Stephen Batchelor: The Practice of Speech

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Description: Stephen Batchelor is a contemporary Buddhist teacher and writer and a self-described scholar practitioner. Stephen considers Buddhism to be a constantly evolving culture of awakening rather than a religious system based on immutable dogmas and beliefs. The central topic of this talk is the practice of speech. The meaning of the word practice is “to bring something into being.” When we practice something, we bring it into being. The Buddha symbolizes an integrated way of being, i.e, the many facets of our lives in harmony with one another. This is the context for Stephen’s discussion of “right” speech, beginning with his own relationship to classical texts. As a practitioner, his relationship to these texts is as a conversation partner, which points to the key element of “integrated speech”, which is listening. It is a dialogue—the act of listening and the act of responding to what we hear. “They are living words that speak across centuries and, yet, often go right to the heart of our experience today.” Stephen describes koan training as “concentrated exchanges of live words,” between teacher and student. The teacher helps the student find his or her own voice by provoking a living word from the student. He discusses his own writing process and how it is a practice that drives resolution and enables understanding and insight, as much as the act of sitting in meditation. It is, also, an act of dana, in that creating any kind of art is an act of giving and of letting go. 

Stephen’s most recent book is, Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World.

Post & Featured image: From MCZC archives.

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