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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What I've been looking for without knowing it.
I ordered this book based on the review here by "Dr. of Buddhology and author of 6 books on Buddhism; Dr. S. A." His attack on it it, and the reasons he gave for that, were more persuasive than any of the positive reviews in convincing me that I should read this book. Whenever anyone says, in effect, "Don't think for yourself--just follow Scripture," I've usually found it...
Published on July 22 2002 by David A. Farnell

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Mixture Of Confusion And Insight
"Buddhism Without Beliefs" is an important work for a number of reasons; it might also be a helpful book, or a dangerous book, depending on one's point of view. Certainly Batchelor's agnostic stance is problematic for a traditionalist believer; one need only read the virulent comments here (and also at jeweldakini.com) to see that this is so.
I do not...
Published on March 23 2000 by John W. Pettit


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Mixture Of Confusion And Insight, March 23 2000
This review is from: Buddhism without Beliefs (Paperback)
"Buddhism Without Beliefs" is an important work for a number of reasons; it might also be a helpful book, or a dangerous book, depending on one's point of view. Certainly Batchelor's agnostic stance is problematic for a traditionalist believer; one need only read the virulent comments here (and also at jeweldakini.com) to see that this is so.
I do not share Batchelor's views on reincarnation; I admit to being a believer. However, in all honesty, I must also declare myself an agnostic, as does Batchelor, for precisely the reason that I do not know from direct experience whether the Buddha's teaching of past and future births is true, or not. To the extent that few (if any) human beings really *know* whether rebirth is a fact, we must all--in the interest of intellectual honesty--admit to being agnostics, even if we are not ideologically comitted to agnosticism (as Batchelor seems to be).
Batchelor's practical advice on the "existential" approach to Buddhism at turns rings both true and hollow. It rings true to the extent that a "metaphysics of hope and fear" is certainly a less viable template for meaningful human experience than an "ethics of empathy" grounded in a nitty-gritty confrontation of the basic facts of existence. Batchelor's discourse rings false to the extent that he has, in effect, elevated agnosticism to the status of a dogma. It is *good* not to know, he seems to say; it is good, because it is an honest assessment of one's condition.
Granted, we do not know everything, and to his credit Batchelor is the first to admit it. On the other hand, all schools of Buddhist thought maintain that one *can* know the truth, the ineffable and unchangeable root of samsara and nirvana, and that one should become certain in one's realization of it.
Batchelor argues--and not without good reason--that striving for certainty ultimately leads to dissatisfaction, because it reinforces the dichotomy between who we are, and who we wish to become, or who we *think* we are. I think he makes a subtle but significant omission in not affirming more strongly that earnest confrontation with oneself and one's human frailty is the first step toward to achieving certainty -- certainty that none of our self-imposed limitations truly exist. Though Batchelor does speak about emptiness, his discussions of emptiness do not, in my estimation, convey a sense of certainty.
This book left me with the impression that, in the final analysis, Batchelor is more inclined to believe that one cannot know the truth with complete certainty, and that he is rather less inclined to believe in the possibility of full enlightenment (which is total certainty; cf. my book, Mipham's Beacon of Certainty).
All the same Batchelor speaks coherently of awakening as a *process*, not a goal -- and for the very reason that goals easily become obstacles in the study of the self, this way of speaking is meaningful and appropriate. It is also not without traditional precedent, e.g., in the writings of Chogyam Trungpa and in Dzogchen philosophy. Batchelor is a pragmatist, and thus prefers to dwell on the verifiable certainties of human mortality and doubt, rather than on the abstract and immediately unverifiable ideals of enlightenment and omniscience. This emphasis on the here and now is both instructive and limiting; it draws attention to the most pressing issues of being human, but it also detracts from the immense possibilities which obtain from changing one's conception of what it means to be human.
Batchelor's book is important, then, if not as an ideological reformulation of Buddhism for the West (and in that it may yet prove most important), then at least as an eloquent expression of the western psyche at the dawn of a new millenium, and as a record of how western minds are struggling to realize the prospect of freedom to which the Buddha exhorts us.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What I've been looking for without knowing it., July 22 2002
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This review is from: Buddhism without Beliefs (Paperback)
I ordered this book based on the review here by "Dr. of Buddhology and author of 6 books on Buddhism; Dr. S. A." His attack on it it, and the reasons he gave for that, were more persuasive than any of the positive reviews in convincing me that I should read this book. Whenever anyone says, in effect, "Don't think for yourself--just follow Scripture," I've usually found it a good idea to do the opposite. And as usual, I'm very glad I did.
Buddhism has taken on radically different forms in every culture in which it has taken root. Is Agnostic Buddhism one of the forms it will take in the West? I think it's likely. Many Westerners who are turning to Buddhism are agnostic, and stripped of the non-essentials (most of which were added long after the Buddha's death), Buddhism is a very appealing path. But so far, I have encountered little but New Age dilletantes and guru/student fundamentalists, two extremes that do not appeal to me at all. Here in Japan, I've met some very nice priests and monks, but practice has so far seemed quite ossified and heirarchical, something that really seems, well, very un-Buddhist to me.
