Goalposts have moved?


Has Modern Theravada become rebirth denial, i.e., secular buddhism? I see posts from members at DW who deny the rebirth teachings of the Buddha. I know EBT monks like Sujato and Brahmali accept (literal) rebirth, as do most monastics, but among the lay people it appears secular buddhism in increasing in popularity. Or is it just that these members post frequently and give the appearance that it is increasing in popularity?

So just for fun, I borrowed Elon Musk’s meme (his was on politics) to adapt to my position possibly changing due to this shift in the goalposts.

my buddhist position


I think there probably have been some real changes. The meme is actually an excellent analogy. Similar to how political views change over time (the original meme), the same goes with religion. And just like liberalism, which is more dynamic in its values than the more static conservatism, modern theravada is more susceptible to changes than classical theravada.

Modern Theravada is based on this notion that what is preserved in Theravada contains a lot of inaccuracies, and that modern scholars must weed out the added superstition to get to “early Buddhism”. However, what is “additional stuff” is very subjective, and most people insert thier own modern values/beliefs into the equation when deciding whats an addition or not.

An example of this. The 8 Garudhammas are found in basically every version of the texts, so it meets the EBT criteria as probably legit. Yet modern scholars largely reject it, mostly because it contradicts thier own confirmation biases about womens equality that we have in the modern world. However, if scholars looked at it 200 years ago, or even 100 years ago, when women just barely got the right to vote. Everyone would look at it and be like, oh yeah, that makes sense given the time and place the Buddha was living in.

Because modern Theravada is based on rejecting certain texts/beliefs based on subjective criteria, what is rejected will change along with people’s ever changing beliefs and values. As the world came to value gender equality more, the seemingly sexist remarks made by the Buddha were rejected as fake even tho they made perfect sense given his time period. In the same way, as the world becomes more scientifically oriented and secular, its inevitable modern theravadins will move toward rejecting things that dont align with thier pre-existing beliefs like devas and rebirth.


TBH, with the rise of anti-caste discrimination laws in the West. I wouldnt be shocked of modern Theravadins eventually start anachronistically rejecting texts about the Buddha saying the warrior caste is higher than the brahmin caste or pali blessings that say stuff like “may you be reborn into a high caste” or ideas that caste is the result of karma, rather than simply accepting that the values/beliefs of 2040 AD America or whatever are not the ultimate value system of all of existence and that you have to contextualize the different values found in 500 BC rather than saying texts that dont align with your modern values are fake.

1 Like

Secular Buddhism is not Buddhism.

Don’t need to take them into account when saying modern Theravada.

I wrote this a while back. I meant classical Theravada when I wrote Theravada there.

1 Like

EBT is not Theravāda Buddhism.

It is a shame that we need to name Theravāda as Classical Theravāda, but that is what we did and needed to do. Orthodox Theravāda might have been better in hindsight.

Ironic as it sounds… EBT is a modern invention despite it implying it is older. The followers pick and choose what they think is right or wrong and real or fake. I recently made a video about Real Theravāda (not published yet). At the end I explain that EBT and Suttanta are not real Theravāda. I also noted that “Bhikkhunis” are also EBT because they do the same type of “selective” Buddhism.


Hi Bhante,

Yes, I agree with you; secular buddhism should not be called Buddhism. It is so far removed from the Dhamma that it should not be called Buddhism. It is just that they are small in numbers, but very loud, sometimes giving the impression that it is more popular than it really is.

Those from Western nations who become interested in Buddhism seem to have the most difficulty in understanding or accepting rebirth. Those from Asia don’t appear to have as much difficulty with it.

Good essay you wrote on the evolution of Buddhism.


See also this recent thread at DW; now some are saying that the Buddha didn’t teach vipaka, apparently even a Sri Lankan monk.


1 Like