Stephen Batchelor's “After Buddhism.” Yale University Press, 2015

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Jeffrey
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Stephen Batchelor's “After Buddhism.” Yale University Press, 2015

Post by Jeffrey » Sun Jan 10, 2016 4:52 am

I ran a search of the forum but as yet see no threads related to Batchelor's new book. If this belongs elsewhere, I trust the moderators will move it.

I'm still about a quarter of the way in so cannot offer a review. In fact what I'd like to do in this post is ask a question about something that seems somewhat perplexing. In Ch 4, Batchelor writers of the Buddha's experience of awakening:
“What he discovered was not revealed to him in one shattering moment of enlightenment; he did not suddenly realize the nature of Truth or God. He talks of his awakening as a process rather than a state, a story rather than a statement."
Batchelor frames the awakening to include his six years of wandering and training, which seems fair enough and provides some reason for describing his discovery as a process. It seems, though, most canonical accounts in fact have Gotama arriving at a moment of sudden awakening preceded by a decision not to move from his spot under the bodhi tree until he achieves clarity in his quest. So what's Batchelor up to here?

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Re: Stephen Batchelor's “After Buddhism.” Yale University Press, 2015

Post by Dhammanando » Sun Jan 10, 2016 5:39 am

Jeffrey wrote:Batchelor frames the awakening to include his six years of wandering and training, which seems fair enough and provides some reason for describing his discovery as a process. It seems, though, most canonical accounts in fact have Gotama arriving at a moment of sudden awakening preceded by a decision not to move from his spot under the bodhi tree until he achieves clarity in his quest. So what's Batchelor up to here?
It's clear from chapter 3 that Batchelor is quite aware of the traditional account:
  • "Whether we accept the traditional account of the awakening as having occurred in the course of one moonlit night beneath a pipal tree in Uruvelā (Bodh Gaya)..."
but doesn't agree with it:
  • "... or we accept what I think is the more likely course, that it occurred gradually over many years of studying, learning, reflecting, discussing, arguing, and meditating in various groves and cities throughout northern India..."
and has substituted a conception of awakening that's probably informed more by his training in Korean Zen than by his study of the Suttas. On the whole the book seems to be his most strongly Zen-influenced one since The Faith to Doubt.

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Re: Stephen Batchelor's “After Buddhism.” Yale University Press, 2015

Post by Jeffrey » Sun Jan 10, 2016 6:31 am

Thank you, Dhammanando. The text I quoted comes from Chapter 3, not Chapter 4, and I suppose I ought to have read a bit further, in which case I would have come to the text you quoted back. I appreciate Batchelor's acknowledgement that his is not a traditional interpretation and look forward to seeing what more he has to say.

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Re: Stephen Batchelor's “After Buddhism.” Yale University Press, 2015

Post by Ben » Sun Jan 10, 2016 6:57 am

Stephen Batchelor is a Facebook friend. I think he's an interesting character and has some interesting things to say but my own inclinations and teachers hail from a Burmese tradition which gives significant weight to the entirety of the Tipitaka and the rich legacy of the sangha which is the commentarial literature.
I'm aware of Stephen Batchelor's new book but I have a mountain of works to get through first.
Kind regards,
Ben
Jeffrey wrote:I ran a search of the forum but as yet see no threads related to Batchelor's new book. If this belongs elsewhere, I trust the moderators will move it.

I'm still about a quarter of the way in so cannot offer a review. In fact what I'd like to do in this post is ask a question about something that seems somewhat perplexing. In Ch 4, Batchelor writers of the Buddha's experience of awakening:
“What he discovered was not revealed to him in one shattering moment of enlightenment; he did not suddenly realize the nature of Truth or God. He talks of his awakening as a process rather than a state, a story rather than a statement."
Batchelor frames the awakening to include his six years of wandering and training, which seems fair enough and provides some reason for describing his discovery as a process. It seems, though, most canonical accounts in fact have Gotama arriving at a moment of sudden awakening preceded by a decision not to move from his spot under the bodhi tree until he achieves clarity in his quest. So what's Batchelor up to here?
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Re: Stephen Batchelor's “After Buddhism.” Yale University Press, 2015

Post by Caodemarte » Tue Jan 12, 2016 1:26 am

I would doubt from the text quoted that Batchelor is much influenced by Korean Zen in his definition of Buddha's enlightenment. Korean Zen is based on the traditional story. The big debate in Korean Zen is whether or not you need gradual cultivation after (sudden) enlightenment. That's above my pay grade, but take away (sudden) enlightenment entirely and you no longer have any Zen left. Batchelor would not have heard that the Buddha was slowly enlightened (if that it truly what he means) while a monk in Korea.

