Secular buddhism align with early texts?

Hi , i read in dhammawheel that secular buddhism is new form of buddhism , does it align with early texts ? Many of them appears to say their interpretation is conforming and agreeing with early texts ? It was mentioned few of the mods there are secularist .

Hi Vijjay,
Secular Buddhism has come up quite a number of times on the forum. You could start with Bhante Sujato’s post here.


Hello. My reading of the early texts finds they contain two types of teachings, which are: (i) concerning liberation in the here & now; (ii) concerning kamma, merit & the “other world” (“paraloka”). The more serious teachings are about liberation in the here & now. Based on my impressions, it seems the recent ‘Secular Buddhism’ does not conform with the early texts about here & now liberation. The teachings of ‘Secular Buddhism’ seem too soft or lax. For example, I have not read or heard any Secular Buddhism strongly emphasizing what is necessary for here & now Nibbana; such as strict morality, celibacy, jhanas, destruction of craving, etc. In other words, Secular Buddhism seems mostly teachings for the average lay person, similar to McMindfulness. Regards :slightly_smiling_face:


The canon does have many texts that describe a Buddhism with a practice for liberation in this life and is agnostic with regard to views about this world and other realms, that is rebirth. I will provide some quotes below. That said, the canon appears to be very heterogeneous in terms of what liberation is, when it occurs, and what the practice is that brings it about. For those of us who are not looking for a belief system, but a practice that integrates into our lives and culture, this agnostic Buddhism is of great benefit.

Here we see an injunction against views about this world and other realms, that is, rebirth:

Snp 4.3
The cleansed one has no formulated view
at all in the world about the different realms.

Here we have the Buddha going out of his way to avoid making definitive statements about this world and other realms, that is rebirth:

AN 3.65
When that noble disciple has a mind that’s free of enmity and ill will, uncorrupted and purified, they’ve won four consolations in the present life. ‘If it turns out there is another world, and good and bad deeds have a result, then—when the body breaks up, after death—I’ll be reborn in a good place, a heavenly realm.’ This is the first consolation they’ve won.

‘If it turns out there is no other world, and good and bad deeds don’t have a result, then in the present life I’ll keep myself free of enmity and ill will, untroubled and happy.’ This is the second consolation they’ve won.

‘If it turns out that bad things happen to people who do bad things, then since I have no bad intentions, and since I’m not doing anything bad, how can suffering touch me?’ This is the third consolation they’ve won.

‘If it turns out that bad things don’t happen to people who do bad things, then I still see myself pure on both sides.’ This is the fourth consolation they’ve won.

When that noble disciple has a mind that’s free of enmity and ill will, undefiled and purified, they’ve won these four consolations in the present life.”

This describes what liberation looks like in this life:

Ud 1.10
“In that case, Bāhiya, you should train like this: ‘In the seen will be
merely the seen; in the heard will be merely the heard; in the thought will be merely the thought; in the known will be merely the known.’ That’s how you should train. When you have trained in this way, you won’t be ‘by that’. When you’re not ‘by that’, you won’t be ‘in that’. When you’re not ‘in that’, you won’t be in this world or the world beyond or between the two. Just this is the end of suffering.”

There is more than this. I have on my to-do list a spreadsheet of suttas categorized by what I believe the different schools of thought represented in the canon, but until then…


Superlong thread(453) :sweat_smile: i was hoping maybe shorter , minus the 1st digit (4) .

Please refer to below , the meaning seems different .

Translation by
Laurence Khantipalo Mills

There is not in the world such a purified person who continues in these views about existential states, for this person of purity, let go of illusion and conceit,
how can he be in any way reckoned?

I think the English is tortured, but it means the same thing. Let’s break it down,

  1. There is not in this world such a purified person = No enlightened one
  2. continues in these views about existential states = continues to have views on this or future lives.

Here is how Bhikkhu Bodhi translates it:

One who is cleansed formulates no view
anywhere in the world about various states of existence
“The Suttanipata” Bhikkhu Bodhi

States of existence are rebirths, that is, this or future lives. If you think it is referring to something else, what do you think it is referring to?

Don’t let the length of the thread put you off. I’d recommend you read Bhante’s post at the top of the thread. The rest of the thread you can scan or not depending on how you feel. :pray:


There’s also a “Summarize this thread” button which filters it down to only the replies that received the most likes and replies


Regarding OP @vijja - you’d have to be more specific as secular Buddhism is a broad meaning.

Regarding rebirh and other supernatural elements, in my opinion it’s not necessary to believe but one must also not reject it, since to reject it would be to claim you know when you don’t know. Someone who doesn’t know, is agnostic, not for neither against.

