This is a well written and thought-provoking book which is tailored for the modern western reader.
The author, Stephen Batchelor, strips down the jargon, religious dogma and cultural debris which Buddhism has accumulated over the centuries and represents the core concepts in a `pure' and easy to understand form.
He points out that Buddhism's gradual transmission from India to China and Tibet, then onwards to Japan, has seen the dharma pick-up aspects of each country's culture and traditions. It could be argued that each step has diluted the original aim of awakening, transforming Buddhism from an agnostic movement promoting self-liberation to a religious movement that puts ritual before awakening.
With Buddhism now gaining a foothold in the West, Batchelor believes that we are in a position to create a true culture of awakening - one that takes the core teachings and practices and discards the aspects which are not relevant to practice. At the same time he takes a balanced view, admitting the difficulties of this process and the dangers of discarding something which is valuable, thereby making awakening harder for future generations. He proposes no answers, only raises more questions, which, in a book calling for agnostic Buddhism, is a very good thing.
In a way the author does not propose anything new. The stripping down of scripture and ritual, and the emphasis on direct practice, reminds one of early Ch'an and Zen Buddhism. However, it is, I believe, a valuable book as it can often be extremely difficult for Westerners to get through to the core of dharma practice. `Buddhism Without Beliefs' does a good job of it. Not quite the Buddhism in plain words which I think the world needs, but a very good start.