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Re: Stephen Batchelor's “After Buddhism.” Yale University Press, 2015

Post by Dhammanando » Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:14 am

Caodemarte wrote:I would doubt from the text quoted that Batchelor is much influenced by Korean Zen in his definition of Buddha's enlightenment. Korean Zen is based on the traditional story.
Okay, but I didn't mean to suggest that Batchelor was necessarily a reliable spokesman for the Korean Zen tradition — something I’m unqualified to judge; moreover, in the “Great Doubt” chapter of Confession of a Buddhist Atheist he cheerfully admits that he isn’t. What I wrote would probably have been better expressed: “Batchelor has substituted a conception of awakening that’s informed by the change in view he underwent during his training in Korean Zen rather than by his present study of the Suttas.”

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Re: Stephen Batchelor's “After Buddhism.” Yale University Press, 2015

Post by gavesako » Tue Jan 12, 2016 6:59 am

As a leading teacher at the newly established Bodhi College in the UK, Batchelor represents a new 'secular Buddhist' approach which involves a re-interpretation of traditional Buddhism of any school:
Bodhi College offers an ethical and philosophical framework for those practising meditation and the Dharma in today’s world by drawing on the early teachings of the Buddha before they became codified into the doctrines of the different Buddhist traditions.
The College is non-sectarian and unaligned with any Buddhist orthodoxy or particular school. While making use of modern critical scholarship, our goals are not academic. We offer a contemplative education that inspires students to realize the values of the Dharma in the context of this secular age and culture.
[The aim is] to access the rich and often untapped resources of the early texts and acquire the linguistic, hermeneutic, psychological and historical skills to understand them in ways that can be applied to contemporary needs.

https://bodhi-college.org/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Jeffrey
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Re: Stephen Batchelor's “After Buddhism.” Yale University Press, 2015

Post by Jeffrey » Wed Jan 13, 2016 4:35 am

An excerpt from Ch 3 on the condition of nirodham sacchikaroti.
“A sequence of texts in the Numerical Discourses names twenty-one householders and adherents ... who have found fulfillment in the tathāgata, have become seers of the deathless, and go about having beheld the deathless. They are said to have achieved this by virtue of embodying six qualities: “lucid confidence” in the Buddha, the dharma, and the community, together with “noble virtue, noble understanding, and noble liberation.” “Deathless” (amata) is also defined as the “ending of greed, hatred, and confusion,” thus making it synonymous with both “nirvana” and “comprehension.” This passage affirms how people fully engaged in the world as “seers of the deathless” had not only become aware of nirvana but lived their lives from its perspective.

This text has troubled traditional commentators because it presents householders as having achieved levels of insight and freedom that are usually reserved for arahants, who, according to orthodox belief, have to be celibate mendicants. Yet in terms of historical critical analysis, the difficulty of aligning a canonical text with orthodoxy makes it more likely to have been spoken by the Buddha himself—for the simple reason that not have served the interests of orthodoxy to add it later. By singling out these twenty-one relatively obscure figures in this way, we are provided with concrete examples of people who recognized, performed, and accomplished the fourfold task amid the hustle and bustle of everyday life in fifth century BCE India.”

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Re: Stephen Batchelor's “After Buddhism.” Yale University Press, 2015

Post by Dhammanando » Wed Jan 13, 2016 5:53 am

Jeffrey wrote:An excerpt from Ch 3 on the condition of nirodham sacchikaroti.
“A sequence of texts in the Numerical Discourses names twenty-one householders and adherents ... who have found fulfillment in the tathāgata, have become seers of the deathless, and go about having beheld the deathless. They are said to have achieved this by virtue of embodying six qualities: “lucid confidence” in the Buddha, the dharma, and the community, together with “noble virtue, noble understanding, and noble liberation.” “Deathless” (amata) is also defined as the “ending of greed, hatred, and confusion,” thus making it synonymous with both “nirvana” and “comprehension.”
However, since we know from other suttas that the named householders were all sekhas, not arahants, it follows that the phrase "seers of the deathless [who] go about having beheld the deathless..." (amataddaso amataṃ sacchikatvā iriyati) is not limited to arahants.
Batchelor wrote:This text has troubled traditional commentators...
Far from troubling commentators, the ascription of "seers of the deathless" to sekhas in fact lends support to the commentarial view that a person obtains a momentary glimpse of Nibbāna at the attainment of each of the ariyan paths and fruits.
Batchelor wrote:...because it presents householders as having achieved levels of insight and freedom that are usually reserved for arahants, who, according to orthodox belief, have to be celibate mendicants.
As noted above, the householders in question were not arahants. In any case, it wasn't the commentarial view that a householder couldn't achieve arahatta, but only that he couldn't achieve it and thereafter remain a householder.

