➤ [Epub] ➞ Buddhism without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening By Stephen Batchelor ➮ – Golanvideoagency.info
Batchelor is not pro Buddhism as a religion, or pro religion at all He advocates gently but incisively for a passionate agnosticism admitting that you don t know and probably never can, but that this doesn t let you off the hook, since the attempt to find out is necessary to your mental spiritual survival He presents Buddhist techniques as common sense, highly effective ways of dealing with existential problems, and Buddhist philosophy as a framework for understanding things that will become self evident through doing the consciousness work.This is the second or third time I ve read most of this book before having to return it to the library I don t identify as Buddhist, but keep coming back to this book for different reasons In college, the book helped me become aware of the inefficacy of my thought patterns and try to begin to clear some of the clutter and use my mental energy effectively That point is exactly as salient for me as it ever was, but on re reading I also found crucial new ways of thinking about mortality, which has really been anguishing me lately Batchelor points out that a fixation on death s certainty and the mystery of its timing is a good thing, because it leads to the question what should I do with my life Keeping that at the forefront of one s mind is basically impossible without an emotional physical concern with life s finiteness I m also interested in Batchelor s explanation of meditation itself as a tool for translating thought into emotional physical knowledge, and that the latter is necessary to get things done I don t always require groundedness and common sense from spiritualists, but this book achieves this admirably I also find a lot of pleasure in reading Batchelor s exceptionally clear, elegant prose. A National Bestseller And Acclaimed Guide To Buddhism For Beginners And Practitioners AlikeIn 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 Quite possibly my only reason for reading this was so that I could write a review saying that this book throws the Buddha out with the bathwater But my delight in making poor, feeble jokes is a ridiculous basis for writing reviews particularly when the author s aspiration is to throw the Buddhism out with the bathwater while saving the Buddha as a person who had certain ideas.Apart from the beginning and the end of the book, Batchelor or less forgets his objective, so most of the book is an account of how one might practice Buddhism on a daily basis what one is aiming to cultivate in yourself and how one goes about this.I think I was most curious, given that it was written by a man born in Scotland, and in this edition published by Bloomsbury, by the Americanisms of side walks and diapers in the text, in place of the familiar pavements and nappies Apart from this then I wondered why did Batchelor write the book what was he aiming to achieve, why strip out the supernatural or metaphysical bits from the Buddhist system leaving us with something like a pre Socratic philosophy with an ethical system Fortunately I didn t have to break my brain over the question since the author kindly provided an answer or two himself.It turns out that Batchelor envisions the creative collusion of Buddhism and western culture and thinks the different notions of freedom in both will be most mutually enriching by stripping out the idea of reincarnation in favour of an agonistic approach to the whole in plain speech I don t know , it strikes me this may satisfy him, but that some people may be attracted to or find meaningful exactly what he throws out with the bathwater, secondly I do wonder when you start to hack chunks out of a tradition, what you are left with is tree surgery a success if after the operation there is no longer any tree Such a creative collusion one could call syncretism, it s interesting seeing a person setting about it in such a deliberate way.The nature of faith is that even if you were practising Buddhism, but found it impossible to believe in the metaphysical aspects of it then you d be pretty much in Batchelor s agnostic position without needing to read his book view spoiler though if you like, it may be reassuring to find that somebody else is in the same position hide spoiler As this gem of a book points out, Buddhism without beliefs is a redundancy Batchelor cuts to the heart of what sets Buddhism apart from other world religious traditions It encourages practitioners to question, to penetrate, to rigorously examine everything even the Buddha s teachings themselves and not to take things on blind faith In other words, just because a religious leader hands you a doctrine and tells you to believe in something, that isn t good enough The goal of Buddhism, after all, is to slice through our daily illusions and see the world as it really is, not as we want or hope it to be We can even take this approach toward such Buddhist cornerstones as karma and rebirth Batchelor recommends an agnostic but open approach toward the concept of literal reincarnation, for example That seems to be a healthy approach It s also an important message to convey as Buddhism tries to take a foothold here in the skeptical West, where casual observers might see Buddhism as esoteric or exotic Buddhism has indeed accumulated many practices and rituals and even unfounded beliefs and speculations in the centuries since it left India, and Batchelor asks us to look through those trappings to return to the kernel of Buddhist teaching Anything else threatens to sway us from the Path and throw us into the world of clinging to illusions A fine job. See postscript for a possible