After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age

After Buddhism Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age 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 But what does it mean

  • Title: After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age
  • Author: Stephen Batchelor
  • ISBN: 9780300205183
  • Page: 464
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 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 But 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 teacSome twenty five centuries after the Buddha started teaching, his message continues to inspire people across the globe, including those living in predominantly secular societies But 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 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, its long survival 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.

    One thought on “After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age”

    1. It would be a mistake to cast Stephen Batchelor as Buddhism’s version of Harris, Hitchens, or Dawkins. Unlike the so-called New Atheists, his objective is not to destroy or ridicule but rather to reclaim the Buddha’s teachings from metaphysical distractions grafted on throughout Buddhism’s 2500 years of evolution. Given that the Buddha’s teachings have been adapted and changed to suit the varying cultures that adopted it – from China and Japan to India, Sri Lank, Vietnam, and elsewhere [...]

    2. There is something strange about a “Secular Buddhism” that is self-consciously modern, non-dogmatic, that purports to be a scientifically and critically informed Buddhism, and which harks back 2,500 years to the “true” words of the Master. Yet this is what Stephen Batchelor seems to do. Seeking to develop a modern approach to Buddhism by determining what the original Buddha said (and then interpreting what he really meant). In general I like Stephen Batchelor’s work. He is thoughtful, [...]

    3. With his latest book, After Buddhism, renowned scholar Stephen Batchelor continues to expand his vision for a “secular Buddhism”, a project he began nearly twenty years ago in his 1997 book Buddhism Without Beliefs. In that groundbreaking book, he sounded an urgent alarm about what he saw as the growing institutionalization of Buddhist thought and the consequences of such a rigid traditionalist approach. Now, in this new volume, he has put forth a less alarming, but still intensely urgent, c [...]

    4. this is a very interesting take on buddhism. at the beginning the author describes in his project, a desire to update buddhism of several religious interpretations with a secular understanding, born of the 2 500 years since gotama buddha is said to have lived. this is a noble intent. this requires a lot of rereading and much translation to identify exactly what early texts said, before they were 'corrupted' or 'overwritten' by descendant followers whose additions, emphasis, exclusion, of various [...]

    5. For the past couple of years I've been reading books about Secular Buddhism. I'll post reviews of some of those books soon. This one is the latest by Stephen Batchelor, a Buddhist who has trained in various traditional forms of Buddhism over the past 40 years, but after long reflection he rejected the metaphysical parts of Buddhist though (reincarnation, karma, etc.) and discovered that you can be an atheist and a Buddhist. This particular book lays out his view of a Buddhism for the modern age. [...]

    6. One of the better books on Buddhism that I've read and almost as useful and thought-provoking as Nichtern's ROAD HOME. Once again, as ever, "cultivating an awareness of feelings is crucial because many habitual reactive patterns are triggered as much by these subjective bodily affects as by the objects or persons we believe to be responsible for them". Ah those habitual reactive patterns, born of unmindful feeling states and unskillful thinking! Excellent analysis from a secularist viewpoint, co [...]

    7. Buddha died after a bout of bloody diarrhea, but Buddhists don’t wear red stool around their necks. Otherwise, the religion that developed after the Buddha’s death shares many qualities with Christianity: conservative, staid and dogmatic. In his new book, AFTER BUDDHISM: RETHINKING THE DHARMA FOR A SECULAR AGE, Stephen Batchelor tries to free the Buddha from the cycle of repetitive traditions that neuter his teachings. Much like recent books on the historical Jesus, which exposes a radical J [...]

    8. I learned a thing or two about the Buddha, that's for sure. For one, I always thought he was top-drawer royalty, when really he was no big deal in the royal flush of lineages of India in his day. I also learned that the famous story of his striking out from the royal grounds and discovering sickness, old age, and death is made up. That shouldn't surprise me, though. He may have told the story himself, but he didn't live it in a biographical way. Certainly, though, it fit his dharma lessons. And [...]

    9. This sentence from the publisher’s description puts it well: “Combining critical readings of the earliest canonical texts with narrative accounts of five of the Buddha’s inner circle, Batchelor depicts the Buddha as a pragmatic ethicist rather than a dogmatic metaphysician.” I won’t attempt to assess the book; other readers here and elsewhere have done that. I’ll say only that I was looking for things I can use and that I found some, among them the broad view of Buddhism as less conc [...]

    10. Absolutely fantastic. One of the best books I have ever read. Secular Buddhism the way Batchelor explains it is crystal clear and its implications are profound. If you are interested in buddhist philosophy without dogmas this is a great place to start.

    11. I rated this book four stars when I was part way through it then changed it to five once I finished. The structure is tough at first because it seems all over the place. But the end brings it all together so perfectly and connects it all with such clarity. Amazing.

    12. Who am I to tell Stephen Batchelor what to think? I discovered Buddha in 1961 or 62 when I equally read the Bible, Shakespeare, Thomas Mann, Buddha, Marc and Engels, Lenin and even a little bit of Mao Zedong, not to speak of many other things and works like books on mathematical logic and building technology. At the time the Quran was not on my personal syllabus.Buddhism never was a religion for me because for me a religion is attached to the concept of God or some supreme being and the immortal [...]

    13. My rather faint and dilettantish interest in Buddhism has in recent years grown more serious, inspired in part by being seriously ill and unable to practice yoga as I used to, forcing me to turn to meditation instead. So I guess the people who believe that yoga is a gateway practice to Satanism are not entirely wrong. Anyway, a regular meditation practice has led to an increasing interest in the philosophy and ethics of Buddhism, which, inasmuch as I knew anything of them, seemed more aligned wi [...]

