Secular Dharma: An Extended Programme of Study, Practice and Community (2020-22)
with Martine and Stephen Batchelor
This course takes a secular rather than a religious approach to the teachings of the Buddha. We will emphasize the humanity of Gotama and the practical applications of his teaching in this world, and encourage each student to find his or her own way of practice within the secular/religious spectrum of their own lives.
At the conclusion of his first discourse in the Deer Park at Sarnath, the Buddha presented his awakening as the result of having mastered four tasks: embracing suffering, letting go of reactivity, beholding the cessation of reactivity and cultivating the middle way of the eightfold path. This pragmatic, ethical and therapeutic approach to the Dharma will serve as the framework for four residential study-modules, a meditation retreat, and online group meetings.
The purpose of the course is to enable students to recover and integrate the values, philosophy and ethics of the dharma into their lives so that they become more autonomous in their understanding and practice. To this end we encourage an on-going practice that interweaves the elements of the eightfold path into the fabric of one’s daily life as a means of flourishing fully as persons and communities in this world. The course seeks to create a peer-learning environment that will balance critical enquiry, open-minded discussion, contemplative reflection and practical application of what is taught.
The meditation practice taught during this course will primarily be that of the four foundations of mindfulness (satipatthana). Other practices such as the sacred abidings (brahmavihara), collectedness (samadhi) and questioning (hwadu) will likewise be introduced.
In addition to the residential study modules and meditation retreat, students are also encouraged to form discussion groups among themselves that meet regularly via Skype. Group tutorials will also be held each month with one of the teachers. A workbook will be provided of primary Buddhist texts, reading lists and other study aids. An Internet forum is available for sharing materials among the student and teacher body. The teachers will offer a monthly ‘homework’ of readings, questions and exercises.
The four study modules will take place at the Kairos Centre in London, England. The theme of each module is based on one of the four great tasks. Each element of the eightfold path will be explored in detail as we proceed through the course. The retreat will be held at Sharpham House in Devon, England. It will focus on radical questioning, based on the practice Korean Son (Zen) Buddhism.
• Suffering: Vision and Intention. November 10-15, 2020.
• Reactivity: Mindful Awareness and Effort. February 2-7, 2021.
• Radical Questioning Retreat: July 13-18, 2021
• Freedom: Unification of Mind. November 2-7, 2021.
• The Path: Speech, Action and Livelihood. February 8-13, 2022.
This 15 month course is open to students with a grounding either in Buddhism or secular mindfulness, who are seeking a contemporary form, language and community for their practice. We aim to recruit a student body with a balance in age and gender, representing a diversity of social, religious and ethnic backgrounds.
Thirty places are available. Upon being accepted for the course, you must be committed to attend all the modules and retreats. The cost for the course includes a fee for the teachers. No additional dana (donation) for the teaching is expected. A limited number of bursaries are available.
The teachers are internationally known scholars and practitioners of Buddhism. They each bring their own distinctive understanding of how the Dharma has become an integral part of their lives in the context of today’s world. The content and style of their teaching will draw on the different sources that have influenced their own practice.
MARTINE BATCHELOR trained in South Korea as a Sŏn nun under the guidance of Kusan Sunim from 1975-84. Today her interests range from how meditation can be integrated into daily life to how Buddhism can engage with issues of social inequality, particularly those involving diversity and women’s issues. Her emphasis in teaching is, above all, practical: whether in psychology, ethics or meditation she is concerned to present what will make an actual difference in the quality of one’s life. She recently co-facilitated a three-year research project at Inserm, Caen, France, that studied the effects of meditation practice on the process of aging. She has written articles on topics as diverse as the Korean way of tea, Buddhism and women, Buddhism and ecology, and Zen cooking. She is the author of Meditation for Life, The Path of Compassion, Women in Korean Zen, Let Go, and The Spirit of the Buddha. Her most recent book (co-authored with Stephen) is What is This? Ancient Questions for Modern Minds. She teaches meditation worldwide and lives in south-west France. (www.martinebatchelor.org)
STEPHEN BATCHELOR has been practicing Buddhism since 1972. Throughout this time he has been concerned to find ways of articulating the Dharma in a language that speaks to the conditions of modernity. This has led him to dispense with elements of Buddhist doctrine that he considers artifacts of ancient Indian culture with limited relevance to the world we inhabit today. In recent years his approach has become increasingly pragmatic: he is concerned primarily with whether a teaching works rather than whether it is true. He encourages a secular approach to Buddhism that challenges religious dogma and the unquestioned authority of priests. He envisions a Dharma that values equality, critical reflection and personal and communal transformation. As well as being a scholar, translator and writer, he works as a photographer and collagist. The integration of the imagination and the creative arts into Dharma practice is of particular importance to him. A co-founder of Bodhi College, he is the author of Buddhism without Beliefs, Living with the Devil, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, After Buddhism, and Secular Buddhism. His most recent book is The Art of Solitude. (www.stephenbatchelor.org)