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Confession of a Buddhist Atheist Paperback – March 8, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 135 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Batchelor's Buddhism Without Beliefs (1997) described a secular approach to the Eastern philosophy stripped of doctrines such as karma and rebirth; how a young British monk ordained in the Tibetan tradition turned into a Buddhist atheist is revealed in this new book. On the dharma trail in India and Korea, and later as a lay resident at the nonsectarian Sharpham community in England, Batchelor was beset by doubts about traditional Buddhist teachings. Finally convinced that present-day forms of Buddhism have moved far beyond what founder Gotama had intended, Batchelor embarked on a study of the Pali canon (very early Buddhist texts) to find out what the Buddha's original message might have been. Batchelor's own story of conversion is woven effortlessly with his analysis of Buddhist teachings and a 2003 pilgrimage to Indian sites important in the Buddha's life. He is candid about his disillusionments with institutionalized Buddhism without engaging in another new atheist broadside against religion. While Batchelor may exaggerate the novelty of his Buddhism without beliefs stance, this multifaceted account of one Buddhist's search for enlightenment is richly absorbing. (Mar. 2)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Former Tibetan and Zen monk Batchelor approaches Buddhism idiosyncratically. He sketches the historical Buddha to clear up numerous misconceptions, discover who the man Siddhattha Gotama was, and learn what is distinctive and original in his teachings, especially the Pali Canon attributed to him. But Batchelor also offers his own story: his decision to become a monk when he was still a teenaged London hippie during the countercultural 1960s, and his return to the secular world a decade later. Although the historical background is important and crucial to the book, the personal story really shines out, entraining the reader in Batchelor’s often complicated life as a seeker who never stops searching, as he discusses his long fascination with Buddhism and his struggle to accept, or at least come to terms with, some doctrines, such as reincarnation, that were alien to his former belief system. He concludes with his reflections as a 56-year-old secular, nondenominational, lay Buddhist now living in rural France. --June Sawyers --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; unknown edition (March 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385527071
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385527071
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At the end of "Confession of a Buddhist Atheist", Stephen Batchelor speaks briefly of the collage art he creates from found materials. This book is something of a collage, pieced together with three major themes, the whole forming a work that is complete and beautiful, with a wholly admirable integrity.

The first theme is expressed as a memoir. Batchelor tells us, with just enough detail to bring the story to vivid life without distracting us from its narrative course, how he journeyed from a childhood in provincial England, raised without religious indoctrination by a single mother, through a classic '60s-style road trip, with plenty of drugs, little money and no clear end in mind, Eastward through Afghanistan and Pakistan to Daramsala, where the young Dalai Lama had recently settled with his community of exiled Tibetans, and where Batchelor first encountered the Buddhist thinking that would inform his life. He learned Tibetan, ordained as a monk in the Dalai Lama's Gelug tradition, and discovered the first of a series of teachers who would, through the next 30 years, conspire, albeit unknowingly, to form the person who has emerged as Stephen Batchelor, a very different person than any of them sought to form, but a person whose goodness and honesty would compel their admiration, being themselves good and honest people.

In addition to Geshe Rabten, with whom Batchelor studied in India and later in Switzerland, those teachers included S.N.
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Format: Hardcover
I actually finished this book a week ago, and at the time was unsure how I was going to rate it. Batchelor's conclusions re: Buddhism are very different from my own. I enjoy the magic, the mystic, expressions present in some lineages of Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, and with connecting with Buddha as an eternal force, not only a human being. So I was faintly dissatisfied with where the author's own journey and research led him, and almost docked a star because of it.

In the end, though, I didn't, because the book is so well-written and well-researched, and I have found myself thinking about it and discussing it frequently with people I know. I read and review a lot of books, many of them Buddhist, and few of them stay with me for this long. So that to me is a sign of a five-star book, whether I personally agree and relate to all the author's points or not.

My favorite parts of the book were his stories regarding his own experiences as a young Tibetan Buddhist monk, and then studying in Korea with a Zen teacher, while grappling with existential questions and increasingly exploring Western philosophy as well. What a profound seeker! As I said, my own personal experiences have led me to a more mystic orientation, and I kept feeling like the author's intellect was getting in his way. But that is not for me to say. In the end, I admired his integrity and dedication to seeking truth. It is rare that someone is willing to throw away everything they have known, all that has made them comfortable, over and over again as their searching brings them to new conclusions. And that is what Mr.
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Format: Hardcover
"Consciousness is an emergent, contingent, and impermanent phenomenon. It has no magical capacity to break free from the field of events out of which it springs.

There are no wormholes in this intricate and fluid field through which one can wriggle out, either to reach union with God or move on to another existence after death. This is a field in which one is challenged to act: it is your actions alone that define you. There is no point in praying for divine guidance or assistance. That, as Gotama told Vasettha, would be like someone who wishes to cross the Aciravati River by calling out to the far bank: "Come here, other bank, come here!" No amount of "calling, begging, requesting or wheedling" will have any effect at all."

I was first introduced to Mr. Batchelor through his book "Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening," which radically changed my perception of the religion. Mr. Batchelor continues to forge new ground with his newest release "Confession of a Buddhist Atheist."

The book is an exquisitely woven tapestry, threaded via a seamless combination of personal narrative, historical tracing, and dissection of canon. Mr. Batchelor doesn't simply deconstruct the milieu of Buddhist dogma (karma, reincarnation, et. al.), he presents how they are the antithesis of what Gotama intended, and how they are unnecessary (and often hindrances) in the application of his message.

Based on the title, in combination with the jacket blurb from Christopher Hitchens, one may be inclined to foresee the book as a complete disemembering of the Buddhist religion.
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