A genuinely progressive Buddhism?

Why not create a progressive Buddhism that recognises the needs of the four-fold assembly and encourages open inquiry. A Buddhism that is fully-responsive to the need for change - socially, culturally and, environmentally?

The Buddha gave us some wise guidelines on what kinds of practices we should make much of and, what practices we should not undertake - or discontinue - if they serve no useful purpose. To ignore this wise advice would be to ignore the Buddha - which cannot be Buddhism? Some forms of practice may have served a useful purpose in a particular set of circumstances - in a bygone era - but we need to mindful of ‘anicca’ (impermanence) in order to wake up. We need liberating insight to realise the Dhamma. We cannot afford to ignore that which is apparent ‘here and now’.

Some practices may have been required to appease the patriarchal requirements at a time when it was the only show in town? Fortunately, the bad-old-days are over and, there is no physical threat to our wellbeing if we act in a way that is more compassionate and fair? If we miss this opportunity it may go-begging because we did not take responsibility and do something ‘meaningful’ about it ‘yesterday’? Never mind, we still have today but tomorrow may be to late? We may end up postponing it indefinitely because of the false-view that human rights are not relevant - or optional - when it comes to waking up.

If anyone would like to share reasons why discriminatory practices - in Buddhism - are ‘beneficial’ then lets hear them? We can pay close attention and notice if there is a problem with these views - do they actually make sense? If anybody would like to list the benefits accrued to monastics, the four-fold assembly or, to humanity as a whole, as a consequence of endlessly delayed change then, feel free to share your insights?

Lets be open-minded and inclusive and share the variety of perspectives found in ‘this’ community. Sharing openly, freely and, respectfully should be encouraged - IMO.

If no one can come up with reasons that demonstrate how these practices are beneficial then we are compelled by the Buddha’s teachings to discontinue them - post-haste? We don’t want to be perpetuating practices that are not beneficial in our lives. We don’t live that long! Furthermore, we don’t want to be foisting them on newcomers who are yet to arrive on the scene - who seek beneficial practices for their liberation.

We don’t want to mislead people and claim that Buddhism is not a belief system that involves conformity to archaic and atavistic forms of behaviour when in fact, it is - that would be breaking the precept about false speech - an essential one in Buddhist teachings?

"The Buddha proceeds to list the criteria by which any sensible person can decide which teachings to accept as true. Do not blindly believe religious teachings, he tells the Kalamas, just because they are claimed to be true, or even through the application of various methods or techniques. Direct knowledge grounded in one’s own experience can be called upon. He advises that the words of the wise should be heeded and taken into account. He proposes not a passive acceptance but, rather, constant questioning and personal testing to identify those truths which verifiably reduce one’s own stress or misery (Pali: dukkha).

The Kalama Sutta states (Pali expression in parentheses):

Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing (anussava),
nor upon tradition (paramparā),
nor upon rumor (itikirā),
nor upon what is in a scripture (piṭaka-sampadāna)
nor upon surmise (takka-hetu),
nor upon an axiom (naya-hetu),
nor upon specious reasoning (ākāra-parivitakka),
nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over (diṭṭhi-nijjhān-akkh-antiyā),
nor upon another’s seeming ability (bhabba-rūpatāya),
nor upon the consideration, The monk is our teacher (samaṇo no garū)
Kalamas, when you yourselves know: “These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,” enter on and abide in them.’" - Wikipedia

If any mitta - who has read the above - can ‘kindly’ point out to me the mistake - the error - in what has been said, I would be very grateful as then I would understand why nobody wants to make a decisive change and get rid of discriminatory rules and practices (major and minor and, forms of etiquette). What are we waiting for? The mainstream orthodoxy already disapproves of our progressive views so - what’s new? Why not go the distance? Why should we be in the habit of appeasing people who find common-sense troubling? Thank them for their gifts - their antiquated views and opinions - and kindly let them know they are welcome to keep them!

Practical and ‘simple’ non-scary steps to do something about this were explored in the meddling-monastics thread. May I ask: are you all waiting for someone else to sort this out - somewhere, somehow (its someone else’s problem) - or, are some of you willing to tinker around the edges in the hope that it will all work out in the end - accidentally or, through divine intervention or, through magic - perhaps?

