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Summary

Some 25 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 perpetual 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.

©2015 Stephen Batchelor (P)2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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review

In parts this book was very interesting. It went into great detail of the Buddha's life. It was rather long and at times I found it a bit dry. I think this book is suited to those who have already studied Buddhism and want to know more about its history. Whilst it did touch on Buddhism in the secular age I felt like the title of the book was a little misleading. I was expecting more examples of the application of Buddhist philosophy and practise in a modern western environment.
I would only recommend this book to serious Buddhist heads

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great insight

a great insight - but I struggled with Stephen's narration - I would have preferred a better reader

6 people found this helpful

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One of the great thinkers of our time

I am so fortunate to have found this author. The time and scholarship that has gone into such a thoughtful and considered treatment of this large and complex body of literature is astonishing.
Batchelors style is much smoother than in some of the earlier texts. The ideas have matured and blossomed into this fascinating work.
I recommend reading the confessions book first.

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in depth account

This had a lot more factual inputs and really dissected historical information regarding the topic. Not for a casual read but fascinating for an in depth account of Buddha's life and core teachings.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Christopher F. Wilson
  • 20-12-15

Eye opening

Sorry to say this is pretty deep into the canon for a new follower of the path. Liked learning how real life of Gotama differed from life suggested by Hesse in Siddhartha. Liked seeing an approach to the teachings that treats women and adherents versus monks equal in opportunity. Liked seeing how doctrine fits with day by day work and life of a householder and not just with monastics and monks in forests. Quite learned, well researched, and well presented. Not for those with ADD or limited interest in dharma. Thanks for lots of useful information.

19 people found this helpful

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  • Joseph
  • 13-02-16

must listen for all traditions

Excellent review of the historical Buddha. In addition, this book is invaluable for a deeper, or new, understanding of layordination and/or the western practice of Buddhism in general.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Patrick
  • 08-02-17

this is NOT an intro to Buddhism!

if you're looking to get an intro to Buddhism look elsewhere! I'd suggest the dalai lama's How to Practice, and maybe Jack Kornfield's Buddhism for Beginners. but if you find yourself rolling your eyes at some of that, and here your inner Buddha calling B.S. on some of it, this book will not disappoint.
This book is a very rational reading of the Buddha's encounters and message, how it could have been bastardized by the organized religion, and how it can be reclaimed.
it is told through his encounters with many different individuals, which can be interesting, but very dense. this book is pretty academic, so if you're looking for prose and neat little stories, again, look elsewhere.
if you have heard the Buddha call you to seek your own path of truth and not bow to authority, or accepted knowledge, this is a book with many ideas worth considering.

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  • Wood Duck
  • 19-04-18

A great service to modern Buddhism

Thank you Mr. Batchelor for taking the time to search out original texts, historical context, and your own experiences attempting to pursue the contemplative life, and bringing it all to us in the modern age. I would not have the patience or interest to perform that ground work myself.

Personally, I loved the book but have to admit it’s sort of back and forth between slow going and enjoyable.

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  • M. J. Kimball
  • 09-11-16

Excellent, erudite, timely

I highly recommend this book for readers who are already familiar with the Dharma. Others might find it a bit confusing, but not impenetrable. Bachelor updates our understanding of Buddhism and the Dharma through insightful commentary and historical scholarship. His way of reading it, though, sounds almost eulogistic. This is a perfect book and excellent reinterpretation of Buddhism for our times. I find his arguments compelling, challenging and, no pun intended, enlightening. I'm planning to listen to it again and buy the book for reference.

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  • Josh
  • 03-01-16

A practical approach to history's prime pragmatist

Thank you for breathing life into the teaching, Mr Batchelor. I truly appreciate your work and it's contribution to my practice. May you be troubled only by the anxieties inherent in having a body and being in the world and be free of all other anxieties. I will return to this work again in the future.

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  • TZaal
  • 23-01-18

Recommended

A good read for those interested in non theistic & or Eastern buddhist philosophy, from a western perspective.

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  • Jana Bowen
  • 22-05-17

informative... but, slow and complicated...

although it is difficult to fully grasp in one listen, this book is very informative.

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  • JK
  • 12-06-21

WORTH TO LISTEN

A lot of interesting information, very well researched. I plan to listen to parts of the book again, especially from chapter 10 down. If you are studying Buddhism, this is not a book to be missed. The narrator, who is also the author is good, but it is best increase the speed to 1.5. My thanks to everyone involved in bringing this book to us, JK.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-05-21

You won't think of Buddhism the same afterward

Secular "Buddhism" is the future. The culmination of painstaking research, critical analysis, and compelling reorientation of a contemporary culture rooted in an ancient past, here Batchelor refines and elucidates the principles taught by the historical Buddha, separating them from the religious hierarchy that ensued and pointing out where Indian Brahmin culture crept in - forging the largely erroneous modern understanding of Buddhism as received in the West during the 19th and 20th centuries. The author crystallizes some of the ideas in his previous work, Buddhism Without Belief, and ensures the listener understands that the real-life historical Buddha was a human being with no special claim to some hidden realm of 'truth,' but rather a man who saw himself as a healer, akin to a medical doctor. That man in ancient India chose to share a way of seeing life that could ease suffering and build the foundation for individual happiness, yes, but also a vibrant society or community, right here and now - not in some afterlife or reincarnation. By examining the lives of the Buddha's immediate acquaintances and contemporaries, replete with political ambitions, ethical challenges, and social pressures, Batchelor reveals a man who lived into his eighties in a particular geographic and social context, but whose teachings today challenge the now-ossified religious orthodoxies which have developed through the centuries and have become conflated with those teachings. The author manages to be respectful of these traditions while pointing out where they diverge from what is known in the ancient available texts and translations. The result is a new opportunity for modern Western civilizations to embrace a non-religious and truly secular path to improvement which Batchelor convincingly contends was,and is, the genuine set of insights offered by the historical Buddha.