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

by Stephen Batchelor

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1,2532911,867 (4.03)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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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
I have probably read this book more times than any other book I have owned. If I had to take a guess I think 10-15 would be about right, I think I have read it about once a year since I first bought it. I initially bought it because I had an interest in Buddhism and it was a small book. I didn't want to buy something which was full of religious insights or concepts that I would find strange.

The first time I read this, I was working away from home, living in a hotel and so I had plenty of time to read it slowly and take it all in. Batchelor stays away from using dogmatic terms and only uses one Sanskrit word in the whole book. This time around I read it quite quickly and one thing struck me that hasn't struck me in previous readings, its a pretty wordy book. Its fairly academic in places and while that lends itself to the 'without beliefs' aspect of the book it can make reading it a bit of a effort at time.

I also think that because meditation and concepts in the book are no longer new or mysterious to me that some of the love I had for it initially has faded. This is of course only natural but I have decided to base my rating on this reading in isolation, more for my own reference than anything else.

Batchelor really does drill down into the heart of Buddhism by looking at the 4 noble truths from an agnostic point of view. This makes the basic guidelines of Buddhism very simple to understand but will be of little use to someone who already knows this. He mentions of the varying traditions of Buddhism (Zen, Mahayana, Theravada & Tibetan) but doesn't look at the at all so if you want this kind of information, again, this book isn't for you.

This book is a great starting point for anyone with an interest in Buddhism, especially for those who are agnostic/atheist in nature. ( )
  Brian. | Jul 24, 2021 |
Exactly the book I was looking for, at least at the start. After the first couple of chapters I found myself reading this in a bit of a fog. Lots of it I just couldn't follow or comprehend but it was worthwhile for the several useful thoughts that leapt out at me.
I think this is something I must come back to to read again as it seems like there is a lot more useful stuff in it for me which I'll be able to understand once I've practised for a while longer. ( )
  mjhunt | Jan 22, 2021 |
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 |
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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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