And then along comes Batchelor's book, a breath of fresh air. This is just what I've been looking for.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars start on the path, then read this book, April 15 2004
By 
Argonaut (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Buddhism without Beliefs (Paperback)
I perhaps made the mistake of reading this book on Buddhism first, before any others. It resonated with me but I had difficuty grasping the complexity of the arguments without a more basic grounding in Buddhism. (For that I recommend any of the Tricyle's introductory books, John Snelling's 'Elements of Buddhism', and Jack Kornfield'd 'A Path with Heart'). I returned to book again with a more seasoned and educated mind and found it to be provocative and relevant to thinking afresh for oneself on the Buddhist Path. Batchelor reduces Buddhist principles to their essentials, sweeps away the accretions of 2,000 years of cultural dogma that have muddied the path, and shows a way for the contemporary Westernized Buddhist to proceed. An incdientally, whether on not you agree, if you appreciate good writing, this it is beautifully written book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Back-to-basics Buddhism, June 28 2001
This review is from: Buddhism without Beliefs (Paperback)
Batchelor has written a gem of a book, and his title couldn't have been more appropriate, in that "Buddhism without Beliefs" is really a redundancy. The author reminds us that Buddhism at its core is about openmindedness, analysis, individual searching, and experimentation, and that to accept anything (even Buddhist teachings themselves) on blind faith is to miss the greater point. His most important observation, which he presents in straightforward and lucid language, shines through clearly: One can still follow the Buddhist path without blind allegiance to metaphysical speculation. If anything, he could have spent more time pointing out that many Buddhist scholars and practitioners alike already accept "rebirth" as metaphorical rather than literal, to drive the point home amidst Buddhist "fundamentalists" who, like their Christian counterparts, sometimes miss the subtler message their respective teachers conveyed and who, unfortunately, help to present Buddhism to the West not as the open-ended method of inquiry into existential experience that it really is, but rather as just another ready-made, rigid, superstitious dogma to be accepted on blind belief. Batchelor, however, regards the Buddha himself as being "far from agnostic" on issues of life after death, so the author's relative reticence in this area is understandable but unfortunate. After all, the Buddha tailored his message to match the needs and aptitudes of his audiences, so why not assume that he employed metaphysical/cosmological imagery familiar to his culture in order to get his message across, without automatically assuming it to be literal?
In the end, Batchelor doesn't demand that we either believe or disbelieve in literal rebirth but rather to approach the matter with a healthy skepticism, rather than as a requirement for living a good Buddhist life, following the path, and achieving full awakening. This approach does no more than remain on the Buddhist Middle Way, and, here in the skeptical West, it's an important statement to make that may even help to ensure Buddhism's survival here. If Western Buddhism loses its speculative add-ons in the process, nothing is lost, and possibly something is gained: an unclouded insight into the parts of Buddhism that actually can make a difference here and now, in the lives of ourselves and others. That is the kernel of Buddhism, and Batchelor has pointed directly to it. A fine job.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An important milestone for Western Buddhism, Aug. 5 2002
By 
Conrad Leviston (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Buddhism without Beliefs (Paperback)
This is not a book I would necessarily recommend as an introduction to Buddhism. There are a number of other books that would do this job better, most of them titled "An Introduction to Buddhism".
The people I would recommend it to are those who already know a bit about Buddhism, but have a few nagging doubts. Doubts such as "How can the use of prayer wheels be justified?" or "Aren't a lot of the mystical aspects of practice counter to Buddah's teachings?".
This book puts forward a form of Buddhism that sits more comfortably with a western "rationalist" viewpoint. It quite rightly points out that each time Buddhism has moved to another culture it has undergone change.
The book is not perfect, however. At times it is in danger of reducing Buddah to a self-help writer, and it does not convincingly address the description of Nirvana given by Buddah.
Taken on balance, this book provides a very good entry into what will hopefully be an ongoing debate within the Buddhist community.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Isn't it odd..., May 28 2004
By 
Charles W. Anderson (Atlanta Georgia USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Buddhism without Beliefs (Paperback)
That so many of the negative reviews of this book seem to say precisely the same thing? Isn't it even odder that, if you click on the links to the negative reviewers, you find that so many of them have reviewed exactly the same books? Is there some sort of organized effort underway here to discredit "heretics"?
Oh, um... the book. It's good. Read it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Buddhism as it really is, Jan. 2 2014
This review is from: Buddhism without Beliefs (Paperback)
This is a fantastic book for anyone interested in meditation and in Buddhism. What Batchelor does is strip away all the cultural 'decorations', all the culturally specific modulations of the key message of Buddha. He presents a clear, lucid and simple discussion of meditation, the effort to become awwakened. enlightened - liberated from the sources of suffering - yet remain living in the world.