Is anyone to busy sitting quietly somewhere or, being mindful in the other postures to do anything else? Are you all to busy in the pursuit of nothing-ness, with daily duties and needs or, comforting distractions? Is anyone - reading this - waiting for an ‘authority figure’ to give their approval - so you feel comfortable to move this way or that - according to instructions? Do any of you listen to the still-small-voice within - if so, when?

Perhaps we need a celebrity endorsement? A… B… endorses this message - and, I don’t mean ‘Andrew Bolt’. Just joking! Our A.B. would probably write: Andrew Bolt endorses this message?

Its interesting how Buddhists are interested in speaking truthfully, overcoming delusions and, understanding things clearly as their core-values and aspirations. So, if we have the impression that something is impossible - we believe it is - when in fact it is possible or, we believe that an issue is the concern of a particular in-group when its repercussions are far broader or, nothing substantive should be done to change a discriminatory dynamic or, it should be postponed to an unknown point in time, when in fact, there is no need to postpone meaningful change and, plenty can be done about things that really matter then, what has this got to do with truthfulness, being free from delusional thinking and, seeing things clearly?

Another astonishing belief is that people are powerless and unable to make much of a difference when the opposite is true - if they see what’s involved and act on what they see. Another astonishing belief is the world is some kind of bad-dream that we just need to wake-up from and then all our problems will be solved. Where is the clarity and the commitment to truth with regard to these commonplace Buddhist beliefs?

We better not forget the ‘baby-mind theory’ that we all need to be like children and not be concerned about the world we live in because that would involve some kind of distraction from what really matters. We are the pure-awareness and not the silly thoughts that say things like, you need to have a clear sense of what kind of future you want to contribute to or, you need to be helpful or take some responsibility etc. The Buddha - awakened beings - are like happy-go-lucky kids in the playground of life. We just need to be the one-mind behind it all and go with the flow and everything will fall into place because we are in tune with the void - or such-like. Sweet isn’t it?

I know that I have simplified the views I have encountered on this site - sometimes they are qualified and sometimes not. Have I misunderstood Buddhism - its beliefs and practices - as found here?

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Discriminatory practice happens in a community (monastics, country, etc.), not in Buddhism. It is the nature of human - most people are obsessed with greed, hatred, and lack wisdom.

Anyway if you want to create a social change why not start from a sociology theory. Buddhism is not a tool to fix the community, it is a tool to fix ourselves.

Pointing that something is goor or bad does not mean people will actually follow it. First you need a goal, then you need a strategy. This strategy is best brought by a community leader.


Could you please be a bit more specific about what you think could be progressive Buddhism? The organizational structure, goals, ideals, social functions of the reformed Buddhism, relationship with the traditional Buddhism, what sorts of behaviour the reformed Buddhism will consider archaic, etc.

I also think that using the term ‘progressive’ is a bit unfortunate since it automatically brands all people who don’t agree with some or most of its ideas as regressive, something that has proven to have polarizing effects in the politics. Besides, progressive refers to social progress and not progress on the Buddhist past, so it could be useful terminolgically to keep these two things apart.


These views and your advice has already been explored in the previous (related) threads. People can network easily these days if they have a common interest that they wish to pursue. I am just exploring the theme a little further to see why it is that there is the high degree of inertia that seems to exist and whether anything can be done about it.

First there will be things like those about woman described in the post. Fast foreword 5 years and they will drop the no-self doctrine and adopt a true self one. Fast foreward another 5 years and they’ll drop the suttas.

You know, the usual development.

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Are you suggesting a progressive buddhism community formed by people with common interests?

I don’t think we need to wait for 5 years for this.


Yeppo - a we have lift-off type of thing! I have already provided my email address if any one would like to discuss - be part of - an actual initiative to realise change.

I think the Tzu Chi foundation is a good example of a progressive community.

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There is a huge spectrum of ideas even now. There was an old thread, in which one of the venerable nuns (I don’t remember who exactly, sorry) posted a link to a discussion on a Dutch forum, where quite a few people wrote they don’t think the Sangha is necessary in the West because there are enough meditation centres in Europe and the US. I have no idea whether this belongs to what laurence considers a genuinely progressive attitude, so it would be great to hear what he considers to be such (I personally do not think that allowing women to ordain nowadays is detrimental to the Buddhasasana, it is more of a common sense thing).

