Close cookie details

This site uses cookies. Learn more about cookies.

OverDrive would like to use cookies to store information on your computer to improve your user experience at our Website. One of the cookies we use is critical for certain aspects of the site to operate and has already been set. You may delete and block all cookies from this site, but this could affect certain features or services of the site. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, click here to see our Privacy Policy.

If you do not wish to continue, please click here to exit this site.

Hide notification

  Main Nav
Confession of a Buddhist Atheist
Cover of Confession of a Buddhist Atheist
Confession of a Buddhist Atheist

Does Buddhism require faith? Can an atheist or agnostic follow the Buddha's teachings without believing in reincarnation or organized religion?

This is one man's confession.


In his classic Buddhism Without Beliefs, Stephen Batchelor offered a profound, secular approach to the teachings of the Buddha that struck an emotional chord with Western readers. Now, with the same brilliance and boldness of thought, he paints a groundbreaking portrait of the historical Buddha--told from the author's unique perspective as a former Buddhist monk and modern seeker. Drawing from the original Pali Canon, the seminal collection of Buddhist discourses compiled after the Buddha's death by his followers, Batchelor shows us the Buddha as a flesh-and-blood man who looked at life in a radically new way. Batchelor also reveals the everyday challenges and doubts of his own devotional journey--from meeting the Dalai Lama in India, to training as a Zen monk in Korea, to finding his path as a lay teacher of Buddhism living in France. Both controversial and deeply personal, Stephen Batchelor's refreshingly doctrine-free, life-informed account is essential reading for anyone interested in Buddhism.

Does Buddhism require faith? Can an atheist or agnostic follow the Buddha's teachings without believing in reincarnation or organized religion?

This is one man's confession.


In his classic Buddhism Without Beliefs, Stephen Batchelor offered a profound, secular approach to the teachings of the Buddha that struck an emotional chord with Western readers. Now, with the same brilliance and boldness of thought, he paints a groundbreaking portrait of the historical Buddha--told from the author's unique perspective as a former Buddhist monk and modern seeker. Drawing from the original Pali Canon, the seminal collection of Buddhist discourses compiled after the Buddha's death by his followers, Batchelor shows us the Buddha as a flesh-and-blood man who looked at life in a radically new way. Batchelor also reveals the everyday challenges and doubts of his own devotional journey--from meeting the Dalai Lama in India, to training as a Zen monk in Korea, to finding his path as a lay teacher of Buddhism living in France. Both controversial and deeply personal, Stephen Batchelor's refreshingly doctrine-free, life-informed account is essential reading for anyone interested in Buddhism.

Available formats-
  • Kindle Book
  • OverDrive Read
  • EPUB eBook
Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    0
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
  • Lexile:
  • Interest Level:
  • Text Difficulty:

Recommended for you

Excerpts-
  • Chapter One Chapter One


    A BUDDHIST FAILURE

    (I) MARCH 10, 1973. I remember the date because it marked the fourteenth anniversary of the Tibetan uprising in Lhasa in 1959, which triggered the flight of the Dalai Lama into the exile from which he has yet to return. I was studying Buddhism in Dharamsala,the Tibetan capital in exile, a former British hill-station in the Himalayas. The sky that morning was dark, damp, and foreboding. Earlier, the clouds had unleashed hailstones the size of miniature golf balls that now lay fused in white clusters along the roadsidethat led from the village of McLeod Ganj down to the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, where the anniversary was to be commemorated.

    A white canvas awning, straining and flapping in the wind, was strung in front of the Library. Beneath it sat a huddle of senior monks in burgundy robes, aristocrats in long gray chubas, and the Indian superintendent of police from Kotwali Bazaar. I joineda crowd gathered on a large terrace below and waited for the proceedings to begin. The Dalai Lama, a spry, shaven-headed man of thirty-eight, strode onto an impromptu stage. The audience spontaneously prostrated itself as one onto the muddy ground. He reada speech, which was barely audible above the wind, delivered in rapid-fire Tibetan, a language I did not yet understand, at a velocity I would never master. Every now and then a drop of rain would descend from the lowering sky.

