 400 BCE where Brahmanism (the precursor to Hinduism) was the religion of the day. The world view at the time included rebirth, karma, gods, devas, hell and heaven realms and other concepts that are very foreign to modern Westerners. Gotama appeared to assume some of these things, though they played no vital role in his teaching. He’s also likely to have believed the earth was flat.
Gotama, by his own admission, was not omniscient. Rather, he was a brilliant human being who dedicated his brilliance to understanding the human experience, how to relate more peacefully to the inevitable unpleasant bits, how to relieve it of the optional unpleasant bits, and how to experience the incredible peace and happiness that comes when we achieve these things. His ‘awakening’ or ‘enlightenment’ was the pinnacle of his insight. He spent the next 45 years of his life sharing these insights in a way that made sense to the people he spoke to (he lived until 80 years of age!).
Fast forward 2500 years to modern day Australia and our world view and way of knowing is vastly different. The modern inquiring mind requires evidence and rationality before accepting ideas, and looks for practical application and accessibility. It also expects democratic, egalitarian and inclusive (versus authoritarian, hierarchical and patriarchal) ways of associating with each other. These values are entirely in keeping with Gotama’s teachings and a questioning mind is in fact an asset to their exploration.
Secular Buddhism is a relatively new movement that aims to respond to Gotama’s instruction to share the teachings in a way that makes sense in our time and place. In this way it lets go of the ancient Indian religious world view and looks to explain and apply the teachings in a way that is relevant here and now. To ensure we are being true to Gotama’s teachings as we do this we emphasise studying the original version of them – the Pali canon.
To further this aim this web site plans to provide:
- a number of core suttas from the Pali Canon (chats Gotama had) along with secular commentaries that help us understand the core teachings within a modern world view (see Sutta Central)
- an annotated bibliography to help guide people with a secular outlook through some well known &/or valuable Buddhist books (see Resources for the Mind)
- a guide to some relevant resources from the Western arts to help us feel and experience the dharma (Resources for the Heart)
- links to our sibling sites in other countries and updates on any Secular Buddhist events (on the Blog page)
If you would like to be connected with these developments as they occur you can become a member of this site by entering your name and email address on the top right hand side of the Blog page or by clicking ‘subscribe’ on the menu at the top of this page. In the meantime, feel free to join in the conversations on our forum, suggest some of your favourite ‘Resources for the Heart’, start acquainting yourself with the most original version of Gotama’s teachings available (from the Pali canon) at Sutta Central, or visit the list of relevant web sites and blogs as we add them to our Blog page.
For an interview with the founder of Secular Buddhism Australia, click here.