There are many approaches to Buddhism and to scepticism, and we all have to develop our own thoughts as to what approach makes most sense and is most useful. I am drawn to a Buddhism that:
has few ornaments of ritual;
is non-dogmatic – having no attachment to beliefs that are not open to questioning and testing in the laboratory of our experience;
does not involve unquestioning attachment to a teacher or unmindful adherence to a set of rules or teachings;
draws on learning from all quarters, including the scholarship of everyday life, mindful contemplation, academic study and scientific investigation.
I am also drawn to a practice that is centred upon the following processes:
one, the embodied mind observing itself without judgment or commentary (mindfulness/zazen);
two, the acceptance and celebration of what IS – without attachment, aversion or indifference;
and three, clearly observing how everything in the universe is interwoven with everything else, and how everything arises and fades away at each moment – an experience of interconnectedness and impermanence that gives rise to empathy, a sense of kinship, and compassion for all beings.
My particular practice is like an old stool or tripod with three legs:
one leg is firmly in the Soto tradition of Japanese Zen Buddhism – the tradition of Dogen;
another is in the sceptical tradition of Pyrrho, Sextus Empiricus, Montaigne, et al;
and the third is in the Vietnamese Zen tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh.
The Soto leg is old and well-worn (I began to practice Zen meditation fifty years ago) ; the sceptical leg dates from the 1980s (when I began to study Pyrrho and his successors); and the Thich Nhat Hanh leg is fairly new (dating from a retreat with him in 2012). Somehow these three legs form a relatively stable platform on which to sit – though with sufficient wobbles to keep me awake and alert.
Of course a stool or tripod is only as steady as the ground upon which it stands and my practice is grounded in the diverse and ever-changing experiences that make up my life. I try to be open to, and to learn from, these experiences. It is this ground of changing experiences that is my primary teacher.