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Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening (1998)

by Stephen Batchelor

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1,1782711,831 (4.05)28
"In Buddhism Without Beliefs, author Stephen Batchelor reminds us that the Buddha was not a mystic. His awakening was not a shattering insight into a transcendent truth that revealed to him the mysteries of God, and he did not claim to have had an experience that granted him privileged, esoteric knowledge of how the universe ticks." "What the Buddha taught, says Batchelor, is not something to believe in but something to do. He challenged people to understand the nature of anguish, let go of its origins, realize its cessation, and bring into being a way of life. This way of life is available to all of us, and Batchelor explains clearly and compellingly how we can practice it and live it every day. Each chapter of Batchelor's book examines how to work toward awakening realistically, with the understanding that embarking on this path does not mean never deviating from it."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved… (more)
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This review can also be found on my blog.

This was not a complete waste of time, but was close to it. The book detaches buddhism from religion and formats it not as a belief system, but a certain way of living. At first, I was really impressed with the ideas presented and felt I was getting a lot out of it. According to Dealing with “anguish” seems to be hinged on creating a perspective in which all is temporary: our “cravings” have not always existed, thus they will not always exist. It is turning our feelings into things we can watch ebb and flow rather than something that will overtake us entirely. Action is repeatedly emphasized as the key to dharma practice.

The formatting of the book seems to be without logical flow; it felt more like a general rambling than something coherently laid out. The chapters themselves confused me, as I felt like the author was talking himself around ideas and as soon as he began to approach what I thought was the point, the chapter would end unceremoniously. It was frustrating, since it started out explaining so many interesting ideas only to turn into something unstructured and unhelpful. It seems this may have made a better essay than an entire book. Also, the author is weirdly obsessed with someone they call S, who they refer to as their enemy and who apparently riles them up often. It was strangely distracting. ( )
  samesfoley | Oct 23, 2019 |
In this simple but important volume, Stephen Batchelor reminds us that the Buddha was not a mystic who claimed privileged, esoteric knowledge of the universe, but a man who challenged us to understand the nature of anguish, let go of its origins, and bring into being a way of life that is available to us all. The concepts and practices of Buddhism, says Batchelor, are not something to believe in but something to do—and as he explains clearly and compellingly, it is a practice that we can engage in, regardless of our background or beliefs, as we live every day on the path to spiritual enlightenment.
  PSZC | Mar 29, 2019 |
Very good introduction to the four golden truths of Buddhism: that suffering is universal, that suffering can be understood, that suffering can end, and that there is a practice that can guide us to the end of suffering. He explains the teachings clearly and with modern examples from our daily, Western lives. He bogs down, however, whenever he talks about Buddhism as a religion or its place in modern society. Those parts are boring and opinionated - mercifully short, though. The whole book is short, a good intro into mindfulness practices and Buddhism without religion. ( )
  Gezemice | Oct 29, 2018 |
Batchelor consciously re-envisions Buddhism for the modern West, stripping it of the religious and cultural relics of the places where Buddhism has flourished and refocusing on its core messages and the needs of the West. Toward the end, Batchelor explains his view that Buddhism has been crystallized for each new civilization and historical period through the genius and imagination of a small number of people -- which is exactly what Batchelor does in this book.

Rather than on the exegesis, I want to riff for a moment on the prescience of worrying in 1997 that dharma practice "could end up being swallowed by something else, such as psychotherapy or contemplative Christianity". I find the clinicalization example particularly fraught, as mindfulness is a go-to treatment for anxiety, depression, and stress and a new corporate buzzword. Since much of the interest in (and trendiness of) those practices is completely divorced from wider persistent practice, I worry they will flare up and then be exhausted without the community aspect that is core to social cohesion and happiness. This book is situated around core truths -- mixing non-Buddhist ones with Buddhism -- and has lasting power because of it.

So, recommended. This is a thin book with an enormous purpose. ( )
  pammab | Jul 1, 2017 |
Very , very good overall ( )
  Baku-X | Jan 10, 2017 |
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In memory of

Osbert Moore (Ñāṇamoli Thera) 1905-1960

and Harold Musson (Ñāṇavīra Thera) 1920-1965
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"In Buddhism Without Beliefs, author Stephen Batchelor reminds us that the Buddha was not a mystic. His awakening was not a shattering insight into a transcendent truth that revealed to him the mysteries of God, and he did not claim to have had an experience that granted him privileged, esoteric knowledge of how the universe ticks." "What the Buddha taught, says Batchelor, is not something to believe in but something to do. He challenged people to understand the nature of anguish, let go of its origins, realize its cessation, and bring into being a way of life. This way of life is available to all of us, and Batchelor explains clearly and compellingly how we can practice it and live it every day. Each chapter of Batchelor's book examines how to work toward awakening realistically, with the understanding that embarking on this path does not mean never deviating from it."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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