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Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil Hardcover – June 3, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (June 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573222763
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573222761
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #790,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author of Buddhism Without Beliefs and a former monk in the Tibetan and Zen traditions, Batchelor works to reconcile the fears, desires, and compulsions of the ego (the devil or Mara) with the certainty of death. Drawing on a rich variety of literature, religious tradition and history, Batchelor demonstrates how the anguish associated with the transient nature of life has preoccupied humans for centuries: Job wrestles with his fate; Pascal's writings reflect his dread at being expelled from the universe when his existence would eventually come to a close. Surveying responses to this intractable problem, Batchelor concludes that mankind has always relied on the temptations of the devil to still anxiety and create an aura of permanence. Compulsive activities, lustful behavior and behaving violently and destructively to others are all evils that stem from Mara. Overcoming these feelings and pursuing the way of love and compassion, for Batchelor, rests on one's ability to make peace with the devil and nourish one's "Buddha nature." Although he explores a number of philosophies, Batchelor's focus is on the path to nirvana (a cessation of desires) forged by Siddhartha Gautama, an Indian prince and the historical Buddha, whose life and thinking are presented in some detail. Some of the references will be obscure to neophytes, but Batchelor's genuine concern and desire for a better world come through clearly.
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About the Author

Stephen Batchelor is a former monk in the Tibetan and Zen traditions. He has translated and written several books on Buddhism, including Shantideva's A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, Alone with Others, The Faith to Doubt, The Tibet Guide (winner of the 1988 Thomas Cook Award), and The Awakening of the West (joint winner of the 1994 Tricycle Award).

Customer Reviews

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65 of 65 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is an interesting and intelligent approach to the dualistic struggle of Good and Evil that is rooted deeply in the human character. Most of the expositions are Buddhist, but parallels in literature and in other religions are also considered with cultural poise and maturity. (Although the author used to be a monk in the Tibetan and Zen traditions, the Pali Nikaya is the predominant source of his quotations.) Many subtle points in Buddhist philosophy and meditation practice are made surprisingly accessible in lucid and poetic prose. If you have read "Verses from the Center: A Buddhist Vision of the Sublime," you will find that the author's wonderful explanations of "contingency," "emptiness" and "path" are reintroduced in this book. Yet, Buddhism goes beyond the moral connotations of Evil and Good: the meditator looks directly at Concept and Reality, at Fabrication and Truth. Freedom from suffering is ultimately freedom from all fixations, or "absence of resistance" as the author aptly puts it.
This book could serve as a better introduction to Buddhism than most books that are so dry and doctrinal they put you to sleep. If you are a Buddhist scholar or meditation practitioner, read it too, as it may give you a few fresh perspectives (or take away some of your beloved opinions). Enjoy the book, and its reminder: There is no Buddha without Mara; there is no Nirvana without Samsara.
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123 of 134 people found the following review helpful By Chia on October 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I feel like Batchelor is someone who truly wants to face existence as it is and find an authentic respond to it. Consequently, his insights were really heart-felt. He is like the stubborn kid on the block who refuses to go home until he has resolved the question about the stars.

Living With the Devil has helped me to create a different perspective on mortality. For example, as he had suggested that our existence is "contingent rather than necessary."

To illustrate this point the best, I will give an example of how it helps me in my specific situation. I am an Asian immigrant in America. And just few weeks ago, I was walking one early morning to class on a college campus and saw a white football player type of person walking toward me. That morning I was in a fairly good mood and was in fact planning on saying hi to that person, despite the fact that few hate crime incidents had just happened in the last couple of weeks on campus and I was fairly frustrated because not a lot of people including the faculties, which were essential, were willing to participate and show support in the discussion about the hate crimes after they had happened. Anyway, as we are about to approach each other, he suddenly cut in front of me, so that I had to actually force my self to stop so that I don't bump into him. I looked at him in surprise and he gave me a nasty stare. PLEASE NOTE: this is not a racial comment, it can happen to anyone, for example, maybe in the case of a Chinese soldier to a Tibetan in Tibet.

I had thought about this incident and couldn't really think of anything. I am like 6-3, so if I have to fight I can, but I am also a psychology major and am interested in public service, so there is a conflict in me.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Judith Johnson on June 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Batchelor has been a monk in both Tibetan and Soto Zen traditions, and he admits to having absorbed both western mythologies: Science and Christianity. He writes from these multiple perspectives, and quotes various other sources including the Old Testament, the Talmud, Pascal and Montaigne. As usual his writting contains passages that are as simple and sharp as Majushri's sword.
In Batchelors view; God, nivana, the deathless, emptiness are all names for something that is best left unnamed: the perplexing and life altering experience at the heart of religious traditions. This experience is simply what happens when we unclench the mental fist with which we reflexifly grasp our illusions and defend our illusory self. Once we relax our grip we are free. Mara nature is inescapably present. It is built into our biology. It is that which causes the grasping and blocks our freedom. It is the root of rigidity, a dam in the stream of life, a locking into rigid patterns that cause suffering. Our Buddha nature dwells in freedom, but we need to make an effort to realise it. This effort culminates in letting go, in unclenching the mental fist. Letting go is a precise action, while grasping is a crude reflex that may be enacted in any number of ways, and is triggered by any number of things. Even an intent to "let go" can end in grasping and rigidity if we are unaware of the slipperiness of Mara. Bachelor suggests that naming Nirvana, even calling it emptiness, is devilish, tending to rigidity. Koans are a way of investigating while not naming, but even Zen Buddhism cannot escape the grip of Mara, it too tends to institutionalization and rigidity.
I found Batchelors parallels between the Christian Satan and Mara rather interesting.
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More About the Author

Stephen Batchelor is a former monk in the Tibetan and Zen traditions. He has translated Shantideva's A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life and is the author of Alone with Others, The Faith to Doubt, The Tibet Guide, The Awakening of the West, Buddhism without Beliefs, and Verses from the Center. He is a contributing editor of Tricycle magazine, a guiding teacher at Gaia House Retreat Centre, and cofounder of Sharpham College for Buddhist Studies and Contemporary Inquiry in Devon, England. He lives in southwest France and lectures and conducts meditation retreats worldwide.

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