Since Bodhidaoism is a new worldview in the making, it might be helpful to say what it isn’t. Sometimes explaining what something is not helps people get a better picture of what it is. To this end, let me explain what makes a person not a Bodhidaoist.
A Bodhidaoist does not believe in the supernatural. Since there is no evidence for God, angels, heavens, and hells, a Bodhidaoist doesn’t believe in them. A Bodhidaoist holds that we should have good reasons for what we believe, especially in important matters such as what reality basically is.
Bodhidaoism is built upon the foundations of philosophical naturalism and current scientific consensus. Naturalism is the belief that the natural world is a closed system and that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws. Naturalism is based on the evidence of the sciences. We have asked nature thousands of questions, in the form of experiments, and nature has never given us a supernatural answer. The logical reason that this would be the case is because there is no supernatural.
But Bodhidaoism is not dogmatic about this. You can’t prove that the supernatural doesn’t exist, because you can’t generally prove a negative. So Bodhidaoists don’t claim that the we know for certain that the supernatural doesn’t exist, but only that there are no good reasons to believe in it. So Bodhidaoists are nontheists rather than atheists. Nontheists withhold belief in God, while atheists claim that there is no God. (Most atheists are actually nontheists).
From a Bodhidaoist perspective, it is wrong to believe in the supernatural because we have no good reasons to believe in the supernatural. The natural world, on the other hand, we have ample evidence for. Our best and most reliable means of knowing the natural world is science. This is why Bodhidaoists are committed to the sciences.
A Bodhidaoist is not a member of a Bodhidaoist institution. Bodhidaoism has no priests, monks, nuns, churches, Sanghas, congregations, schools, or official leaders. It is private path and a personal spirituality that is completely the responsibility of the individual to practice and cultivate.
The problem with clergy and institutions is that they reduce or remove the responsibility of the individual. They are not all bad, they do offer a sense of community and belonging. They offer opportunities for learning, companionship, united effort, and cooperation. But Bodhidaoism is for the sole practitioner. Bodhidaoists, if they meet together, do so informally and as equal partners in waking up. They have no leaders, for all learn from each other.
In Bodhidaoism we recognize a threefold division of people according to their spiritual development. There are muggles who are not interested or engaged in the path of awakening, philosophers who are on the path of awakening, and the sage who has died, but who was far advanced on the path of awakening. We accept no living person as a sage.
Bodhidaoists are not Buddhists. We reject the Buddha’s teaching of rebirth, karma, and the six realms. It is not fair to Buddhists for us to hijack their label, even if we qualify it by calling it secular. As long as the label Buddhist is in it, all we teach will be judged by whether or not it is consistent with what the Buddha taught. We refuse to be put in the Buddhist box and recognize truth in other wisdom traditions besides Buddhism.
Although Bodhidaoism is not a form of Buddhism, it is greatly indebted to the teachings of the Buddha and the many Buddhist teachers that came after him. There is no doubt that the Buddha was one of the greatest psychologists of all time. But he was ignorant of modern science, and therefore mistaken about the nature of the world. Since we are not Buddhists, we have no obligation to defend his metaphysical positions.
Bodhidaoists are not Taoists (Daoists). Taoism has many insight about living in harmony with the way (Tao) of nature. It gives us insights into unselfconscious spontaneous action or flow (wu wei). It teaches us about naturalness and virtue. But its most important teaching for Bodhidaoism is the yin (subjective) and yang (objective) aspect of our reality.
Dualist Naturalism is the view that there is one reality, the cosmos, but that it is manifested in dualities. As Alan Watts explains, “Really, the fundamental, ultimate mystery – the only thing you need to know to understand the deepest metaphysical secrets – is this: that for every outside there is an inside and for every inside there is an outside, and although they are different, they go together” (2002, 10).
One of the important distinctions for any philosophy of life is the inside and outside of us humans. For us, the inside is the subjective world of the mind, and the outside is the objective world of the senses. This is something Existentialism emphasized.
We are also open to a pantheism restricted to the natural world. There is a sense that Nature is sacred for Bodhidaoists, and hence, one could say that the universe is divine. But terminology is an issue for many people, so I do not insist on calling Bodhidaoism a pantheistic belief. But it definitely leans in that direction.
But Taoism turned the Tao into a religion with beliefs in gods and immortality. So just like Buddhism, we reject the label Taoists and are not restricted to just one wisdom tradition.
Stoicism has many similarities to Buddhism. At times, it almost seems as if Stoicism is a Western version of Buddhism. But the influence of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle is also evident.
