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It's a good book, and I generally like Stephen Batchelor. But I have two main problems with this book: 1) he tends let his poetic flourishes -- which I usually love -- get away from him, sometimes making his prose seem a bit empty. Words for the sake of words. I don't that's actually a fair assessment of the book -- it's just how I felt while reading it. And 2) -- and MUCH more importantly -- I was expecting a book on how one doesn't need to embrace Buddhism as a religion, by faith alone, but, while he does deliver on that score (and sometimes beautifully), he tends to take an all-or-nothing antagonistic approach to all belief systems whatsoever. So not only does he come off sounding like he's attacking all faith-based religions, he also winds up conflating "faith" with "belief," which I think is a mistake. A "belief," I was taught in all my (non-religious) philosophy classes, was something you had determined to be true through logical deduction; it is mutable, because if, through logical challenge, that belief gets proven untrue, you change the belief, but it still is rooted in whatever logic you have access to at the time you adopted the belief. That is NOT the same thing as faith, which, as anyone who's seen Miracle on 34th Street can tell you, is believing in something IN THE ABSENCE of critical thinking and logical analysis. That Batchelor is attacking any approach to Buddhism seems a bit strange to me, but I get why -- he's acting as a kind of "wrathful deity" lashing out at misguided beliefs, as any good philosopher would do. What Batchelor intends to attack in this book is lay Buddhism's evolution into exactly the kind of blind faith-based religion the historical Buddha was trying to move away from, full of "magic" ritual and authoritarian dogma. But what he winds up attacking is any sense of believing in anything; his approach is a stark, almost angry agnosticism. And what I keep wondering is, if we can't take anything on authority -- from the teachings, say, or from the teachers -- then what do we mean when we say we take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha? What is refuge if not a kind of belief? So, the book is fascinating to read and terrific fodder for hard thinking, but ultimately, it kind of falls flat for me. I miss the poetic language of his other books, where he seems almost in love with Buddhism.

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I like her much better than Amy Tan!