Some twenty-five centuries after the Buddha started teaching, his message continues to inspire people across the globe, including those living in predominantly secular societies. Read more...
Some twenty-five centuries after the Buddha started teaching, his message continues to inspire people across the globe, including those living in predominantly secular societies. What does it mean to adapt religious practices to secular contexts?
Stephen Batchelor, an internationally known author and teacher, is committed to a secularized version of the Buddha's teachings. The time has come, he feels, to articulate a coherent ethical, contemplative, and philosophical vision of Buddhism for our age. After Buddhism, the culmination of four decades of study and practice in the Tibetan, Zen, and Theravada traditions, is his attempt to set the record straight about who the Buddha was and what he was trying to teach. Combining critical readings of the earliest canonical texts with narrative accounts of five members of the Buddha's inner circle, Batchelor depicts the Buddha as a pragmatic ethicist rather than a dogmatic metaphysician. He envisions Buddhism as a constantly evolving culture of awakening whose long survival is due to its capacity to reinvent itself and interact creatively with each society it encounters.
This original and provocative book presents a new framework for understanding the remarkable spread of Buddhism in today's globalized world. It also reminds us of what was so startling about the Buddha's vision of human flourishing.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-09-14
- Reviewer: Staff
Zen teacher Batchelor (Confession of a Buddhist Atheist) argues that both sanitized and orthodox approaches to Buddhism undermine the ethical practices and intellectual rigor of what he considers to be the core of the religion. Batchelor sets out to delineate a systematic theology of Buddhism, whereby he reorients the emphasis away from nirvanic, enlightened transcendence and toward pragmatic living based on the dharma. He argues that through canonization and the passage of time, Buddhism became subject to orthodox viewpoints that only served to mystify and obscure its otherwise highly accessible ethics. Batchelor returns to the roots by examining the portraits of minor Buddhist characters, such as King Pasenadi and the traitorous Sunakhatta. By reconstructing their lives, his rationalist and logical approach reveals that the Buddhas world was vulnerable, tragic, and impermanent. Batchelor argues that for these characters, the Buddhas dharma teaching was primarily one concerned with task-based ethics rather than truth-based metaphysics. He does not denounce enlightenment but rather grounds it in practical application, demystifying an otherwise abstract and metaphysical concept. Those looking for a serious, secular reexamination of Buddhist ethics that acknowledges religiosity will find this book highly intelligent, rigorous, and absorbing. (Nov.)