    I was distracted from my thoughts about the plight of Tibet by the harsh shriek of what sounded like a trumpet. Perched on a ledge on the steep hillside beside the Library, next to a smoking fire, stood a bespectacled lama, legs akimbo, blowing into athighbone and ringing a bell. His disheveled hair was tied in a topknot. A white robe, trimmed in red, was slung carelessly across his left shoulder. When he wasn't blowing his horn, he would mutter what seemed like imprecations at the grumbling clouds, hisright hand extended in the threatening mudra, a ritual gesture used to ward off danger. From time to time he would put down his thighbone and fling an arc of mustard seeds against the ominous mists.

    Then there was an almighty crash. Rain hammered down on the corrugated iron roofs of the residential buildings on the far side of the Library, obliterating the Dalai Lama's words. This noise went on for several minutes. The lama on the hillside stampedhis feet, blew his thighbone, and rang his bell with increased urgency. The heavy drops of rain that had started falling on the dignitaries and the crowd abruptly stopped. After the Dalai Lama left and the crowd dispersed, I joined a small group of fellow Injis. In reverential tones, we discussed how the lama on the hill—whose name was Yeshe Dorje—had prevented the storm from soaking us. I heard myself say: "And you couldhear the rain still falling all around us: over there by the Library and on those government buildings behind as well." The others nodded and smiled in awed agreement.

    Even as I was speaking, I knew I was not telling the truth. I had heard no rain on the roofs behind me. Not a drop. Yet to be convinced that the lama had prevented the rain with his ritual and spells, I had to believe that he had created a magical umbrellato shield the crowd from the storm. Otherwise, what had happened would not have been that remarkable. Who has not witnessed rain falling a short distance away from where one is standing on dry ground? Perhaps it was nothing more than a brief mountain showeron the nearby hillside. None of us would have dared to admit this possibility. That would have brought us perilously close to questioning the lama's prowess and, by...

About the Author-
  • Stephen Batchelor is a former monk in the Tibetan and Zen traditions and the author of books including Alone with Others, The Faith to Doubt, The Awakening of the West, Buddhism Without Beliefs, and Living with the Devil. He lives with his wife, Martine, in southwestern France and lectures and conducts meditation retreats throughout the world.

    From the Hardcover edition.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 8, 2010
    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.

  • Kirkus

    January 1, 2010
    Religious scholar and former monk Batchelor (Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil, 2004, etc.) chronicles his four-decade journey through varieties of Buddhism.

    The notion that a Buddhist can be an agnostic or atheist is not oxymoronic, of course. Buddhism requires no formal belief in a god or gods. It does, however, require other leaps of faith, including one that Batchelor admits to having had trouble grasping—namely, the acceptance of reincarnation, for"the entire edifice of traditional Buddhist thought stands or falls on the belief in rebirth." The author arrives at his discussion of reincarnation through a hard tour of duty in a highly intellectual school of Tibetan Buddhism that prizes the study of formal logic and debate, providing tools for a rationally based, constantly inquiring approach to religion. As the Buddha said,"Just as a goldsmith assays gold, by rubbing, cutting, and burning…so should you examine my words. Do not accept them just out of faith in me." Elsewhere Batchelor writes of his encounters with the Dalai Lama, who has been waging a quiet war against the Tibetan belief in evil spirits, but who has also long been engaged in schools of Tibetan Buddhist thought other than his own in a kind of ecumenical spirit. Batchelor provides smart commentary on various aspects of Buddhist belief of whatever school, including the well-known eightfold path guiding appropriate behavior,"a complex feedback loop that constantly needs to be renewed and restored." Seekers of truths large and small, no matter what their inclinations, will find that commentary valuable, especially the author's exhortation that belief is not enough—one also has to act and act in the right way.

    A welcome contribution to Buddhist studies, joining essential modern books such as Rick Fields's How the Swans Came to the Lake (1980) and Robert Aitken's Taking the Path of Zen (1982).

