Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Stephen and Martine Batchelor - Godless Religion or Devout Atheism?

Upaya Zen Center is posting an outstanding series of podcasts (14 in all) featuring Stephen and Martine Batchelor speaking on "Godless Religion or Devout Atheism?"

Stephen Batchelor is well-known, and perhaps infamous, for his book Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening. I am a tremendous fan of his modern approach to Buddhist practice. Each new culture that adopts Buddhism has adapted the teachings to make sense within its individual context. In Tibet, the Mahayana became the Vajrayana, which is central to all Tibetan lineages, but not identical with Tibetan Buddhism [Al Billings made an important correction on this point in the comments, for which I am grateful]; when Bodhidharma went to China, the teachings became the Ch'an tradition; in Japan, the Ch'an teachings became Zen.

We are now 2,500 years removed from the Buddha's enlightenment. The values and structures of human awareness have changed considerably since then. We are now more rational and less superstitious, so it is appropriate the Buddhist practice evolves to reflect who we are now as students. Progressive Buddhism, from my perspective, acknowledges the profound technology of enlightenment that the Buddha has left for us, but we also acknowledge that the cultural context of the original teachings are no longer appropriate to our current cultural context.

Perhaps unique among the current Buddhist teachers, Stephen Batchelor is offering us a progressive form of Buddhist practice. Enjoy the podcasts - I will post two more groups of five as they become available in the coming days.

Listen to the “Godless Religion or Devout Atheism?” series

For the next 10 days from Dec 18 to Dec 27, we will be sequentially releasing the podcasts from the Godless Religion or Devout Atheism? series recorded in October.

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Godless Religion or Devout Atheism? Part 1 of 14 – Session 1

Speakers: Stephen and Martine Batchelor

Stephen opens the retreat asking, “What is Buddhism?” Is it devout atheism or a godless religion? Over the next few days, we will individually look at what the practice means to us. The West has begun to look at the different Buddhist traditions and scriptures in a way that has never happened before. We are fortunate in that we have a huge amount of information available to us. Martine discusses the practical set-up of the retreats, and sets the objectives for the meditations.

Podcast: Play in new window [Play] [Play] [Play] | Download [Play] [Play] [Play]

Godless Religion or Devout Atheism? Part 2 of 14 – Session 2

Speaker: Stephen Batchelor

Stephen deconstructs what we know of Buddhism, offering interpretations and explaining cultural elements of Buddhism that came from the Buddha’s time. This reveals what is left of the Buddha’s original teaching. In original texts, the Eightfold Path ends with the Four Noble Truths, which in turn end in the Eightfold Path. Stephen discusses what society was like at the Buddha’s time and what most people knew about other cultures, histories, and ideas. Therefore, we must rethink the Four Noble Truths and perhaps unlearn what we have been taught about Buddhism.

Podcast: Play in new window [Play] [Play] [Play] | Download [Play] [Play] [Play]

Godless Religion or Devout Atheism? Part 3 of 14 – Discussion and Q & A

Speakers: Stephen & Martine Batchelor

Topics include the myth of the Buddha vs. what we know to be more certain; the Buddha’s vision of society; unpacking the myth of the Buddha as a real man; the origin of merit in Buddhism.

Podcast: Play in new window [Play] [Play] [Play] | Download [Play] [Play] [Play]

Godless Religion or Devout Atheism? Part 4 of 14 – Dharma Talk on Exploring Meditation

Speaker: Martine Batchelor

In Zen generally there are 2 types of meditation: samatha and vipassana, or concentration and open awareness. However, in practicing samatha, we do not concentrate to the exclusion of everything else. In vipassana, we can use the brightness of the mind to inquire, as looking deeply is what causes transformation. Through samatha and vipassana, we experience the diminution of habits.

Podcast: Play in new window [Play] [Play] [Play] | Download [Play] [Play] [Play]

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  1. While I enjoy Batchelor's work, you have factual errors here.

    The Mahayana did not become Vajrayana in Tibet. Leaving aside the fact that Vajrayana *is* Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrayana (or Tantric Buddhism) originates in India, not Tibet. It was taught in the great monasteries of the north before the Islamic invasion. From there, it spread via missionaries to Tibet and China. From China, it spread to Japan and Korea. Remnants of it survived until quite recently in Korea and still survive in the Shingon and Tendai schools of Japan, which practice Tantra. Some of the great figures of Chinese Buddhism were Tantric masters and Kukai, the founder of Shingon, is crediting with many accomplishments in Japan as a sort of Da Vinci figure.

  2. Thanks for the clarification - I appreciate the correction and will acknowledge it in the text.


  3. I don't about other feed readers but in google reader ALL audio starts at once and you have to click each individual player to stop the sound. A total bombardment of sound. Maybe you can change you players to not start automatically ,if that is possible.

  4. I am using google reader and that doesn't happen to me. Enclosures never autoplay. Sounds like an issue with your local configuration. I work on the Firefox QA team and used to work on IE so I know browsers...

  5. "Perhaps unique among the current Buddhist teachers, Stephen Batchelor is offering us a progressive form of Buddhist practice."


  6. Really!

    If you have a question or suggestion, Jayarava, let's hear it. :-)