Based on an examination of early discourses found in the Buddhist Pali Canon, we explore the question: "What did the Buddha teach that was distinctively and originally his own?" By differentiating the Buddha's Dhamma from the ideas of Indian religion and metaphysics that prevailed at his time we seek to uncover a clearer sense of the Buddha's message and then consider what relevance it still has for people living in the modern world.
Stephen’s new book, "Confession of a Buddhist Atheist", tells the story of his thirty-seven-year quest to understand the meaning of Buddhism. It recounts his life as a monk in India and Korea and concludes with his search to discover the historical Buddha. Stephen talks about the writing of the book and reads selected passages.
A reflection on the meaning of "stream entry" (sotapatti), based upon Pali canonical sources. The "stream" refers to the eightfold path and the "stream entrant" is one who has made that path their own. The talk explores the meaning of the three fetters that are "abandoned" on entering the stream as well as how stream entry is related to the three refuges.
A reflection on the Buddha's understanding of his awakening as an engagement with the phenomenal world from a radically new perspective rather than the gaining of insight into a higher, absolute truth, no matter whether we call that "God", "Consciousness" or the "Unconditioned".
A reflection on the Middle Way, i.e., the whole eightfold path, as avoiding two "dead ends." This is followed by further thoughts on the Four Noble Truths as tasks that culminate in the eightfold path itself.
A reflection on the metaphor of "awakening" as a process rather than a "state" of "enlightenment", which is followed by a reading of the Buddha's First Sermon (Turning the Wheel of Dhamma) in which he presents this awakening as being concerned with the living process of the Four Noble Truths.
A reflection on the Buddha's parable of the "poisoned arrow" (Malunkyaputta Sutta M63). This key text illustrates how the Dhamma is therapeutic, pragmatic and not concerned with metaphysical questions, which the Buddha regards as irrelevant and refuses to comment upon. What he does comment upon is the Four Noble Truths. The talk concludes with a reflection on the Buddha's account of his awakening as an insight into conditioned arising.