    (COPYRIGHT (2010) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Library Journal

    April 1, 2010
    Buddhism, at least in its more ascetic and scholarly forms, prescinds from the existence of God: whether or not you believe in God, you "can" become enlightened. Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, did not teach the existence of any kind of God. (Many Buddhists, however, do believe in a God or gods.) As Batchelor ("Buddhism Without Beliefs"), a former Buddhist monk, points out in his new memoir, central to the beliefs of Buddhists are doctrines of rebirth and of dharma (universal law of recompense for one's acts). These doctrines define Buddhism as a religion. Batchelor is a highly regarded scholar and writer on Buddhism who has extensively studied the "Pli Canon", which gives an authoritative account of Gautama's teachings; he finds to his surprise that Gautama did not teach rebirth or dharma and that consequently he did not teach that there was any final justice in the universe. VERDICT This carefully researched and thorough title may not be suitable for a casual reader seeking a basic introduction to Buddhism, but it is well worth the effort; recommended especially for academic libraries.James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, VA

    Copyright 2010 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Christopher Hitchens

    "The human thirst for the transcendent, the numinous--even the ecstatic--is too universal and too important to be entrusted to the cultish and the archaic and the superstitious. In this honest and serious book of self-examination and critical scrutiny, Stephen Batchelor adds the universe of Buddhism to the many fields in which received truth and blind faith are now giving way to ethical and scientific humanism, in which lies our only real hope."

Title Information+
  • Publisher
    Random House Publishing Group
  • Kindle Book
    Release date:
  • OverDrive Read
    Release date:
  • EPUB eBook
    Release date:
Digital Rights Information+
  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

Status bar:

You've reached your checkout limit.

Visit your Checkouts page to manage your titles.

Close

You already have this title checked out.

Want to go to your Checkouts?

Close

Recommendation Limit Reached.

You've reached the maximum number of titles you can recommend at this time. You can recommend up to 99 titles every 1 day(s).

Close

Sign in to recommend this title.

Recommend your library consider adding this title to the Digital Collection.

Close

Enhanced Details

Close
Close

Limited availability

Availability can change throughout the month based on the library's budget.

is available for days.

Once playback starts, you have hours to view the title.

Close

Permissions

Close

The OverDrive Read format of this eBook has professional narration that plays while you read in your browser. Learn more here.

Close

Holds

Total holds:


Close

Restricted

Some format options have been disabled. You may see additional download options outside of this network.

Close

You've reached your library's checkout limit for digital titles.

To make room for more checkouts, you may be able to return titles from your Checkouts page.

Close

Excessive Checkout Limit Reached.

There have been too many titles checked out and returned by your account within a short period of time.

Try again in several days. If you are still not able to check out titles after 7 days, please contact Support.

Close

You have already checked out this title. To access it, return to your Checkouts page.

Close

This title is not available for your card type. If you think this is an error contact support.

Close

An unexpected error has occurred.

If this problem persists, please contact support.

Close

Close

NOTE: Barnes and Noble® may change this list of devices at any time.

Close
Buy it now
and help our library WIN!
Confession of a Buddhist Atheist
Confession of a Buddhist Atheist
Stephen Batchelor
Choose a retail partner below to buy this title for yourself.
A portion of this purchase goes to support your library.
Clicking on the 'Buy It Now' link will cause you to leave the library download platform website. The content of the retail website is not controlled by the library. Please be aware that the website does not have the same privacy policy as the library or its service providers.
Close
Close

There are no copies of this issue left to borrow. Please try to borrow this title again when a new issue is released.

Close
Barnes & Noble Sign In |   Sign In

You will be prompted to sign into your library account on the next page.

If this is your first time selecting “Send to NOOK,” you will then be taken to a Barnes & Noble page to sign into (or create) your NOOK account. You should only have to sign into your NOOK account once to link it to your library account. After this one-time step, periodicals will be automatically sent to your NOOK account when you select "Send to NOOK."

The first time you select “Send to NOOK,” you will be taken to a Barnes & Noble page to sign into (or create) your NOOK account. You should only have to sign into your NOOK account once to link it to your library account. After this one-time step, periodicals will be automatically sent to your NOOK account when you select "Send to NOOK."

You can read periodicals on any NOOK tablet or in the free NOOK reading app for iOS, Android or Windows 8.

Accept to ContinueCancel