Bodhidaoism is not a form of Stoicism, but owes a debt to it. The whole idea of philosophy as a way of life, the idea of followers being call philosophers, and the importance of self-cultivation is drawn from Stoicism. Stoicism is one of Bodhidaoism’s main connections to the Western tradition. It is what helps bridge the gap between the East (Buddhism and Taoism) and the West (Stoicism and Humanism).
Bodhidaoism could be considered a form of Humanism. Looking at the Humanist Manifesto III, let’s compare them. Just like Humanism, Bodhidaoism is a “progressive philosophy of life.” And just like Humanism, Bodhidaoism is “without theism and other supernatural beliefs.” But as Humanism aspires to “the greater good of humanity,” Bodhidaoism aims for the greater good of all living things. Here our commitment to the environment is explicit.
But rather than say that Bodhidaoism is a form of Humanism, it would be more accurate to say that it is a form of Spiritual Naturalism. Our ultimate concern is not the human race, but nature as a whole. We believe that being human-centered is part of the problem for our current environmental crisis. We must get past our self-centeredness and see the interconnected nature of reality.
Not a Closed System
Bodhidaoism is not a closed system that is set in stone. It is open to modification and revision, based upon the best evidence we have. Things that would be fatal to Bodhidaoism are supernaturalism and the denial of awakening.
Because Bodhidaoism is not a closed system, it is open to personal interpretation and modification. It is a personal philosophy of life that is to be customized to each person’s own journey and personality. You could consider it an open source philosophy. Saying it is “open source” means that it is something people can modify and share.
Bodhidaoism is not only committed to the physical sciences, it is also interested in neuroscience, psychology, and psychotherapy, especially Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Humanistic Psychology, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, EcoTherapy, and Positive Psychology. It seeks to incorporate the best that these and others disciplines provide. Besides Buddhism, Taoism, Stoicism, and Humanism, Bodhidaoism also is influenced by Confucianism, Phenomenology, Charvaka, Existentialism, Pragmatism, and EcoSpirituality. We are also open to insights gleaned from secularized versions of supernatural traditions such as Christianity, Paganism, Gnosticism, Kabbalah, Hesychasm, Hermeticism, Sufism, Mysticism, and Native American traditions.
Bodhidaoism has no Bible and holds no writing as Scripture. Eventually I want to write a book bringing all my thoughts together, but the book will serve as a guide, not a bible. It’s only authority is what you give it. Question everything and everyone, follow the evidence. Be your own refuge. You alone are fully responsible for your life.
Not a Religion
Daniel Dennett’s working definition of religions is, “social systems whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought” (2006, 9).
First, Bodhidaoism is not a social system and has no social structures. Second, there is a rejection of the supernatural in all forms. Bodhidaoism is a philosophy of life based upon science, reason, and subjective experience.
Bodhidaoism is a spiritual philosophy not a religious system. One meaning of the word spirit is consciousness. So by spiritual I mean the expansion or deepening of awareness of union and communion with nature.
Scientism is “an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation” (Merriam-Webster.com). Science and spirituality deal with two separate arenas. Science deals with the objective world out there, spirituality deals with the subjective world of consciousness, the world within.
Jean-Paul Sartre says concerning Existentialism, “subjectivity must be our point of departure” (2007, 20). He says that, “Any theory that considers man outside of this moment of self-awareness is, at the outset, a theory that suppresses the truth” (2007, 40). All searching for the truth is done by persons, persons who are subjective. Science is great when dealing with things, but it is psychology and spirituality that deals with persons. We need both in balance, like the yin and yang of Taoism.
You Might Be a Bodhidaoist
If you believe that the natural world is all that exists, and you believe that there is a lot of unnecessary unhappiness in the world, and you believe that many wisdom traditions point us towards waking up to a life of lovingkindness, compassion and inner peace, then you might be a Bodhidaoist.
Many people prefer to work within a tradition and try to reform it. There is nothing wrong with that. Some people want to join an organized religion, and that is fine. But there are some of us who feel it is time to try something new. A path of one. Bodhidaoism is that new path.
If you believe in the basic principles of Bodhidaoism and engage in some spiritual practice of awakening, then you can call yourself a Bodhidaoist. If not, then find a path that fits you better. Bodhidaoism is not the way, it is a way. It is simply a way that learns from all, but clings to none.
• American Humanist Association. (2003) “Humanist Manifesto III” https://americanhumanist.org/what-is-humanism/manifesto3/
• Dennett, Daniel C. (2006). Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. New York: Penguin Books.
• Sartre, Jean-Paul. (2007) Existentialism Is a Humanism. New Haven: Yale University Press.
• Watts, Alan. (2002) The Tao of Philosophy. Mark Watts, ed. Rutland, VT: Tuttle Publishing.