The first responders to the call of ancient spiritual geniuses faced the choice of remaining in ephemeral small circles and soon disappearing, or seeking an immortality of sorts in durable religious institutions. After the Buddha’s and Jesus’ deaths, for instance, their followers took the second option. And paid a high price for it.
Institutions as such generate their own logics of power and control – internally through resort to hierarchy and orthodoxy, and externally by falling into bed with tyrants, plutocrats and oligarchs. And so it was for the Buddhists and the Christians.
After Buddhism: Rethinking the dharma for a secular age by Stephen Batchelor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015. 381 pp.) will focus discussion around a secular Buddhism and dharma renewal for years to come. Anyone with an interest in these subjects will need to know it.
At 332 pages of text, it’s not for the faint-hearted, but it’s an accessible and highly engaging read. For once, the hardback format is not just a plot to raise the price: your copy will get a lot of use, and will need the most resilient cover available.