Review of Steven Batchelor’s After Buddhism

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.

You can read the complete review here and leave your thoughts as a comment. To purchase a copy of After Buddhism, click here.

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One Comment

  1. Mark Knickelbine
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    This is quite the best review of Batchelor’s latest I’ve seen, including the one I wrote on the Secular Buddhist Association site. I was disappointed, however, by its characterization of the mindfulness movement, one which I don’t believe Batchelor reflects in his book. Corporate and military applications of mindfulness, while they are the obsession of the blogosphere, in fact represent a small minority of mindfulness practitioners. The mindfulness-based interventions such as MBSR do not neglect the ethical or aesthetic components of dharma practice, and in practical terms mindfulness training is far more relational than traditional versions like Theravada or Zen. In my experience, the ‘everyday sublime’ of bringing mindful and heartful awareness to the whole of experience is exactly what the MBIs are aiming for, and I think Batchelor has come around on that point. The fact that this approach to life can be taught and discussed without recourse to ancient Asian metaphysics and doctrine demonstrates that the dharma is not the purview of any religious tradition, but is instead a means of expressing a universal human capacity for awakening.

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