This blog started back in 2006 when I was touring the UK visiting Buddhist groups on behalf of a Buddhist umbrella group. I met a wide range of interesting people, all of whom were playing some role in Buddhist organisations at that time and many of whom had strong views on Buddhist practice.
Partly as a result of this experience and also from over thirty years of meditation and mindfulness practice, mostly within a Theravada (especially the Forest Sangha) or early Pali Buddhist framework, I have moved from a tentative religious attitude towards Buddhism to one rooted in a Western sceptical secular application of Buddhist teachings. I feel that this respects both my cultural heritage and also Buddhist practice, since it is a full and honest acknowledgement of my particular time and place - my context - and this is where authentic Buddhist practice is founded.
Religious, contemplative and philosophical frameworks are meant to be applied, to be used, not treated as sacred and precious objects to be preserved at all costs.
Because Dhamma transcends culture, it can adapt to most of them, and it can sit very well with our benevolent and accomplished Western societies. Western societies are far from perfect - especially in our rapacious exploitation of the natural world - but compared with many other societies, both current and historical, they are pretty good.
This is an excellent time and place in which to explore our lives and awaken and I am convinced that we have now entered a period of grassroots spiritual exploration beyond the control of the old organised religious institutions - for good and bad - and enabled by digital technology - i-spirituality - as some have called it.
I continue to value insights and teachings from teachers of integrity from all traditions, particularly my home tradition - the Forest Sangha, who offer a very pragmatic and direct teaching - just that my relationship, or centre of gravity, has shifted, especially towards the institutional aspects of the older traditions, which have accumulated cultural baggage and were simply not designed for current global, social, and technological conditions.
I have no doubt that nibbana (nirvana) as described in the Buddhist Pali Canon is a natural potential of our human form and can be experienced today, and I have no doubt that Buddhist frameworks and concepts such as the four noble truths are an invaluable blueprint for anyone intent on awakening. But it is important that we translate Buddhist teachings into a contemporary vernacular that reflects our life context and culture - a culture that values evidence based approaches and egalitarian power structures.
There is so much creative research going on in psychology, neuroscience, contemplative science, mindfulness and related fields, that it would be perverse for this to be ignored by anyone intent on awakening and who wishes to lead a fulfilling, meaningful and decent life.
So I will reflect on what it feels like to me to be swimming in these complex cross-currents of traditional and contemporary (i-) Buddhism, (i-)spirituality and related secular fields and leading a fully engaged life - the full catastrophe.
A good place to be.