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Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary…

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

by Stephen Batchelor

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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 |
It's a good book, and I generally like Stephen Batchelor. But I have two main problems with this book: 1) he tends let his poetic flourishes -- which I usually love -- get away from him, sometimes making his prose seem a bit empty. Words for the sake of words. I don't that's actually a fair assessment of the book -- it's just how I felt while reading it. And 2) -- and MUCH more importantly -- I was expecting a book on how one doesn't need to embrace Buddhism as a religion, by faith alone, but, while he does deliver on that score (and sometimes beautifully), he tends to take an all-or-nothing antagonistic approach to all belief systems whatsoever. So not only does he come off sounding like he's attacking all faith-based religions, he also winds up conflating "faith" with "belief," which I think is a mistake. A "belief," I was taught in all my (non-religious) philosophy classes, was something you had determined to be true through logical deduction; it is mutable, because if, through logical challenge, that belief gets proven untrue, you change the belief, but it still is rooted in whatever logic you have access to at the time you adopted the belief. That is NOT the same thing as faith, which, as anyone who's seen Miracle on 34th Street can tell you, is believing in something IN THE ABSENCE of critical thinking and logical analysis. That Batchelor is attacking any approach to Buddhism seems a bit strange to me, but I get why -- he's acting as a kind of "wrathful deity" lashing out at misguided beliefs, as any good philosopher would do. What Batchelor intends to attack in this book is lay Buddhism's evolution into exactly the kind of blind faith-based religion the historical Buddha was trying to move away from, full of "magic" ritual and authoritarian dogma. But what he winds up attacking is any sense of believing in anything; his approach is a stark, almost angry agnosticism. And what I keep wondering is, if we can't take anything on authority -- from the teachings, say, or from the teachers -- then what do we mean when we say we take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha? What is refuge if not a kind of belief?

So, the book is fascinating to read and terrific fodder for hard thinking, but ultimately, it kind of falls flat for me. I miss the poetic language of his other books, where he seems almost in love with Buddhism. ( )
  Snoek-Brown | Feb 7, 2016 |
Just what it says, a refreshing approach for one that finds buddhism remarkably congruent with his understanding of how the world works, but supremely uncomfortable trying to adopt a foreign cultural frame of reference. ( )
1 vote kcshankd | Dec 5, 2013 |
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Osbert Moore (Ñāṇamoli Thera) 1905-1960

and Harold Musson (Ñāṇavīra Thera) 1920-1965
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0747538433, Paperback)

Demystifies Buddhism by explaining, without jargon or obscure terminology, what awakening is and how to practise it.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:15 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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.… (more)

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