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After Buddhism (book review) Stephen Batchelor

Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age

180916: this is a very interesting take on buddhism. at the beginning the author describes in his project, a desire to update buddhism of several religious interpretations with a secular understanding, born of the 2 500 years since gotama buddha is said to have lived. this is a noble intent. this requires a lot of rereading and much translation to identify exactly what early texts said, before they were 'corrupted' or 'overwritten' by descendant followers whose additions, emphasis, exclusion, of various thinkers and writings created the 'tradition', the 'canon', in view of politics and culture of the time...

i have read a few buddhism books, only in english, so i will not judge this work in the author's extensive translations. he is consistent. he is resolutely motivated by some desire to update and 'secularize' from the earliest extant work from say a hundred years after gotama's death. he gives his reading of the process of dissemination of original insights. he notes which common terms were added to express the practical, somewhat 'physician'-like, insights of the 'four noble truths' as some great, miraculous, wondrous gift that could only have come from a divine religious figure rather than a thoughtful, insightful, communicator who was human as they...

the author does not hesitate to re-translate early works and critically examine exactly when and how such generally applied concepts such as 'emptiness' of all things, can be drawn out of 'impermanence', but are in his reading not paradoxical and requiring the distinction of 'conventional truth' versus 'ultimate truth'. which means... well you just don't get it, listen to us. there is discussion of how rebirth and karma are not necessarily linked, that there was never any need to argue for these concepts in the various original cultures of buddhism, and the author usefully parallels such thought-worlds with our current natural/physical/scientific worldview in our place and time. the big bang, the extensive story of evolution by natural selection- these are generally accepted if not widely understood...

that the author returns to earliest texts both within the canon and eventually as written outside india, by the greeks, by the later europeans, is a useful way of developing a sense of early 'practice' of buddhism and also an understanding of how buddhism declined and almost disappeared in india. it is well argued that some texts are in need of newer translation, that sometimes history has been rather unkind, that there is a weight of conservatism that holds this way from maturing into a useful practical addition to our globalized world, that 'buddhism' as we know it might not be recognizable to that era...

i have read a lot of buddhism but not much ‘practiced’ it, in ritual or religion... i have read a lot in general. in looking for this 'secular' version of buddhism i seem to find many references/arguments/terms to have rather more 'poetic' values and i never much worry about contradiction and paradox or just bad logic. i find this with heidegger, who is here used as well. and then, something essential i would think, is the buddha's insistence that the dharma (teaching) must make sense, must be come to not as 'revelation' but as 'argument' to each and every follower. so 'original texts' should perhaps be considered directions to explore thought, to elaborate, to render current and consistent- rather than perfect and inflexible for all time, with only ancientness validating insights. think of buddhism as practice. think of the buddha as practical ethicist and not dogmatic metaphysician. this book is not the only book to read on buddhism but best read after some other texts...

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