replacement for this failed attempt.Meh Maybe I shouldn t have expected much, but I was beginning to be disappointed even before the first chapter began, and the opening lines of that chapter confirmed my suspicion.The without Beliefs of the title is, frankly, a lie Perhaps this is a description of Buddhism with something subtracted, such as the mystical mumbo jumbo that seems to inhere in anything as old as a major world religion and, of course, especially in religions , but there are still plenty of beliefs.For example, the Buddha was still the enlightened one.That s the first thing that I was hoping to see dispensed with.You see, I strongly suspect that the founder of any religion was a relatively enlightened genius for the time But over on the science side, anyone will acknowledge that while Aristotle or Galileo, or al Khw rizm , or even Newton is considered brilliant, they re no longer the font of all wisdom.So why is every religious system so incredibly hung up on their founder Isn t is likely that someone studying the Buddha has surpassed the master in the understanding of some aspect of enlightenment, or whatever it is that the religion is supposed to be providing Naturally, if the founder is deified, that can t happen But I was hoping for something better here.As far as I can tell, Buddhism teaches a psychologically and philosophically astute version of what the Stoics were working on, at least via the practice of meditation, for example But if there is a way of learning these ideas without having to wade through and discard all the accumulated dross of centuries of mysticism and power politics between schisms, this doesn t seem to be it PostscriptAccording to the New Yorker articleWhat Meditation Can Do for Us, and What It Can t Examining the science and supernaturalism of Buddhism,the arch agnostic Robert Wright has written Why Buddhism is True The Science and Philosophy of Enlightenment The article includes Wright s is a Buddhism almost completely cleansed of supernaturalism His Buddha is conceived as a wise man and self help psychologist, not as a divine being This is a pragmatic Buddhism Nearly all popular books about Buddhism are rich in poetic quotation and arresting aphorisms, those ironic koans that are part of the Zen Buddhist d cor tales of monks deciding that it isn t the wind or the flag that s waving in the breeze but only their minds Wright s book has no poetry or paradox anywhere in it Since the poetic comic side of Buddhism is one of its most appealing features, this leaves the book a little short on charm Yet, if you never feel that Wright is telling you something profound or beautiful, you also never feel that he is telling you something untrue.Joe Bob says check it out. I might use this as my standard recommendation both for1 Fellow atheists and sort of Reason oriented folks with a mistrust of religion Point isn t try Buddhism, it s Different as getting the point across about what Buddhism is about after.2 Folks who have embraced Buddhism but seem to have gotten the wrong idea about it ha as if I knew what the right idea was Quotes I found helpful Dharma practice can never be in contradiction with science, not because it provides some mystical validation of scientific findings, but because it simply is not concerned with validating or invalidating them Its concern lies entirely with the nature of existential experience This is particularly important for me because I was never really happy with how people seem content to quote Einstein as saying Buddhism was the only science friendly religion apocryphal , or the Dalai Lama saying that if science should contradict Buddhism the latter should change, or even the be a light unto yourself thing from the Buddha Batchelor s not because it provides some mystical validation of scientific findings is a very good guard against that sort of fuzzy headedness That s still not enough, IMHO there s to say, but what a wonderful startAnother nice one We should be wary of being seduced by charismatic purveyors of Enlightenment For true friends seek not to coerce us, even gently and reasonably into believing what we are unsure of True friends are like midwives who draw forth what is waiting to be born Their task is not to make themselves indispensable but redundant Bingo OK, this sort of thing has been said before, but what I like about the way Batchelor says things is that he anticipates where people could get the wrong idea about what you re saying and heads them of His even gently and reasonably is an example of this, as his not because it provides some sort of mystical validation I m a bit uncomfortable with the eagerness to port Buddhism to modern Western liberal culture Just a bit it makes sense that it had to be ported to Chinese and other East Asian cultures, etc It s a sort of don t fuck with tradition skepticism on my part, not because the traditions themselves have any inherent value, but because Tradition has a sort of virtue of being time tested robust along with many flaws like noise, corruption errors crept into the genes , inflexibility But Batchelor himself acknowledges and anticipates this I guess I just lean a little bit on the conservative end of the spectrum, all the while agreeing heartily with what he says. It s long been a cause of great frustration that my attempts to investigate the Buddhist philosophy have repeatedly plunged me into the supernatural Over the centuries, and in different ways in different areas, Buddhism has become a religion, collecting various ideas on the after life, reincarnation, multi incarnation karma, Buddhist hells, demons, and even a pantheon of near divine once humans to whom we are exhorted to chant or prostate or pray Or any