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

av Stephen Batchelor

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1,4703112,548 (4.01)28
A national bestseller and acclaimed guide to Buddhism for beginners and practitioners alike 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.… (mer)
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After reading too many texts that made seem Buddhism like just a series of Sadhanas, and vows and made seem Amithaba like a Jesus-like figure I decided to read this book. Thinking that I would really like it since I read lots of Atheistic and Agnostic literature and liked it.

Before continuing with the review I invite you to read the book and form your opinion.
First things first, this book helped form my opinions on Buddhism by offering a new perspective.

Now that the positives have ended let's start with the review:
The book doesn't know what it wants to be, it feels like the author was trying to write four different books at the same time. In barely 200 pages he is trying to:
Present the eightfold part without any theistic or metaphysical components.
Write a workbook on living a good and happy life as an agnostic.
Writing a book about mindfulness and meditation
Laying out a plan for a Western Buddhist Community.

While the gnostic workbook is pretty well written, and it demonstrates a considerable amount of research, work and soul searching, the other parts do not.

When trying to explain the eightfold path he shows Gautama Buddha as a figure uncorrupted by the future "degeneracy", "mysticism" and "institutionalized and religious Buddhism" without all those "religious fantasies" that cloud the mystery that is life. Failing right into a fallacy by saying that Gautama Buddhism is authentic Buddhism, no religion but a path of practice and those orthodox institutions aren't.
What is authentic Buddhism? What is the authentic eightfold path? If a school of Buddhism has sadhanas and rituals is it less Buddhism? He doesn't seem to understand emptiness. There is no trascendal idea of Buddhism which you can measure all other Buddhisms.
Even the author contradicts himself some chapters later when is shown that even in the earliest scripture Buddhism always had some metaphysics and a hierarchy. By stripping away those things, would we obtain a Buddhism more Buddhism than Gautama's own?

I refuse to believe a scholar of Buddhism attacked many aspects of a wild array of traditions and schools without making any distinctions, or even saying which traditions he was referring to!
When he is attacking the Guru-Disciple relationship reminiscent of medieval times he is attacking Vajrayana Buddhism. When he is attacking the belief that enlightenment is not for this life, he is attacking Pure Land Buddhism.
Even then there are differences! Many teachers of Vajrayana take distance from the traditional Guru-Disciple relationship. Many Pure Land practitioners strive their hardest to become as enlightened as possible in this life.

Also, did I say that he explained the eightfold path? No, I mean that he started only to switch subjects and go unto mindfulness and Self.

The guide to meditation is scattered across the book and is atrocious. I don't know who S is, why he is HIV positive, or what is his relationship with the author, but is annoying.
The whole thing reads like a flow of consciousness. The whole thing is soporific, there is no flow between one paragraph and the next, hell, there isn't even a proper logical flow to them!
As soon as the author is saying something interesting he is back again rambling about the Self-No Self dichotomy, awareness and a mountain of I and ME which makes him seem like an egocentric more than an adept meditator. If you pick a paragraph from the middle of the book I couldn't tell you which chapter it was, because it keeps hammering the Self-No Self and awareness discussion over and over and over and over and over again, only making it more confusing. I can't imagine anyone taking this book as a guide to mindfulness and not being confused.

It is painfully clear that his ideas of what religion is stem from Christianity. He proclaims himself as an agnostic but comes off as an atheist who believes that all metaphysics and mysticism are fantasies. He also doesn't understand mysticism at all. Saying that awakening isn't a mystical experience and once even comparing devoted mystics to addicted artists seeking escape in opium and drinks. What?
Is also diamond clear, excuse the pun, that he never practised Vajranaya, nor understands how all those rituals and Sadhanas might help unto the path of awakening. Or that, since there are so many persons, of a so varied nature, is better for many traditions and paths to exist.
His idea for a Buddhist Western community seems like a recipe for cultural appropriation and watering down. To create this "deeply agnostic" community we should:
Discard references and talk about ANY and ALL metaphysics as fantasies or the product of their time, including those of Gautama's early discourses.
Throw away most Sutras, Tantras, Sadhanas and rituals, as religious degeneracy.
Throw away any and all things about deities or Guru relationships as the product of orthodox institutions trying to repress imagination and creativity.
Since we are there, following the author's logic, we should also throw away Satori and all mystical experiences as mere fantasies or products of mad men.
Since we made all those things, we should also go preaching to all other traditions of Buddhism about how their traditions are filled with superstitions and degeneracy. If you think that this point is absurd, it already happened! I tremble in fear thinking that even one person gave this book as a good introduction to Buddhism!

All in all the book is soporific and confusing, filled with conclusions about Buddhism by someone who doesn't understand the practice and should be ignored in discussions on how the Western Buddhism community should be built.
  Pxan02 | Apr 11, 2024 |
Interesting in the beginning, but increasingly soporific as it goes on. ( )
  judeprufrock | Jul 4, 2023 |
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 |
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In memory of

Osbert Moore (Ñāṇamoli Thera) 1905-1960

and Harold Musson (Ñāṇavīra Thera) 1920-1965
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A national bestseller and acclaimed guide to Buddhism for beginners and practitioners alike 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.

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