The Buddha respects the agnostic position because it’s sensible (see below), honest and reasonable. This is why he never tells people they must believe in rebirth or devas, instead he focuses on the core dhamma which is visible here and now, and that is dukkha, the 3 poisons, and putting a stop to them.

Whether there are devas or rebirth is irrelevant, the 3 poisons and dukkha being dealt with is relevant, and if rebirth is true afterall then it doesn’t matter when the 3 poisons are eliminated anyway.

“Well sir, I can’t even recall with features and details what I’ve undergone in this incarnation. How should I possibly recollect my many kinds of past lives with features and details, like the Buddha? For I can’t even see a mud-goblin right now. How should I possibly, with clairvoyance that is purified and superhuman, see sentient beings passing away and being reborn, like the Buddha? But then the Buddha told me, ‘Nevertheless, Udāyī, leave aside the past and the future. I shall teach you the Dhamma:

“When this exists, that is; due to the arising of this, that arises. When this doesn’t exist, that is not; due to the cessation of this, that ceases.”’

  • MN 79

The fact that when greed is present within you, you discern that greed is present within you; and when greed is not present within you, you discern that greed is not present within you: that is one way in which the Dhamma is visible in the here-&-now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves.

  • AN 6.47

What do you think, brahmin? When there’s hate … delusion … corruption that leads to physical deeds … corruption that leads to speech … When there’s corruption that leads to mental deeds in you, do you understand ‘I have corruption that leads to mental deeds in me’? And when there’s no corruption that leads to mental deeds in you, do you understand ‘I have no corruption that leads to mental deeds in me’?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Since you know this, this is how the teaching is visible in this very life, immediately effective, inviting inspection, relevant, so that sensible people can know it for themselves.”

  • AN 6.48

An arahant "formulates no view"in his mind about any kind of states , it doesnt means there “isnt” any states at all . Surely , you are in a kind of state called human state right ? Is that “this world” you are living in actually is “not a world” ?

An enlightened one does not speculate about future lives. He does not say they are or are not possible. He is agnostic with regard to them.

Hi Thito ,

Thanks for the sharing , i think curlycarl pointed out , he said that the secularists are on to their own version of buddhism instead of the Buddha actual teachings . I am not agaisnt anything , anyone , even an agnostic or atheists , taiost or christian if they are interested in the Dhamma , they all can practice it . The point is , as it happens that i agree with bhante Sujato , in saying that secular buddhism misrepresented buddhism . The thing is , Imo Buddhism is an integrated “set” of teachings , we cant simply choose one part of it and discarding the other parts . Sure , you or anyone can do that , but then that is not the “complete” teachings of the Buddha as in the early texts . For example , because it suits my thinking , therefore , i take birth (jati) in the paticcasamuppada as a kind of mind stream ie moment to moment birth or birth (jati) is “birth of identity” . Buddha saids there is arising of self view , He never saids “birth” of a self or saying “birth” meaning is specifically defined as “caste” .
As i understand it , in the context of paticcasamuppada , deriving from sanskrit jāta , “born” or “brought into existence . I think those experts in Pali and sanskrit knows better . Not sure , if you sees the differences .

Hi , so what do you think it means various states of existence ?
It says arahant didnt has view of this or that life . But arahant still alive living in this world , right ?
It doesnt mean that this world arahant is living in suddenly disappear .


I would say the point of the passage in the context of the sutta and related suttas, is that they live in and accept the present without regard for whether or not there are future lives.

Sure but that doesnt mean no future lives . But for you or me , if there is no future lives , whats the point of practice ?

The point of practice is the end of suffering now whatever the future holds.

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I understand your stands but you are taking an arahant standard for your guidance in the practice but you refused to acknowledge other criteria such as the 4 ariya stage . This is a gradual path , if you take Buddha as your teacher or you take your self as your teacher , thats how the situation is . It is okay you remains as agnostic . But you dont have to “qualified” yourself as a student of the Buddha . By all means , interprets the teachings as you wish but dont says it is a complete set of Buddha teachings .

I suggest you read AN 3.65 especially the four consolations near the end. I am not saying any that isn’t in the canon.

Thanks i read it earlier , it is for agnostic not for the confident .
I thought you wants to end suffering here and now not in the future lives because you are an agnostic , something you are not certain at all , standing on the verge and you are not after some consolations . But no worries , continues your journey as you wish . Sorry , if that sounds not that soothing . I think we made our points , lets leave it at that . Have a great day ahead .