Which is also one of the weak points of his ideas. Opinions about what and what is not genuinely progressive are widely different among different people even in countries like Germany or the Netherlands, so choosing one platform would almost inevitably end up as a sectarian thing or one of the competing factions as the examples of the Communist Internationals or the early Buddhist schools showed. Anyway, this is again only my opinion and I may be wrong, I don’t know, I haven’t seen anything specific yet.

What change? In what area? How could I or anyone else join to your group without hearing about any specifics first :grinning:

Ajahn Brahm is also a fan of that group - it is wonderful the service they do all over the world.

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I would be happy to talk with like-minded mittas - and work it out together - ways of moving forward despite the objections of more traditional mittas in Buddhism.

I think there already are many such organizations. But the ones I know of seem be mostly Mahayana, secular or only vaguely Buddhist and eclectic, and they very quickly start defending ideas of their own that probably won’t apoeal to people who are committed to adhering to the letter of the doctrines and disciplines of the most ancient texts.

It’s very hard to pull any kind of political philosophy out of those texts that is relevant to our time. The Buddha’s world was just too different. It was a primarily agricultural and village world, struggling with the emergence of market towns and kings, and with a surviving cultural memory of pre-agricultural wandering, forest life and wise renunciants.

The Buddha doesn’t seem to have preached any vision of social and political progress in the material and political realm, and was focused on the progress in happiness people might make if they either gave that realm up entirely, or at least tried to be kinder, less lustful and less greedy.


Then do it here and now :anjal: How can I know whether we are like-minded if you haven’t said anything specific?

Yes, why not a process moving forward with regard to those mittas who have an interest in the teachings of early Buddhism but, who recognise the need for change? People who embrace a four-fold assembly but have progressive values?

Read the earlier related posts - you will find what you require there! :heart_eyes:

I don’t know how to ‘link’ earlier threads (see) ‘Meddling monastics’, the recent thread on the ‘Garudhammas’ and, the insightful and progressive ‘Genderless Vinaya’ - have fun!

I believe this article is of crucial importance in this discussion.


“Many of us born and educated in the West, even if we’ve rejected the monotheism that shaped our culture, tend to hold to the idea that there are objective standards of justice to which everyone should conform. When distressed over the unfair state of society, we often express our views for righting wrongs, not as suggestions of wise courses of action, but as objective standards as to how everyone is duty-bound to act. We tend not to realize, though, that the very idea that those standards could be objective and universally binding makes sense only in the context of a monotheistic worldview: one in which the universe was created at a specific point in time—say, by Abraham’s God or by Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover—with a specific purpose. In other words, we maintain the idea of objective justice even though we’ve abandoned the worldview that underpins the idea and makes it valid.”-- Thanissaro Bhikkhu

“Only when their respective conditions are met can these forms of justice be objective and binding on all. In the Buddha’s worldview, though, none of these conditions hold. People have tried to import Western ideas of objective justice into the Buddha’s teachings—some have even suggested that this will be one of the great Western contributions to Buddhism, filling in a serious lack—but there is no way that those ideas can be forced on the Dhamma without doing serious damage to the Buddhist worldview. This fact, in and of itself, has prompted many people to advocate jettisoning the Buddhist worldview and replacing it with something closer to one of our own. But a careful look at that worldview, and the consequences that the Buddha drew from it, shows that the Buddha’s teachings on how to find social harmony without recourse to objective standards of justice has much to recommend it.”–Thanissaro Bhikkhu


I haven’t, could you please sum it up for everyone in a succinct form? I mean, I don’t really have that much time :disappointed_relieved: Again, for the starters, let’s try to figure out how you enivsage progressive Buddhism in what concerns its:

  1. organizational structure
  2. goals, ideals
  3. social functions
  4. relationship with the traditional Buddhism
  5. what sorts of behaviour the reformed Buddhism will consider archaic

Short answers to each of these questions would be very welcome :heart_eyes:

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Excellent essay.

I put in a couple excerpts for those who didn’t want to read the whole thing. It is one of my favorite essays and really had me thinking when I first read it.