Here is the sutta with Bhikkhu Bodhi's endnote:
  • “Bhikkhus, possessing six qualities, the householder Tapussa has reached certainty about the Tathāgata and become a seer of the deathless, one who lives having realized the deathless. What six? Unwavering confidence in the Buddha, unwavering confidence in the Dhamma, unwavering confidence in the Saṅgha, noble virtuous behavior, noble knowledge, and noble liberation. Possessing these six qualities, the householder Tapussa has reached certainty about the Tathāgata and become a seer of the deathless, one who lives having realized the deathless.”

    [repeat for the twenty others]


    Note

    It is often claimed that this series of suttas testifies to a large number of lay arahants during the Buddha’s time. This, however, is a misunderstanding. For we find on this list Anāthapiṇḍika, Pūraṇa (or Purāṇa), and Isidatta, all of whom were reborn in the Tusita heaven (see 6:44 and MN 143.16, III 262,1). We also find Ugga of Vesālī, who is said (at 5:44) to have been reborn among the mind-made deities, and Hatthaka, who is said (at 3:127) to have been reborn in the Aviha heaven of the pure abodes. The terms used to describe these lay followers are descriptive of all noble ones from stream-enterers on up. They all have unwavering confidence (aveccappasāda) in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha, have “reached certainty about the Tathāgata” (tathāgate niṭṭhaṅgata), and are seers of nibbāna, the deathless (amataddasa). See 10:63, where certainty about the Buddha is ascribed to disciples at levels lower than arahantship. The statement that these people have noble liberation (ariyena vimuttiyā) is unusual, but Mp glosses it “by the liberation of the fruit of trainees” (sekhaphalavimuttiyā). Quite a different formula is used to describe an arahant. In the Nikāyas there are no recorded cases of laypeople who attained arahantship and then continued to lead the lay life. Those who do attain it entered upon the homeless life soon after their attainment, like Yasa at Vin I 17,1–3.

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Re: Stephen Batchelor's “After Buddhism.” Yale University Press, 2015

Post by Dhammanando » Wed Jan 13, 2016 6:40 am

Roger Jackson's review.

  • [...]

    My own chief objection to Batchelor’s previous work is that in his quest to justify his particular version of Buddhism, he has, with scant methodological self-awareness and insufficiently rigorous argument, cherry-picked Buddhist literature (especially the Pali canon) for evidence of his views. Unsurprisingly, he has discovered that what he thinks Buddhism ought to be in our era turns out to be what Buddhism was at the beginning, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. Batchelor’s conflation of ideological prescription and historical description—the ought and the is—has probably undermined his credibility with critically informed readers more than his radical prescription for contemporary Buddhism—with which, I suspect, many such readers might in various ways agree.

    I’m happy, then, to report that in his latest and most ambitious work, After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age, Batchelor makes a sustained and serious attempt to argue for his vision of Buddhism, primarily through a theoretically self-conscious, historically informed, and linguistically nuanced analysis of the Pali canon and other early sources. The book is perhaps not quite the work of “systematic theology” Batchelor claims, but it is a careful, honest, and typically eloquent exposition of what he believes and why he believes it.

    [...]
http://www.lionsroar.com/review-stephen ... -buddhism/

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Re: Stephen Batchelor's “After Buddhism.” Yale University Press, 2015

Post by cobwith » Wed Jan 13, 2016 6:13 pm

Roger Jackson's review wrote: ... he (Batchelor) has, with scant methodological self-awareness and insufficiently rigorous argument, cherry-picked Buddhist literature (especially the Pali canon) for evidence of his views.
That's sums it up.
Although we still have to find "evidence".
Roger Jackson's review wrote: ... primarily through a theoretically self-conscious,...

Another "mindfulness" guru that confound behelding the deathless with insight, and insight with nibbana, and nibbana with whatever, and whatever with whatever else; in some sort of indigestible mindful soup, that is supposed to lead us to some sort of Buddhistic consumerist peace and "freedom".
I don't have to be politically correct (or legally mindful,) or nicely sardonic, or rhetorically refined; so as to see any of his books as "a careful, honest, and typically eloquent exposition of what he believes and why he believes it". I am quite dubious on his intentions, as far as his theoretical self-consciousness is concerned.
Roger Jackson's review wrote:... historically informed,...
Like his reliance on Bronkhorst's thesis that there was no (or very little) inluence of Brahmanism in Magadha in Buddha's time.
I wonder if Bronkhorst has ever read the suttas SN 35.132.
Sounds to me like Brahmanism had fallen for Dhamma, and fallen back to Vedas' recitation and rituals.
However!
Roger Jackson's review wrote: and linguistically nuanced analysis of the Pali canon

That's old story by now. Kingsbury and other researches have yielded a somewhat accurate chronology of the Pali canon. We will not split dubitable hairs indefinitely from that on.

