Stephen and Don spoke on Sunday 20th May at a very successful event at Friends House in Euston. Their subject was ‘The Future of Religion’, and the event was deftly chaired by Madeleine Bunting.
Both the speakers are scholars with great depth and breadth of knowledge; both have the knack of conveying a huge amount of information with clarity and humour. Knowledgeable references to English and classical literature, and to the great philosophers of every age, added a broad context to the discussion. Their underlying perspectives, emphasising the need to concentrate on this life and this world because it’s the only one we have, are in many ways similar. You can read their introductory statements here:
As organisers, we were delighted to see such a big audience. There were many friends who regularly attend London Insight events, but the questions which contributed so much to the event showed that many people from a variety of Christian and other backgrounds had also come along. It was good also to be meeting at Friends House: both speakers were full of praise for the Quaker tradition, in its egalitarianism and its huge contribution to ethical social action.
We did record the dialogue, but unfortunately the sound quality is very poor, because of the acoustics of the building. We shall be posting a transcript just as soon as we can get it done, though pressure of other work means that this will be a matter of weeks rather than days.
Thanks to Martin Zetter for the photo
Mr. Bachelor’s conclusions about the Buddha are a logical outcome of life in the skeptical, post-Enlightenment atmosphere of Western thought. The Buddha was a skeptic as well—the Apanaka Sutta says that the Dharma is the best way to live whether or not there is an afterlife. The Buddha wanted to reform religion by rejecting the superstitious metaphysics that are described in the suttas as the schools and a common phrase from the Pali Canon is that one has overcome the schools. Mr. Bachelor’s view of the Dharma is only radical when compared with the orthodox doctrines of the long-established lineages and sanghas that emphasize the transcendental view that is embodied in the concept of Bodhichitta, the goal of bringing all beings to full and complete enlightenment no matter how many lifetimes it takes to do so. It is ironic that these orthodox schools of Buddhism have recreated all of conditions that the Buddha hoped to transcend in his own skeptical view of things, but it seems that there will always be a place for transcendentalist-Mahayanist Dharma in the hearts of those who love and enjoy the perspective of Bodhicitta and a process of enlightenment that takes many lifetimes; there is still a legitimate place for such transcendental views in the full spectrum of Buddhist practice.
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