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After Buddhism

Product no.: 978-0300224344
A renowned Buddhist teacher’s magnum opus, based on his fresh reading of the tradition’s earliest texts.

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Publisher's Synopsis
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.

"In seeking to recover the original dharma and its founder, Batchelor acknowledges that his perspective has been shaped by liberal Christianity’s search for a human Jesus, Protestantism’s anticlerical stance, and European philosophy’s tragic yet cautiously hopeful view of human life. He recognizes, too, that his main source, the Pali canon, 'is a vast collage of conflicting texts' that contains many different 'voices,' of which he identifies six: poetic, dramatic, skeptical, pragmatic, dogmatic, and mythic. The multiplicity of the canon leaves us with the obvious question: 'How are we to distinguish between what is likely to have been the Buddha’s word as opposed to a well-intentioned ‘clarification’ by a later editor or commentator?'

For Batchelor, the answer is that we must locate the elements in Gotama’s teaching that 'stand out as most distinctive and original… and to bracket off anything attributed to [him] that could just as well have been said by another wanderer, Jain monk, or Brahmin priest of the same period.' What thus must be laid aside is any metaphysical claim regarding past or future lives or the transcendental nature of liberation, which were common in Gotama’s day. What is left are two main voices (the skeptical and the pragmatic) and four central ideas: the principle of conditionality, the practice of the fourfold task (a version of the four noble truths), the perspective of mindful awareness, and the power of self-reliance."         ~Lion's Roar

"It had to happen. After 100 years of gradually stripping the historical Jewish Messiah of any possible supernatural qualities to reveal a Mediterranean Jewish peasant whom the ignorant masses mythologize as a living God—Buddha gets his balls broken. Similar to Karen Armstrong, the former nun who is breaking bad with every new book bashing her ex-Lord, former Tibetan/Zen Buddhist monk Batchelor goes ghastly heretical here with his own autocratic version of the Jesus Seminar. Likewise, his first rule of thumb is to summarily dismiss anything suggesting the supernatural mind-set of the 6th century B.C., beginning with Siddhartha Gautama as an immortal Buddha, Reincarnation and the very concept of Nirvana or liberation from suffering. Also, since there is no Truth, we should follow the four Noble suggestions to acquiesce to a meaningless life that, nevertheless, can be successfully ignored until you mercifully die. Perhaps Batchelor is onto something, though. There is little faith left in the Buddhist world anymore and Stephen's attempt at creating a secular Buddhism may be just what the doctor orders and the skeptical psychiatrist prescribes."      ~Mandala Books

''An audacious disquisition on Buddhism, universal dharma, reality, and suffering for the twenty-first century. Batchelor posits that for the deep wisdom of Buddhism to serve humanity fully in our time, it may have to transcend itself.''      ~Jon Kabat-Zinn

"Brilliant, illuminating, and thought provoking, After Buddhism deserves the ultimate compliment for a work of this kind: it is useful. In probing the ancient scriptures in search of a Buddha we can relate to, Batchelor makes his dharma come thrillingly alive. A masterful achievement."     ~Mark Epstein, MD

"Throughout my forty years of involvement in the dharma, I have spent a great deal of time pondering and agonizing over Buddhist concepts in order to formulate an understanding of the dharma that is consistent with both core Buddhist teaching and the worldview of modernity. During these years the dharma has slowly broken out of the ghetto of 'Oriental religion' and penetrated into the mainstream of contemporary culture. Buddhist imagery, concepts, and terms now crop up in the most unlikely settings: in tattoos and Hollywood movies, in literary novels and slick advertising campaigns. The practice of mindfulness, now widely adopted in health care, business, education, and other fields, has grown from a minority interest among dharma students into a global movement that draws people from all walks of life, most of whom have little interest in the traditional teachings or institutions of Buddhism. What I seek to provide in this book is a philosophical, ethical, historical, and cultural framework for mindfulness and other such practices, which are rooted in the earliest canonical sources but articulated here afresh.

I cannot pretend that my rethinking of the dharma has not been deeply influenced by the culture in which I was raised. As a modern Westerner, I cannot but consider Buddhism as a historically contingent phenomenon that has continually adapted itself to different circumstances. As the product of a Christian culture, I am drawn to recover a thoroughly human Buddha, whose life and deeds tell us as much about the dharma as the written record of what he said does. As someone who identifies with the Protestant movements within Christianity, I am skeptical of the authority and charisma of priests and seek a direct relationship with the dharma through my own study of the original texts. As a European, I am conscious of my indebtedness to the thinkers of ancient Greece who understood philosophy as a practice for the healing and care of the soul."

Author Batchelor, Stephen
Coauthor Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 400 pp.
Publisher Yale University Press 2017
Browse these categories as well: Western Buddhism, Theravada Suttas, Vajrayana and Crazy Wisdom Masters, Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation, Noteworthy Releases 2017, Main Categories

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