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Reactive or responsive? – first of an eight part study course

  • Wellington Friends’ Centre 7 Moncrieff Street Mount Victoria Wellington (map)

Tonight, One Mindful Breath will be running the first of an eight part secular dharma study course titled What is this? and it focuses on the talk Reactive or responsive, given by Stephen Batchelor at Gaia House, Devon, on 17 July 2016.

We won’t be listening to the talk on the night, so we ask that you listen to it before you come along, and recommend that you take notes as you listen. During each session, a facilitator will put questions to the group of participants; these questions will be found on this page in due course.

Ending on 26 September 2018, each part of the study course will take place during the One Mindful Breath session on the fourth Wednesday of the month and the evenings will start with a 30-minute meditation.



We’ll start our conversation by looking at these questions:

  1. Four tasks
    Batchelor comments on his choice to re-characterise the Four Noble Truths as four great tasks. What are his concerns about the common use of the former?
  2. Practice & four tasks
    In summarising what is to be practiced, Batchelor states that the second of the four tasks, reactivity or craving (taṇhā), is to be let go of, while the fourth task, the path (magga) is to be cultivated (bhāvanā). What counsel does Batchelor offer for one whose aim is to get clear on what is to be let go of and what is to be cultivated?
  3. Four tasks
    Batchelor uses the two terms reactive and responsive to describe one's interaction with the ‘other’ at any particular moment. What distinguishes being reactive from being responsive? 
  4. Reacting & responding
    Why is it that ‘reactive’ is not necessarily synonymous with ‘spontaneous’, and ‘responsive’ not necessarily synonymous with ‘a measured and well judged response’? From your own experience, give an illustration of each; one in which you reacted and one in which you responded.
  5. Reacting & responding
    Compare your felt sense of reacting with your felt sense of responding.
  6. Care, or appamāda
    Consider Batchelor’s statement, ‘The practice of the dharma, the practice of caring, is cultivating, quite consciously, a response to experience as opposed to simply giving in to habitual reactive patterns. The practice therefore is about opening up and sustaining and learning to dwell in a space of awareness that provides us with a freedom to choose whether we respond, to choose not to react mindlessly, to cultivate a relationship with life that aspires to realise what we value as good.’ What in his description of the practice of care, appamāda, ‘necessarily has an ethical quality to it’?
  7. Reacting & responding
    Consider Batchelor’s remark that making the distinction in our meditation between reacting and responding is ‘a way of getting some insight [into] some understanding about what we’re doing here’. If this comment is relevant to you, in what way?

If you’re coming on the 28th, you can download the complete set of questions along with useful background material here.


One Mindful Breath offers this course to all participants without a fixed fee, and thanks to the generosity of many is pleased to be able to make the resources freely available. We seek your support to enable the community to continue operating in this way, and you can offer your support by making a charitable donation through Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust by bank transfer to 38 9019 0064662 03.

Stephen Batchelor does not charge for his teaching, and depends for his livelihood on the generosity of students. In New Zealand, you can make a charitable donation to support Steven’s work through Aotearoa Buddhist Education by bank transfer to 38 9019 0064662 01. Donations by debit and credit card can be made through PayPal on his website here.

To get a tax receipt for your donations, please let our treasurer know a) the amount you donated, b) the date, and c) the account number into which it went, in an email.

We are tremendously grateful to Christine Johnson of Upaya Sangha of Tucson for putting together this series of talks, and sharing her participant questions with us. We further developed her work to ensure it fits the shorter timeframe available to us.

Thank you with hanging lights.jpg
Earlier Event: February 21
The middle way & dead ends
Later Event: March 7
Metta and beginner’s mind