This is an important book that helps mark the emergence of a secular western sensitivity to the benefits that meditation has for everyone. He presents Buddha as a doctor prescribing a treatment that any individual can follow but that only the individual can fill. Buddha provided instruction that only the student can carry out. Batchelor brings these simple instructions in a way that the modern mind can access. Highly recommend this book - 5 Stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The book strips you of all excuses, Nov. 19 2013
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This review is from: Buddhism without Beliefs (Paperback)
"Buddhism without Beliefs" isn't really a book, but a tutorial. It describes the method of escaping the anguish while avoiding indulgences. What I read here is that no representatives can live my life for me or free me from myself - it's all in my hands, and all it takes is just a shred, a dandelion seed, of discipline. I am stuck in the middle not because it's hard to read, but because I know that once I am done, there is nowhere else I can look for help - I am my only helper. After that I won't be able to waste time the way I am accustomed to.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Aversion to Dogma, Jan. 16 2013
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This review is from: Buddhism without Beliefs (Paperback)
In dharma practise awakening requires equanimity toward the sensations that will otherwise lead to craving and aversion. Here's the thing: I have a strong aversion to dogma, especially religious dogma.

While Stephen Batchelor is not condoning any such aversions, in "Buddhism Without Beliefs" he does present and even advocate for following a dharma path absent of traditional Buddhist beliefs such as karma and rebirth. Amen!

It's not that I don't belief in karma and rebirth, it's just that I don't know. I am not opposed to living my live as if they do exist, it's just that to believe in such things requires a dogmatic faith. Which is something that I don't have ... and I'm equanimous with that.

Agnostic Buddhism -- now that's refreshing!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow. This is an excellent book!, Oct. 17 2002
By 
Kevin Mcdonald (Amarillo, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Buddhism without Beliefs (Paperback)
This book is the most practical and cerebral book on Buddhism I have ever read. I have an urge to purchase a case of them and hand them to anyone I think can handle it, although I'll probably just end up loaning out my own copy and hoping it will find its way back to me.
I own many books on Buddhism by several authors (Thich Nhat Hanh, Steve Hagen, Geshe Kelsang, the Dhali Lama, one of the Suzukis, and more...) This is the first that has presented Buddhism as a philosophy and lifestyle that can be devoid of several of the stumbling blocks that agnostics in particular find troublesome, such as reincarnation. Beyond the subject matter of the book, the author describes real life situations that are believable illustrations of the concepts he is presenting. His style is intellectual but not overbearing or highbrow. I truly regret having to put it down each evening, but not only do I need to sleep, I need to let his words churn around in my mind for a while and take root.
I have already recommended this book to several friends, and will continue to.
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Buddhism without Beliefs
Buddhism without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor (Paperback - Jan. 11 2002)
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