26 Mar
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On Not Believing

I’ve been going through my library this morning, looking for something to read/discuss at the Sunday Morning Sangha (if called upon) and I came across this oldie-but-goodie by Stephen Batchelor: Buddhism Without Beliefs.

“First and foremost the Buddha taught a method (‘dharma practice‘) rather than another ‘-ism.’ The dharma is not something to believe in but something to do. The Buddha did not reveal an esoteric set of facts about reality, which we can choose to believe in or not. He challenged people to understand the nature of anguish, let go of its origins, realize its cessation, and bring into being a way of life…

“An agnostic Buddhism would not regard the dharma as a source of ‘answers’ to questions of where we came from, where we are going, what happens after death. He would seek such knowledge in the appropriate domains: astrophysics, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, etc. An agnostic Buddhist is not a ‘believer’ with claims to reveal information about supernatural or paranormal phenomena, and in this sense is not ‘religious.’…

“An agnostic Buddhist eschews atheism as much as theism, and is as reluctant to regard the universe as devoid of meaning as endowed with meaning. For to deny either God or meaning is simply the antithesis of affirming them. Yet such an agnostic stance is not based on disinterest. It is founded on a passionate recognition that I do not know. It confronts the enormity of having been born instead of reaching for the consolation of a belief. It strips away, layer by layer, the views that conceal the mystery of being here…

“Such deep agnosticism is an attitude toward life refined thorough ongoing mindful awareness. It may lead to the realization that ultimately there  is neither something nor nothing at the core of ourselves that we can put a finger on. Or it may be focused in an intensive perplexity that vibrates through the body and leaves the mind that seeks certainty nowhere to rest.”


I don’t think there’s anything here that would be controversial. But I do think it could get a conversation going. Especially since Batchelor went on to write: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist.

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