combination of the above.And this was frustrating because I was also vaguely aware that, at its core, what the Buddha taught was not a series of beliefs but, rather, a series of practices to be undertaken in order to smooth one s passage through this life.In this book, Stephen Batchelor strips out this accumulated religious baggage and leaves behind something akin to those original agnostic teachings, neither demanding that non material, spiritual aspects to existence be accepted as real, nor insisting that they are not It concentrates purely on the practical, attempting to show how the Buddha taught anguish and the ending of anguish , a means to end suffering He admits that the Buddha himself appeared to have mystical beliefs but stresses that these were part of his cultural heritage and not in any way relevant to his teachings.He sets out the Buddha s teachings of dharma practice in a clear and easily comprehensible manner, making the ancient concepts relevant to the modern reader Even concepts normally regarded as difficult such as non duality are introduced in a way that makes sense in a non mystical world view In line with the original attitude of the Buddha, he doesn t deny a mystical dimension to our reality but nor does he discuss one it is impossible from this book alone to gain any insight into the author s beliefs in this area, a sound achievement in this particular context.I would assume that in a relatively short book like this one he has had to be somewhat superficial but in any case it provides plenty of food for thought I already know that I will be re reading this particular volume, probably several times, but it s also whetted my appetite for further exploration, both in book form an in a far practical sense.In short, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Reading this book was a bit like listening to my grandpa rant about LBJ s foreign policy decisions he s probably right, but without the background to appreciate his frustrations, all I can do is listen and squirm awkwardly in my chair.Batchelor s book is a polemic against the modern transformation of Buddhism into something as dogmatic and unquestioning as Western religions He points out that Buddhism is a personal practice of continual awareness and questioning, not a set of beliefs, commitments, or rituals His insights into Buddhist practices were thought provoking but being a man of science and therefore atheist, culturally bankrupt, anti humanities of course , I didn t have the religious or historical background to appreciate many of his complaints about the disfigurement of Buddhism.This short book is meant to be read slowly Each chapter offers ideas worth taking the time to reflect upon and some also suggest particular meditations Unfortunately, I was borrowing this from a friend at university and had to power through it in two evenings before leaving for the summer.I likely won t return to this book again though, because my interests in Buddhism are related to cultivating continual awareness, not in defending it against a deplorable watering down for the masses. I only got to about page 35 with this book As a total newbie to Buddhism, I just found it too difficult to understand The writing was quite simple, but ideas were just too difficult for me to grasp I was left just feeling stupid which may well be the case Here are a couple of examples of concepts which evaded me Likewise, the Buddha acknowledged the existential condition of anguish On examination he found its origins to lie in self centred craving He realized that this could cease, and prescribed the cultivation of a path of life embracing all aspects of human experience as an effective treatment As with understanding anguish, the challenge in letting go of craving is to act before habitual reactions incapacitate us By letting go of craving it will finally cease This cessation allows us to realize, if only momentarily, the freedom, openness, and ease of the central path This sudden gap in the rush of self centred compulsion and fear allows us to see with unambiguous immediacy and clarity the transient, unreliable, and contingent nature of reality For the time being, I don t think I am going to explore Buddhism further Mostly because I find meditating difficult, but also because this book has made me feel that Buddhism is something I am not going to be able to grasp. To join the Big Clubs or Cults of Catholicism, Hill Song, the Evangelicals etc etc one must accept a certain set of so called truths which in no way impinge on the ethical I ve known plenty who swear by the Virgin Birth but cheat on their wives Buddhism, shorn of its religious trappings of prayer wheels, exotic names, orange robes, priesthoods, hierarchies and consequent blinding fog etc becomes no set of beliefs but a way of behaving, which we often stumble upon ourselves through sheer common sense.I quote from the back cover Buddhism Without Beliefs demystifies Buddhism by explaining, without jargon or obscure terminology, what awakening is and how to practise it Stephen Batchelor points out that the Buddha was not a mystic and his awakening was not a shattering revelation that revealed the mysteries of God or of the universe what the Buddha taught was not something to believe in but something to do Buddha challenged people to understand the nature of anguish, let go of its origins, realise its cessation and create a certain way of life and awakening This awakening is available to all of us, and Batchelor examines how to work realistically towards it, and how to practise and live it every day.This book is an examination of Buddhism which will enable all readers, whether religious or agnostic, to grasp the fundamental meaning of Buddhism.