I’m Back

Change. Sometimes we choose it; sometimes it’s thrust upon us.

Caroline and I have just gone through a series of changes—chaotic and nerve-wracking, but on the whole, good. The result is that we’re in a new house, and I have a new office. In the midst of a world gone mad, all is calm here.

During that upheaval my work also moved to a new footing. Schettini.com has become a portal for daily meditation and a pragmatic online presence. I’ll be offering videos, streaming audio, webinars and online courses. Yes, mindfulness for the masses, I’m on the bandwagon now, but it’s more a widening of scope than a change of direction. It’s about getting to work.

The Naked Monk has continued to attract visitors in my absence, whom I welcome. My newsletter subscribers have for the most part remained. Hi there. It’s good to be back.

This website is more specifically about Buddhism: the theory, the politics, the scholasticism and the happenings. I’ll maintain my stance as a critic from a short distance. Every religion has its cast of players: conservatives like the Dalai Lama, critics from within like Stephen Batchelor and critics from the outside like The Naked Monk. I’m not any old outsider though. I’m an apostate. For eight years I strove to conform, rise through the ranks and become enlightened. You can question my motives, my approach and my goals, but I was just trying to do what everyone else seemed to be doing.

What counts is not what you believe but what you experience

Over time that didn’t sit well with me. I figured the Buddha would have done things differently, so one day I decided the best way for me to figure that out was on my own, away from the believers and the followers. By stepping away I honored the instinct that brought me to Buddhism in the first place: that what counts is not what you believe but what you experience—and how you respond.

The Naked Monk simply attempts to place Buddhism within the frame of the Buddha’s teachings. It’s a great exercise, for it makes you constantly wonder what the Buddha had in mind; you don’t get bogged down in one interpretation or another. Each Buddhist establishment has its own spin, which is fair enough, but the main job of every establishment is to defend its ground, and that’s not practice; it’s politics. Only those with no particular Buddhism to call home are really free to question.

That said, it’s scary to stand on shifting ground and good to know there are others of like mind. This blog has attracted such people, and for all of you I’m grateful. Please write and let me know your thoughts, your questions and especially your concerns. Let’s explore them together.

Author: Stephen Schettini

Host of The Naked Monk

19 thoughts on “I’m Back”

  1. Nice post! I’ve recently discovered The Naked Monk. Though I practice within a tradition, I think it vitally important that there are voices from the complete spectrum — conservatives, reformers, redifiners, insiders, outsiders, etc. What you provide here, in my opinion, is necessary, thought-provoking, and extremely helpful, especially to those who may not be comfortable within the traditional set-up. As for your statement regarding “those with no traditional Buddhism to call home” as being totally able “to question,” I see your point. But, I wonder if one can remain a practicing traditionalist with a questioning mind that understands various viewpoints and then freely chooses the traditional frame as the one most inspiring, most effective for oneself? Or maybe I mean to say that I feel that the heart of any Buddhism should be complete freedom from fabrications, and that how one arrives there might be secondary. I guess I’m still working out my thoughts on the matter. But The Naked Monk offers a very welcome input to my processing. And glad to hear your world is “back to calm.” 🙂

    1. Hello Matt: You’re absolutely right when you say “The heart of any Buddhism should be complete freedom from fabrications….” Those who’ve mastered that sort of freedom however are few and far between, so the occasional voice in the wilderness does no harm. And quite apart from all the comfortable rationalizations, it’s what I do best.

  2. Glad you’re back! So agree with “. . . but the main job of every establishment is to defend its ground, and that’s not practice; it’s politics. Only those with no particular Buddhism to call home are really free to question.” Look forward to what unfolds here now that you’re back.

    1. Glad it resonates Kimberly. For years the clash of monastic politics and spiritual pursuits was confusing and distressing to me. Having spent years digesting it, I hope to make it simpler for others to understand.

  3. I found the most inspiring part of your blog to be the following: “By stepping away I honored the instinct that brought me to Buddhism in the first place: that what counts is not what you believe but what you experience—and how you respond.” In part this is why while I do meditate, roughly 30 minutes every day (and I have been on several silent retreats of 5 to 7 days), I am cognizant of the fact that it is extremely hard to transport Buddhism from the cushion to Buddhism in life’s everyday activities.

    Whichever parts of Buddhist philosophy or from whatever vehicle they come, the biggest issue for me is can they help me alter how I perceive my present everyday experiences and my reactions to these experiences in more skillful ways? Thank you so much for reaffirming my thoughts about this MAJOR issue.

    1. Thanks Sam. You’ve hit the nail on the head, but you don’t have to “transport Buddhism from the cushion to Buddhism in life’s everyday activities.” You only have to transport your attention. Buddhism is just the vehicle. Don’t let all that theory overwhelm your natural ability to be present and use good sense.

  4. Hi Stephen.

    I was not aware you were away never the less welcome back.
    Experience & Belief a great couple of words.
    I have for myself found that they are similar to another two those being Question & Answer. where the question becomes the answer & similarly experience becomes belief.

  5. I recently bought your book, The Novice. I am about half way through, joining with you in your studies in Switzerland.

    I currently live in a small town in Eastern New Mexico where I practice mindful meditation with just a few other people. For several years now I have found secular Buddhist philosophy very helpful as I try to stay with those most painful parts of my being. I have even fantasized about one day becoming a monk. However, having had extensive experience with the destructive nature of “proprietary belief systems,” I am trying to avoid that aspect of my committment to the practice. I am finding your insight helpful in this process.

    about 13 years ago I had developed a very enthusiastic Christian faith. I had to leave it behind when I could see that it was no longer helpful to me. I didn’t want to get into the same situation with Buddhism.

    I appreciate the time you have invested in providing this online resource. Your work inspires me to continue my own process, choosing change for myself.

  6. As a solo practitioner, relying mostly on personal experience, I’ve often felt that aligning with an established school, tradition, or Sangha may be more beneficial or may result in more progress on my path….whatever that means. But witnessing and connecting to the evolution of Buddhist and mindfulness practice in the west, including your approach, has helped me to understand that perhaps it’s not necessary to do so. Looking forward to your newly expanded approach.

    1. Association can be very beneficial- it was for me when I first encountered Buddhism and it may be again. However, we are social animals and it is very, very easy to confuse cultural trappings, paraphernalia and a need to belong with essence. I find it very hard to accept that spiritual progress must necessarily be religious. Religions, even with liberal approaches, tend to sell their way as the only way of becoming enlightened or saved or whatever and I just can’t buy that. I feel the opposite must be true, that the more “spiritual” progress made, the more secular it must be, free from trappings and attributed identity. Thanks Stephen.

      1. You’re welcome Bob. The whole spiritual versus religious thing has become so nuanced that it’s hard to tell which is which. I think it’s high time to separate the religious impulse from the institutions of religion, and talk about religion in a new way.

  7. Hi Stephen, the “blog archive” section of your website is a little misleading in that it suggests that your most recent blog entry is from May of 2015; thus giving the impression that you had been “silent” since then. I just discovered today that you “are back.” Hope you are enjoying your new home and office.

  8. I love The Naked Monk blog – always a pleasure to think about what you offer. I will visit the website – keep writing. It’s a joy to read.

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