4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Excellent and thought-provoking.,
This review is from: Confession of a Buddhist Atheist (Paperback)
This is a most excellent and worthy book. Having read Stephen's "Buddhism Without Beliefs" I was very keen to read this one. I think the "controversial" issues that he confronts in this book could equally as well apply to other religions or dogmatic belief systems. In the context of Buddhism Stephen has stripped away the embroidery of belief that naturally accumulates around ideas over time. Yet, if you read even a competent translation of the Dhammapada you can see that much of what passes for Buddhism is little more than hearsay and superstition acquired from the host culture. Using the famous quote attributed to the Buddha that upon finding a man shot with an arrow is it better to tend his wound and save his life or waste time trying to find out the name, address and family history of the man who shot it Stephen gets to the experiential heart of what the Buddha taught. It all sounds rather Zen-like but even Zen with it's relatively uncluttered simplicity is still often afflicted with dogmatic belief in re-birth and blind obedience to one's teacher. There is a scene in Alejandro Amenabar's recent movie "Agora" in which Rachel Weisz, playing 4th century Greek philosopher/mathematician Hypatia of Alexandria is talking to a former pupil of hers. He has become a bishop in the newly legitimised Christian religion, having abandoned enquiry for dogmatic belief. Hypatia says to him, "You cannot, dare not, question what you believe. I must".
Well, Stephen Batchelor dares to question what he believes and it is this sound principle that is at the heart of this remarkable book. There is also contained within one of the most detailed and interesting accounts of the Buddha's life I have read. Excellent.