Lecture: Does Secular Buddhism exist? Ajahn Brahmali


Updated link. The link in their society is broken.


The above YT link is now also a dud. (They keep updating the link)

See here


Sad that they didn’t record a Q&A nor allow comments on the Video… curious how people responded

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Unfortunately, the new link doesn’t work either.

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I feel like nuns and monks should be expected to be on good terms kind of with everybody, even people that I personally consider reprehensible. I think it would be a valid criticism if any monks supported any kind of arguments like the ones given in that article, but just being in their presence and speaking to them doesn’t seem wrong to me.

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I just listened to this, and thought it is an EXCELLENT talk! He conveyed his ideas so very well. I very much agree that the currently prevailing materialism in science comes from cultural conditioning, and that such thinking has no evidence whatsoever. Around 32:30 minutes the article he is talking about (he forgot the name of the author of the article published in Nature) is this one: https://www.nature.com/articles/436029a
Also, I was thinking that ideally, he could have briefly mentioned extensive evidence for rebirth that comes from research conducted by Dr. Ian Stevenson, Jim Tucker and many other researchers - these researchers have carefully investigated children who remember and report past lives. In these studies, children who present with memories of previous lives are extensively interviewed, and if they give specific names or locations (cities, towns), the previous life individual is traced and verified using death certificates and autopsy records, etc. They have studied thousands of such cases (NOT just a handful), and there are many academic articles, etc., written on this by these researchers. Below are some academic publications (the list is not complete):

Mills, A., Haraldsson, E., & Keil, H. H. J. (1994). Replication studies of cases suggestive of reincarnation by three independent investigators. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 88, 207–219.

Stevenson, I. (2006). Half a career with the Paranormal. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 20(1), 13–21.

Barker, D. R., & Pasricha, S. K. (1979). Reincarnation cases in Fatehabad: A systematic survey in North India. Journal of Asian and African Studies, 14, 231–241.

Tucker, J. B. (2005). Life before life: a scientific investigation of children’s memories of previous lives. Macmillan.

Stevenson, I. (2000). Unusual play in young children who claim to remember previous lives. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 14, 557–570.

Haraldsson, E., & Samararatne, G. (1999). Children who speak of memories of a previous life as a Buddhist monk: Three new cases. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 63, 268–291.

Cook, E. W., Pasricha, S., Samararatne, G., Maung, U., & Stevenson, I. (1983). Review and analysis of “unsolved” cases of the reincarnation type: II. Comparison of features of solved and unsolved cases. The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 77(1), 45–62.

Stevenson, I. (1990). Phobias in children who claim to remember previous lives. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 4, 243–254.

Tucker, J. B. (2013). Return to life: Extraordinary cases of children who remember past lives. Macmillan.

Stevenson, I., & Keil, J. (2005). Children of Myanmar who behave like Japanese soldiers: A possible third element in personality. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 19, 171–183.

Stevenson, I. (2000). The phenomenon of claimed memories of previous lives: Possible interpretations and importance. Medical Hypotheses, 54, 652–659.


My impression is that nowadays most Theosophists don’t hold to them either. That is, Theosophists of an unreconstructed Blavatskian sort seem to be a dying breed, consisting mostly of octogenarian and nonagenarian members of the Society. The younger members of the Theosophical Society whom I’ve got to know evince scarcely any interest at all in Blavatsky, Besant, Leadbetter, Bailey, et al, and are principally concerned with the second of the Society’s three stated objectives:

After several iterations the Society’s objectives were incorporated at Chennai (Madras) on 3 April 1905. The Three Objects of the Theosophical Society are as follows:

  1. To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or colour.

2. To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy, and science.

  1. To investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.

In pursuit of this objective, Theosophical Lodges will routinely invite bhikkhus, swamis, rabbis, priests, mullahs, etc. to come and lecture to their members.


The live talk did have a short Q & A in which Ajahn did bring Ian Stevenson up, I recall. The host also asked good questions. Unfortunately for privacy reasons I think they have edited out the Q & A Bhante @Khemarato.bhikkhu.

I was in the middle of sending kids to bed and missed most of the last part too. We need a TiVo for Live YT broadcasts :grin:


Thank you @Ficus. As I see it, the evidence that comes from rebirth cases (that have been carefully studied by Dr. Stevenson, etc.) is very strong, and I have not heard any valid enough argument that can dismiss this evidence. Most people simply dismiss and even refuse to see the evidence only because it does not go too well with materialistic conceptions of the mind.


Do Dr Stevenson’s stories of rebirth align well with Buddhist doctrine?

Yes. As far as I can see. There’s one case of rebirth is before the death of a previous person. The interpretation is of possession and took over.

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Kamma is integral to the Buddha’s teaching on rebirth.

Really. Interesting. Say more?

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It seems Secular Buddhism does not fit in well with Samyukta/Samyutta Buddhism.

Chapter 19.


Very strange! That chapter (and the following couple) are missing from the BPS edition of the book! Their PDF goes straight from Chapter 18 to 22. I wonder what happened?

:thinking: Will reply more after I’ve had a chance to read it. Thanks for the link!

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Okay, just read it. Very interesting!

One wonders where the poor, original “soul” went after being muscled out by our charismatic protagonist!

Better to not be reborn and give your seat at the table to someone else, eh?

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I haven‘t read the case studies and don‘t have the capacity to do so at the moment, but maybe some of you could help me out with a quick answer.
According to the Canon, human birth is exceedingly rare. Beings usually spend only one consecutive lifetime in the human realm, and most of them go on to „hell or the animal womb“.
If they fit into the Buddhist conception of kamma and rebirth, I‘d assume that most of the case studies should document memories of previous lives as animals, hungry ghosts, or the like. Something tells me, though, that the majority of those previous life memories will be of human lives. Call it an intuition. If so, do Buddhists who use those case studies to argue for rebirth address this discrepancy, and how do they argue their case?


Humans can be reborn as humans if keep 5 precepts. Also the exact destination for next life is uncertain due to cannot predict 100% how kamma works.

There’s some case of a horse face rebirth. I don’t remember the details. Ajahn Brahm mentioned a monkey reborn into a boy who’s especially hairy.

Given that it’s so rare to find people who can spontaneously recall past lives, it leaves the majority of humans to be open to immediate past lives was not a human rebirth. Might still be, but unconfirmed. Only those who recall immediate past lives as human rebirth and got confirmed (by real world evidences) can be confirmed as human to human rebirth, even if we add in the unverified cases, the total number of cases compared to total human population is still quite low. Indicating indeed that it’s rare even for humans to be reborn back into humans.

To disprove Buddhism, we might require a scenario where everyone recalls immediate past lives as humans, and all those past lives as humans are totally immoral. Like committing the 5 heavy evil deeds kind of immoral. Actually, anyone of those past lives committing patricide would be deemed sufficient to disprove the 5 heavy evil kamma doctrine.