    14. The core of Buddhism is a teaching by one man, Gautama Siddharta. All the rest is ‘religion’: dogma’s, rituals, fantasy stories and shiploads of incense sticks. What if you would cut that all away, though? That is what Stephen Batchelor is after in ‘After Buddhism’, which I found to be a very lucid, inspiring and important book for a ‘post-credal age’. First off, what was it that the Buddha was after?[Gautama's] project was primarily ethical. He sought to establish a pragmatic fram [...]

    15. Batchelor's goal is to get back to the historical Buddha by reading the foundational text anew and stripping out the cultural layers that were added to Buddhism following the death of Gotama. What is left is a pragmatic way of living that is not dependent on a belief in an almighty God or afterlife or dogma. Batchelor's vision is a city of secular Buddhist who practice the orginal Buddhas teaching by caring for each other and living in this world. His city is not a utopia or city of God like St. [...]

    16. I’m a big fan of irony and subverting expectations, especially in an attempt to prove a point. In this work, Stephen Batchelor does a great job of subverting the TITLE. He describes the time Before “Buddhism”, during Gotama’s life when the lectures and teachings had not yet been codified into a Religion. Building on the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of commentary, Batchelor presents a living Buddhism; shaped by the times and places it spread. He argues that Gotama intended for Buddhist thou [...]

    17. I had to take my time to read, digest and meditate on the ideas Batchelor put forward in this book. It seems like the main idea was to strip Buddhism down, remove the rites, rituals and dogma and focus on the core tenets of what Gotama taught. Stephen Batchelor has a remarkable way of doing this and then relating it all back to practitioners today. I've read many of his books and they're all great. I'm glad I read this one and highly recommend it.The key take away for me is that Buddhism adopted [...]

    18. the buddha was an ordinary person, and his disciples were fully 'in the world' - doctors, businessmen, servicemen, etc. helpful book for thinking about the modern tension between all-consuming work / life mission, and the buddhist principle of 'letting go' of attachments. reminded me of david chapman's approach - to let oneself get very involved/go deep, but be able to maintain an outside perspective (or switch into it sometimes) of the absurdity and meaninglessness / hilarity of such strong att [...]

    19. This was a fun way of getting into Batchelor’s understanding of the world of the Buddha. I know that many people disagree with his interpretations of the Pāli canon, but his secularized and socially grounded approach to Buddhism is well worth thinking about. This book is a lot more fun than Secular Buddhism, and the historical and narrative structure helps to drag you into his interpretive framework. Well worth a read!

    20. The author managed to make a potentially intriguing thesis into a tedious exercise in retelling legendary narratives of Buddhism. I fail to see how spending entire chapters recounting the biographies of various Buddhist saints aimed to achieve his thesis of promoting a secular Buddhism for the 21st Century, devoid of ancient superstitions. Robert Wright has managed to achieve this in his recent book "Why Buddhism is True", and maintain a much more entertaining read in the process.

    21. While some of his conclusions were a bit of a stretch taking the original Pali Canon into account, I think his overall message was fantastic. His references to the Pali Canon, which I have read most of, really opened my eyes to a different way of reading/interpreting them.

    22. i consider this one of the most important books i have ever read. it strips away centuries of mystical accretions that have obscured some very important insights by the man Gotama. i don't ever recommend books, but this one i make an exception. you should read it.

    23. Batchelor's magnum opus. A thought-provoking read for those interested Buddhist thought and practice. Approachable read, unlike some of the psuedo-intellectual modern Buddhist writers.

    24. A thought-provoking book that attempts to peel off the layers of dogma that have accreted, over the past 25 centuries, onto Gautama’s teaching. Batchelor goes back to the Pali sources; in his close reading of this material, he makes a persuasive case that, in many cases, those accretions have subverted the original meaning of what the Buddha taught. Batchelor’s teacher emphasized pragmatic ethics over metaphysics: what ultimately mattered to Gotama was not whether this or that opinion about [...]

    25. There is a great deal of Christianity tied up in Western culture, so much so that it can be difficult to separate one from the other. The Buddhism of the West has had the benefit, as a transplanted religious practice, of being largely freed of cultural baggage. Its freedom from a rigid and stagnant religious establishment is undoubtedly what makes Buddhism so appealing to many Westerners like myself. But Stephen Bachelor has helped to open my eyes to the fact that the Buddhism Westerners inherit [...]

    26. This is a wonky bookless like his books for the general reader. He is a respected scholar on how Buddhism has evolved. I love this kind of book to complement my spiritual practice.

    27. I have enjoyed Stephen Batchelor's writing and point of view regarding a more secular teaching of the Buddhist path, and this book is no exception. He very clearly and logically outlines a view of the life and teachings of the Buddha (who he simply refers to as Gotama (a nice touch) throughout) that do not fit the orthodoxy that we are fed by so many of contemporary (and past) writers. This book challenges that Buddhist orthodoxy at every turn, while it provides scriptural references (liberally, [...]

    28. Like Mr. Wright (see “Why Buddhism is True”), Mr. Batchelor has trouble with “no self.” (Successful people have trouble giving up the ego. Imagine that.) Please see page 196 for Mr. Batchelor’s take on the issue. What I think is most important in his argument is his assertion that an ego or self is necessary if people are to act morally. “Taking such a stance means that Buddhists have to explain how such a non-existent self can function as a moral agent, capable of making responsible [...]

    29. This will not be an easy book to read for many. Batchelor takes a deep dive into the early texts of Buddhism, trying to parse Gotama's original teachings. For many, the book will rip the "magic" from Buddhism because he asserts the metaphysics that dominates Buddhism was a layer added by others after the Buddha. And for many people, metaphysics (in all its religious forms) is what enthralls them. I have no way of critically challenging what Batchelor is saying as I have no way to critically revi [...]

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