Buddhism and Humanism

Reflections on a very interesting meeting of our local Freethinkers group.

Last Saturday was the regular monthly meeting of our local Rogue Valley Freethinkers and Humanists. Many know that Jean and I are secular humanists and go as often as we can to these meetings in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Saturday’s meeting was all about Buddhism or more accurately as Jerry Reed, the group’s administrator, put it in a recent email:

For Saturday, Aug 5: Brenda will be our presenter/discussion leader. She will introduce us to Secular Buddhism, including comments on basic principles of Buddhism, and how traditional and secular Buddhism compare with each other, as well as on overlapping philosophical views of Buddhism and Humanism.

This video link provides a discussion between a humanist, Scott Lohman, and a secular Buddhist, Ted Meissner, which may help to familiarize you with Brenda’s topic prior to our meeting. It is about 29 minutes long, all interesting, but if you are cramped for time, especially the segment from about 10:30 to 16:30 which discusses basic Buddhist principles that might also relate to humanism, and another segment from about 19:30 to 27:00 on advice to a beginner who might want to try meditation, and how Star Trek borrowed from Buddhism, and also about the similarity of ethical focus of Buddhism and Humanism.

What I would hope is that if any of you are interested in this subject, then do watch the interview with Ted Meisser conducted by Scott Lohman .
Here it is.

Here follow links to the organisations represented by Scott and Ted Meissner. For Scott the Humanists of Minnesota, and for Ted the Secular Buddhist Association.

If you do watch the video you will undoubtedly pick up on the science now discovering that meditation does change the brain … for the better!

More on that tomorrow!

25 thoughts on “Buddhism and Humanism

  1. David Lynch, one of my favorite film directors practices TM. He has meditated since the 70s. It helps him capture ideas.
    I remember the discussion about Buddhist tenets being in Star Trek. Occasionally, I will meditate but I prefer yoga.
    Interesting discussion.


  2. Humanism Versus Buddhism
    The very fact that there is a distinction to be made between, “Humanism” and “Buddhism” tells volumes. The next a priori problem with Buddhism is that it was instigated by a Prince. I am not a Prince, nor do I know any, but I suspect that any Prince is suspect of being partial to making the Commons into sheep. So that they can be directed where the shepherds of men when men to be led (to slaughter, or, at the very least, to be shorn and milked, as needed).

    The next problem with Buddhism, as with Islamism and Christianism, is that there are many variants of this superstition. Tibetan Buddhism is pretty far from Zen Buddhism, just as Wahhabism/Salafism is far from Sufism (the latter having itself drastically different variants).

    It’s also clear that the main intuition of Buddhism, that pain has to be avoided, at the cost of perception, is as inhuman as it gets.

    The brain thinks with emotions. This is even true at the level of pure logic. Even the parodic character in Star Trek, Mr. Spock, depends very heavily on emotions: after all, one has to have FAITH in the axioms of logic. Besides logics can be anything, and one choses axioms of logic from emotion, not logic. Logic does not select logic. Logic is, volition, volition from emotion, does the rest.

    Emotional computers are coming, make no mistake. Serious Quantum Computers will be emotional…

    More later… And thanks for daring to investigate this interesting subject….


    1. All valid responses. One of the points made by Ted Meissner is that he is a secular buddhist and the great variations in the Buddhist religion as with all the other religions in the world is also acknowledged.


  3. Thanks, Paul, great interview — love to see the integration between humanism and Buddhism. I think it is important to embrace any world view not only through its core values (i.e., 8-fold path), but as organic and evolving as humans change over time and generations. It seems to bring us closer to nature, as nature changes and evolves.


    1. Indeed, you will have noted, undoubtedly, what was mentioned in the interview, is that all religions go through phases of re-defining (my word) the structure and scope of their beliefs and values. No better exemplified than how women have been embraced by the major religions – years later than they should have been but still better late than never!


  4. I will have to watch later…’fraid my internet is mobile at moment and not able to do video at the moment.

    However subject is definitely interesting. I believe all things are made from the same energies and atoms, and that we are more connected to all life than our immature brains have yet figured out.
    Certainly, dogs on the street say hello to me (a stranger) long before their owners do as they walk towards me. Dogs can read my energy…the people can’t.


  5. Took me a while to find time to listen to the video. So I boosted my comment into an essay…
    However interesting the debate, “Secular Buddhism” is pretty much an oxymoron.

    Too many superstitious religions around, for this small planet. Respecting them, amounts to procreating them. We need hard core secularism, and the religion of the planetary Republic.


  6. Really intersting Paul! There are many variations of Buddhism that appear nowadays, yet the fundemental belief in doing no harm and being compassionate to others is one that I welcome!
    Good luck with your Meditation journey. There are many kinds of meditation to explore. May you find a group that nurtures your spirit as well as calm your mind. 🙏


  7. Great interview. Like Meissner, I don’t see any great reason why Humanism and Buddhism can’t be excellent bedfellows. Personal responsibility, free of Oogity Boogity, is a cornerstone to both.


    1. Yes, in the same sense that Humanism can embrace numerous belief structures. We all need dreams or fairytales at times in order to reach out into the distance. Not to trample on too many metaphors!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Had to quickly look up the definition of Panpsychism. As in, thanks to WikiPedia,:

        In philosophy, panpsychism is the view that consciousness, mind or soul (psyche) is a universal and primordial feature of all things. Panpsychists see themselves as minds in a world of mind.

        Must say that’s a philosophy that resonates with my view.

        Liked by 1 person

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