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Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening
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89 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on 22 January 2005
As a newcomer to the field I bought several introductions to Buddhism. This was the best for me, helping me to understand how the teachings can underpin the way we live our modern lives. The book takes an agnostic stance therefore preaches nothing, helping the reader to absorb the main tenets without demanding blind acceptance of ancient doctrines. It clearly separates belief (as required in religions and "isms") from action - which is helpful if you want something practical and logical. Though the book is quite short (127 pages) it's a very stimulating, if intense, read, and gave me lots of ideas about how becoming a Buddhist could affect my life. Go for it!
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111 of 113 people found the following review helpful
on 28 February 2005
This book is profound on so many levels that even an experienced and committed buddhist finds it challenging and thought-provoking. It is also an excellent beginners' book. What it does so uniquely well is separate buddhism from "religion" by showing that doubt is a necessary part of faith rather than a hindrance to it. It completely eschews jargon - which is a very effective technique - focussing instead on the human experience of life. Interestingly, this style is closer to the Lord Buddha's message because personal experience is so much more important than dogma. Like many great buddhist books, it is divided into small readable chunks, making it ideal for contemplation. It basically provokes us to ask many questions about life and see how we can integrate meditation and a gentle approach to others into it. The topics covered are typical buddhist ones - suffering, anxiety, aggression and so on. It also deeply personal - at times we feel the author letting us into his own mind.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2010
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.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This is a good place to start if you're interested in Buddhism. Like the title suggests, it can be read by those with no prior knowledge of Buddhism and those who follow other faiths, but wish to learn more. Not only that, it provides a source of real wisdom for those who wish to lead a better life, but without saying they are Buddhist (or even any faith at all). Not the deepest book, but a perfect introduction for that reason.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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90 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on 21 January 2004
Having read many books on buddhism and been suprised at how many of them have succeeded in making a religion out of it- this book is a revelation.
For me it expresses pure buddhist thinking-no ritual,no traditions, no religious ceremonies to make you less afraid of dying,no oracles to consult(as with Tibetan Buddhism),no having to "vow to save" others (as with Zen)just looking inward and trying to change your core-the hardest thing of all.
One critique is that it is "too simple". Yes,it is simple but the work that follows will be the hardest you've ever undertaken.
As Batchelor points out -Buddhism is something to do, not to believe in.It is, in my opinion, exactly how the original teacher would have wanted it.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 2000
There is something about this book that makes it stand out. Maybe it's the way the author seems to have such a unique insight into human nature, making you feel as if he was writing the book with just you in mind. Maybe it's his fluent and stylish way of writing. Or perhaps it's the way he manages to express his opinions with great clarity, yet remaining modest and respectful. Finally, perhaps, it's the subtle humour he puts into the lessons he wants to teach. Whatever it is, Stephen Batchelor has written a book worthy of representing non - religious Buddhism in the 21st century, and that's no small achievement.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 28 May 2000
This book is as radical as the Buddha's own teachings. I'm reminded of the 1997 film of Romeo and Juliet, which for me managed to capture the essence of the orignal play and communicate it to an audience in a very different society to the one in which Shakespeare lived (though you may not appreciate that comparison if you didn't like the film!).
Batchelor exercises the best form of skillful means in this book - an incisive, calmly put re-appraisal of the message of Buddhism that gets right to the point and says exactly the right things. Quietly revolutionary, I'd say.
As far as the audience is concerned, I'd say it is an excellent starter for westerners new to Buddhism, alongside Guy Claxton's recent book; "The Heart of Buddhism". But also for westerners who've been around the block of Buddhist practice, so to speak, this is an excellent catalyst for a critical re-appraisal of their practice and attitude towards Buddhism, alongside "Land of No Buddha", by Richard Hayes. (The companion books I suggest, though, are complimentary and *very * different from Batchelor's work).
It put my ego in its place and made me examine my firmly held attitudes - and the Buddha did that too. Brilliant.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 11 September 2004
This book completely put the buddhist way of life into perspective for me. it's so easy to understand and follow!
The only thing negative about it, is that it does use very advanced vocabulary, which some readers may not fully grasp.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 11 December 2008
I first read this book over 5 years ago, and I have never forgotten it.

It was a complete eye opener and explained Buddha's philosphy in a transparent, open and inviting manner. The book gets right to the point and avoids wallowing in intellectual dogma (which unfortunately plagues so many other impenetratable texts on Buddhism).

For an agnostic such as myself, it is a welcoming opportunity to experience a simple practical philosophy that can change your approach to life.

I personally found this book a powerful insight.

It is very dissapointing to see some very negative reviews of this book. I can't help but feel that there is an intellectual and very defensive pride from the more traditional opponents of this book, who are unwilling to observe things change.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 24 August 2000
A lot of books about Buddhism are like all kinds of books, in that they somehow suggest 'it' (whatever it is) will help you if you believe in it enough. If we can do that, then we'll be happy, even if, deep inside, we don't.
I liked this book because it doesn't try and give a blue print of life, the universe or anything.
In a more academic and cerebral way than Thich Nhat Hahn, it reminded me that the world is big. It encourages readers to be honest about their actual felt experience. By doing this, by not bending our experience to fit in with any 'enlightened framework' (even buddhism), it reminded me that it is a lonely but open path, that only each one of us is in a position to 'make sense of', experience, our own experience. It is here Stephen Batchelor implies, in the honesty of these shifting sands, that life is full of surprises.
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