Does Buddhism require faith? Can an atheist or agnostic follow the Buddha’s teachings without believing in reincarnation or organized religion?
This is one man’s confession.
In his classic Buddhism Without Beliefs, Stephen Batchelor offered a profound, secular approach to the teachings of the Buddha that struck an emotional chord with Western readers. Now, with the same brilliance and boldness of thought, he paints a groundbreaking portrait of the historical Buddha—told from the author’s unique perspective as a former Buddhist monk and modern seeker. Drawing from the original Pali Canon, the seminal collection of Buddhist discourses compiled after the Buddha’s death by his followers, Batchelor shows us the Buddha as a flesh-and-blood man who looked at life in a radically new way. Batchelor also reveals the everyday challenges and doubts of his own devotional journey—from meeting the Dalai Lama in India, to training as a Zen monk in Korea, to finding his path as a lay teacher of Buddhism living in France. Both controversial and deeply personal, Stephen Batchelor’s refreshingly doctrine-free, life-informed account is essential reading for anyone interested in Buddhism.
Batchelor’s Buddhism Without Beliefs (1997) described a “secular” approach to the Eastern philosophy stripped of doctrines such as karma and rebirth; how a young British monk ordained in the Tibetan tradition turned into a “Buddhist atheist” is revealed in this new book. On the dharma trail in India and Korea, and later as a lay resident at the nonsectarian Sharpham community in England, Batchelor was beset by doubts about traditional Buddhist teachings. Finally convinced that present-day forms of Buddhism have moved far beyond what founder Gotama had intended, Batchelor embarked on a study of the Pali canon (very early Buddhist texts) to find out what the Buddha’s original message might have been. Batchelor’s own “story of conversion” is woven effortlessly with his analysis of Buddhist teachings and a 2003 pilgrimage to Indian sites important in the Buddha’s life. He is candid about his disillusionments with institutionalized Buddhism without engaging in another “new atheist” broadside against religion. While Batchelor may exaggerate the novelty of his “Buddhism without beliefs” stance, this multifaceted account of one Buddhist’s search for enlightenment is richly absorbing. (Mar. 2)