The encounter of Buddhism with modernity: clash of titans?

Given the immense popularity of my last post about the debate between Stephen Batchelor and Don Cupitt, I would like to refer readers to another, related debate between Stephen Batchelor and B. Allen Wallace which looks in even more detail at the encounter between traditional Buddhisms and modernity. B. Allen Wallace wrote an article entitled: Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist which Stephen Batchelor replied to with: An Open Letter to B. Allen Wallace. I find this debate equally stimulating and useful, and I think it is a debate which perhaps goes on consciously or subconsciously within a lot of Western Buddhist practitioners as there is bound to be a psychological tension between the kind of secular education most of us have had as we grew up in the modern West and the kind of traditional Asian Buddhisms that we developed a strong connection with. If that tension is acknowledged and consciously worked with, it can no doubt be creative and progressive for one’s practice, but if it is denied or repressed in favour of an uncritical acceptance of traditional doctrinal expressions of Buddhism or, indeed, in favour of outright rejection of traditional Buddhist doctrines as simply superstition and myth, then much of the richness and depth of Buddhism is closed off from one’s Dharma study and practice. The debate is important precisely because it touches on the very real existential dilemmas many of us face when trying in our own very human, very fallible ways to integrate the traditional forms of Buddhism we have learnt to cherish with the realities of the secular, scientific world view we have to work within and accept to a large extent as having a validity and relevance that traditional Buddhisms cannot ignore. Anyway, see what you think!

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One Comment on “The encounter of Buddhism with modernity: clash of titans?”

  1. jesuswedding says:

    Modern American culture is ego based. The free market system is all about how “I” can drive consumers to “My” product so “I” can profit.

    Buddhist philosophy is based on a egoless system that is all about others. Loving Kindness meditation ends with the statement, “May the merit that I have accumulated [by doing meditation practices] be for the benefit of all sentient beings.” This releases the benefit to other and makes practice not about what “I” will get, which is the essence of non-egotistical.

    These are two opposite roads. Both roads are valid.

    When we all understand and honor both Ways, then there will be no need for clashing. It is only when you take sides that war breaks out.

    May all come to know which path will benefit their spiritual growth.


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