In an interview for The Mindful Cranks podcast, Winton Higgins discusses different approaches to secular Buddhism, the tendency of Western Buddhists to focus on mindfulness meditation as a form of self-help and self-improvement, and the need for practitioners to become caring dharmic citizens, politically engaged in the struggles to create a just and sustainable society.
The community of practitioners – the sangha – is a crucial aspect of the dharmic path for secular Buddhists. But what do we mean by community? How is a community different than other forms of collective organizations? How do we create a true community of practitioners that help each other develop their practice and contribute to a ‘culture of awakening’?
Commercialised mindfulness meditation is to Buddhist meditation what McDonald’s offerings are to real cooking, the title of Ron Purser’s book infers. But there’s more to that title – it has antecedents, according to Sydney secular Buddhist teacher, Winton Higgins.
According to Winton Higgins, the foundation of Buddhists’ political engagement is the overarching ethical commitment to care, the responsibility to be ‘engaged as a moral agent in what is going on in one’s own life’.
Ramsey Margolis explains how Winton Higgins’ After Buddhism: a workbook, was produced as part of the creation of a new non-profit organisation dedicated to developing a secular dharma: The Tuwhiri Project.
… The consummate guide to Stephen Batchelor’s After Buddhism: Rethinking the dharma for a secular age – use it to run a course or deepen your own understanding.
According to Winton Higgins, ‘We meditate to experience this world and this life as vividly as possible. Intensely. The way we experience it reflects back at us – it tells us who we are and where we’re at in this moment.’
Winton Higgins has written extensively about democratic communities and the development of secular Buddhism. In this article Winton offers some defining characteristics of a democratic sangha.
… Winton Higgins writes ‘When western societies imported various strains of Asian Buddhism from the 1960s on, few converts noticed the organisational culture that came with the imports. Rather like the tarantula that arrives in the crate of imported bananas…’
… Winton Higgins traces the origins of secular Buddhism in interpretations of the Pali canon developed by Harold Musson and Stephen Batchelor.