There’s a popular “debate” in and out of Buddhist circles regarding “Secular Buddhism” and the “Scientism” application to what they term “Scientific Buddhism” (Which if you don’t know, is NOT about or debating the usefulness or value of Science, but more to do with the rejection of anything that cannot be Empirically calculated and measured. I’m a trained Scientist (Human Physiologist/Biologist) and a trained Teacher and Practitioner of the Buddha-Dharma, and have direct, experiential wisdom and the “arising of Insight,” along with a lot of experience with the exalted states of consciousness, where the Empirical, Objective measurement is obsolete. But this is NOT what the Buddha taught, it’s missing the whole point: The Teaching of Awakening, or the Goal of Buddhism: is Bodhi, or in its simplest form: You can’t be a Buddhist if your main goal is anything but Becoming a Buddha
The Rev Danny Fisher just posted a blog about this topic, as did About.Buddhism, and my replies to those gave rise to this blog posting, and my own take on why Secular and Scientism approaches to what they call Buddhism is a misuse of the term Buddhism.
The idea or inception of being a Buddhist (What makes a Buddhist a Buddhist & the Philosophy or Religion Debate) without the understanding of what and why the Buddha taught and shared his experience, and the directions on how to experience Bodhi, or Awakening to become a Buddha, using the Dharma or Dhamma (Sanskrit and Pali terms for the same thing, but that’s another topic for another day, with far more intensity to the debate,) along with the Sangha, or Community is the epitome and whole point of what the Buddha taught, AKA the Dharma, or Dhamma. Any approach that doesn’t have the same “End Game” or fundamental goal of becoming a Buddha is inconsistent, or going against what the Buddha taught, and is considered a “Wrong-View” from the perspective of what the Buddha teaches: the Path to Bodhi. Thus, regardless of what or whomever chooses to name something; calling it anything, or any type of “_____Buddhism” that discounts Buddhism’s intended use as a tool designed for the specified purpose of producing the intended result; Bodhi, is a “bastardization” or misuse of its true meaning and purpose.
Actually, the term “Buddhism” itself can be traced back to the origin of the current use (and misuse) of the term Buddhism, which is Westernized terminology, in itself, which only came into existence in the late 19th, early 20th century, by Western Scholars and some of the earliest practitioners who were limited (thus the beginning a “vicious cycle”) by these primarily Academics’ rather poor, misleading translations which were made even worse with their additional commentary (commentary and translations made without the necessary “Experiential Insight” attained by accurately practicing the Dharma) primarily due, not to malice, but ignorance on the basis of an ethnocentric, Western, Judeo-Christian Paradigm, and attempts to make an Academic Study of what is clearly presented by the Buddha as a pragmatic method to applied and adhered to, very analogous to a “map” or “Instruction Manual” for those to follow with Body, Speech and Heart/Mind with the intended goal being Awakening/Bodhi and “extinguishing of the causation of suffering” (Nirvana/Nibbana) or, otherwise put: the attainment of a specific result through specific Actions, or “Way of Life,” not abstract, or purely intellectual contemplation or debate.
There are useful tools that can and are extracted or extricated from the Buddha-Dharma that I am all for their application for other intended results, such as meditation for happiness, ethical, wisdom, clarity, All Types of Health, or specifically, “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based Pain Reduction,” of which I teach, but do so as an MBSR Facilitator, not a Dharma Teacher, which is my true vocation. I Teach Meditation to those that want the benefits of meditation, but are not interested in following the Path of the Buddha’s Teaching (With its aforementioned inherent goal. But again, I do that because I think everyone benefits from Meditation, clearly separate from teaching Buddhism, or The Buddha-Dharma, as is more accurate
So, it’s my approach, understanding and belief that ignorance (in the literal meaning, not insulting or insinuating any malice) of what it means to be a Buddhist, and its terminology, and the inherent vagueness of semantics that are at the core, or the origination of these debates, or more accurately, misunderstandings.
Lastly, as a trained Biologist, and a trained Dharma Teacher, I see the Dharma as quite Scientific in nature and methodology (although our current limitations do not allow us to adhere the Dharma to the strictest “Scientific Method” (which also applies to the “soft Sciences” such as Psychology and Sociology.)
It doesn’t reject any Scientific Findings, in fact, it’s designed in a very Scientific manner, which is why it appeals to so many logically-minded individuals. It starts with a Hypothesis to be tested and repeated under specific conditions, as many others have also skillfully presented, staring with Shakyamuni Buddha, that the Buddha-Dharma is scientific by its very nature.
The “Medical Analogy” used to describe,or as an analogy of the Four Noble Truths fits very well: 1st)Diagnosis, 2nd)Etiology, 3rd)Prognosis, and 4th)The Treatment Plan is one example, and the **Kalima Sutta (See Foot Note)** is another example, from the Pali Canon, where the Buddha expounds on the necessity to not make assumptions, rejects any notion of a “Blind Faith” nor to take on the basis of another’s word, but to test for oneself the Dhamma, and if followed properly, the specific, desired results will occur and continue to occur upon the retesting of the hypothesis.
** Anguttara Nikaya, Tika Nipata, Mahavagga, Sutta No. 65 AKA Kalama Sutta: The Instruction to the Kalamas
“The criterion for acceptance”(Section 10)
“Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, ‘The monk is our teacher.’ Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,’ enter on and abide in them.”
- Dissolution of Self, of Ego: More Common Than You Think (buddhistinsight.com)
- Spontaneous Awakening is Natural, NOT a Concept (buddhistinsight.com)
- Can We “Choose” to Be Happy? No – and Yes! (mettarefuge.wordpress.com)
- Foundations of Buddhism – some notes (buddhismnow.com)
- Advice to Tibetan and Western Teachers at Dharma Centers (BerzinArchives.com)