Rolling Review, Confessions of A Buddhist Atheist

by magnus26

Well, more off-the-cuff review. Reading Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist a second time, as I sometimes do with a book I like. It certainly meets the Stephen Batchelor standard, which is to say it is thoughtfully and well written. It is searchingly written. It’s not hard to imagine that if you’ve found your way here, you’d likely enjoy it.

One aspect of his writing that I find so refreshing is that he does not fetishize Asian practices or culture. He examines and evaluates based on what he finds useful. His struggle to reconcile his own beliefs with his practice of Tibetan Buddhism (which in the end fails) are well worth the read. In the end, he decides that the belief in karma is not far from the belief in god — in that, from his perspective, both reflect a denial of death. From that snippet alone, you see that many questions are raised. To Batchelor’s credit, he investigates quite thoroughly and writes convincingly of his experience with these issues. He explores European existential writers in order to answer some of the questions his Buddhist practice seems to leave unanswered. That constitutes the first section of the book, his life as a monk.

The second section includes his pursuit of the historical Buddha. I found this section somewhat less engaging, as I got bogged down in some of the details. But again, Batchelor brings a rigorous approach to what he writes and some fascinating insights. Again, as a whole, the book chronicles the growth and change of his views regarding Buddhism, its strengths as well as its limits.

Add a couple of interludes with the Dalai Lama (one includes a hint of bitterness). A trip to the roof of the world. A few years as a monk in Korea. Really, this book is broad and rich. Recommended.

I did get a half hour sitting in this morning. The mind was just on fire. Really, it was a waterfall today.