Secular "buddhism" - sounds like Osho's "Zorba the buddha." :)
Sā me dhammamadesesi,
khandhāyatanadhātuyo
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Re: Stephen Batchelor's “After Buddhism.” Yale University Press, 2015

Post by dhammarelax » Wed Jan 13, 2016 7:43 pm

Jeffrey wrote:I ran a search of the forum but as yet see no threads related to Batchelor's new book. If this belongs elsewhere, I trust the moderators will move it.

I'm still about a quarter of the way in so cannot offer a review. In fact what I'd like to do in this post is ask a question about something that seems somewhat perplexing. In Ch 4, Batchelor writers of the Buddha's experience of awakening:
“What he discovered was not revealed to him in one shattering moment of enlightenment; he did not suddenly realize the nature of Truth or God. He talks of his awakening as a process rather than a state, a story rather than a statement."
Batchelor frames the awakening to include his six years of wandering and training, which seems fair enough and provides some reason for describing his discovery as a process. It seems, though, most canonical accounts in fact have Gotama arriving at a moment of sudden awakening preceded by a decision not to move from his spot under the bodhi tree until he achieves clarity in his quest. So what's Batchelor up to here?
Although the quote is very general and it seems rather empty, let us not forget that the Buddha saw dependent origination before his awakening and he experienced Jhana before under his 2 teachers.
Even if the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, I will use all my human firmness, human persistence and human striving. There will be no relaxing my persistence until I am the first of my generation to attain full awakening in this lifetime. ed. AN 2.5

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Re: Stephen Batchelor's “After Buddhism.” Yale University Press, 2015

Post by SarathW » Wed Jan 13, 2016 8:57 pm

With very little knowledge of Stephen's teaching, I am not a great follower of him.
It appears to me that his teaching is not compatible with me.
Having said that:
Buddha strived ten Paramis for countless past lives, not to mention the effort he made in his last life.
Nibbana is gradual and sudden as far as I understand.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Stephen Batchelor's “After Buddhism.” Yale University Press, 2015

Post by cobwith » Thu Jan 14, 2016 12:02 am

Dhammanando wrote:Far from troubling commentators, the ascription of "seers of the deathless" to sekhas in fact lends support to the commentarial view that a person obtains a momentary glimpse of Nibbāna at the attainment of each of the ariyan paths and fruits.


¡Ay, caramba! Dhammanandotico, I agree strongly on that one.
El Buddha wrote: “Chahi, bhikkhave, dhammehi samannāgato tapusso gahapati tathāgate niṭṭhaṅgato amataddaso amataṃ sacchikatvā iriyati.

iriyati > go beyond, continue on.
sacchikatvā > worked out and realized (seen face to face).
... has worked out and realized the deathlessness*, and continued on (went beyond).

* "working out and realize the deathlessness, as in casting off the ceto-khilā, the obstructions of ceto; namely doubt about the Master, about the doctrine, about the order, about the training, etc.

In other words, endowed with six things, namely the unwavering faith in The Blessed One, in the Teaching, in the Community of bhikkhus, in the noble one's virtues, in the noble one's knowledge and the noble one's release; he (the householder,) understood (got a glimpse of) what deathlessness meant, and went on studying the Blessed One's Teaching, leaned towards the Community of bhikkhus, underwent the noble one's virtues, and through true knowledge, went on trying to reach liberation.

Batchelor's interpretation is just wishful thinking.
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Re: Stephen Batchelor's “After Buddhism.” Yale University Press, 2015

Post by Bhikkhu Cintita » Tue Dec 12, 2017 11:59 pm

I am a latecomer to this tread, and only recently read this book. But I have recently posted a critique of some of Batchelor's points, so let me give a link to this here.

I feel the main arc of this book has not been addressed in other reviews. It has to do with the nature of the Buddhist community: the role of laity and monastics and the development of institutional Buddhism. Batchelor claims that “Before Buddhism” the monastic order had no formal status, that the word “sangha” referred to the entire Buddhist community and that the monk Mahakassapa was responsible for the establishment of institutional Buddhism shortly after the Buddha’s parinibbana. In my post I show that none of these claims has any support and Batchelor has no evidence contrary to what is a rather uncontroversial position among scholars.

Such an assessment is indicative of a serious problem with the quality of Batchelor’s scholarship. His claims bear very close scrutiny, particular because most of his broad readership will not know how to read his claims critically.

Here is the link:

https://bhikkhucintita.wordpress.com/20 ... ng-sangha/

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