Hey All - I don't know if this is bad form or not, but I just wanted to share a recent blog post of mine, "Buddhism Demystified," for my unique, admittedly amatuer take on a naturalistic outlook on Buddhism.
Thanks John - good post! I look forward to reading all of your blog - I just added it to my favorites.
My wife is a Buddhist, and I have pretty much reconciled my beliefs to hers by looking at Buddhism much as you have. She tends to take the things they talk about in her group a bit more spiritually, but I always translate them into a natural view like yours.
I love the basic concepts of Buddhism. It really helps me keep things in perspective. Be compassionate - can't argue with that! Be aware of your awareness, and that the thoughts that pop up in your head are not the real you; you are the consciousness behind the thoughts - can't argue with that either. Just keeping this awareness in the back of my mind all the time makes life easier. It evens things out - less stress - more relaxed - happier.
My wife belongs to a group that follows and supports Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. I loved reading his book "The Joy of Living" and attending one of his talks when he visited Portland. To hear him talk I almost think he might be more of a "naturalist Buddhist" himself. Even if he's not, it would be a shame to "throw the baby out with the bathwater" -- at least 90% of what he says would still be true and very meaningful and useful to any naturalist/atheist person.
That's been my experience, as well, Tom. I listen to the Zencast and Audio Dharma podcasts weekly, and I find they're largely the same. My knowledge of Buddhism has come primarily from the Thich Nat Hahn school of thought--also called the Thai Forest tradition. I don't know if his tradition is inherently naturalistic, but it certainly is in practice.
If you guys liked that post, you should check out the rest of my posts in the series and my archive posts on interconnectedness and No Self. There aren't that many; I've been doin this for a year but I've only just now started posting more than once a month! >. But if you really want to learn about atheism and Buddhism, you've gotta check out this series of lectures I just found on the Progressive Buddhism blog:
The post on your blog is what I've been saying for many months now. It is great to see this view is not something only I have seen. I thought that I was all alone for a while in the way that I viewed these things. Thank you for taking the time to write that down for us to read.
Well, to be fair, I was offering my naturalistic take on the terminology and concepts. Some of them, like enlightenment, I do feel have been misinterpreted by the West. But some of them, like the concept of rebirth, certainly was a supernatural concept to the early Buddhists, and even the Buddha himself, if he existed.
And you're right, you certainly could do it with Christianity; the people who wrote the early books of the Bible did not have a dualistic world view. Spirit really did mean breath, and the afterlife took place in a physical place underground or on the other side of the dome of the sky... Of course, I'd have to ask, why would you? Christianity and Judaism, to my eyes, don't offer anything if you take away the supernatural. Buddhism, on the other hand, I feel is a very valuable practice; one that loses nothing when you de-mystify it.
I've glanced at Buddhism from time to time but always felt overwhelmed with much of the terminology and the majority of the materials I have seen feel more religious than what I guess you would call natural Buddhism. (I have a strong distaste and distrust of religious doctrines) So whenever I begin looking into Buddhism it feels like I'm walking into a bog. Any suggestions in reading materials. I don't know if I'd ever call myself a Buddhist but there has been a few bits that I have managed to find that were beneficial. I certainly would like to look into it a bit more.