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Where to start?

My personal view is that the best starting point for anyone who wants to appreciate the Buddhist view of life is to read the Dhammapada, an early collection of Buddha's teachings. It contains the core ideas without the later religious and cultural overlays.

dhamma

buy now in the UK

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Thiese links take you to the Oxford World Classics edition, but there are many other good translations available.


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Monks chanting before receiving a meal, prepared for them by a family. Wat Po, Bangkok, Thailand.


 

 

Secular Buddhism

secular buddhismThe Secular Buddhism Association follows 'a natural, pragmatic approach to early Buddhist teachings and pratice'. Take a look at their website Secular Buddhism. org.

There's a really useful dialogue, posted on this website, between Stephen Batchelor and Don Cupitt, who represents a radical secular approach to Christianity. It includes a personal introduction by Stephen Batchelor. See the dialogue here.


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The Naked Monk - for an open-minded Buddhist perspective

I assume that most people visiting this page are interested in Buddhism, either as a practitioner or as a student taking a course in Religious Studies. But the Buddhist perspective is really something that goes beyond conventional religious ideas. It is iconoclastic, rejecting conventional beliefs and seeing all fixed views as inherently problematic and dangerous. So, if you're interested in getting a 'feel' for Buddhism, it's good to step away from conventional introductions and look at what a radical, secular Buddhist has to say.

Stephen Shettini, an ex-Tibetan monk, has a great website if you're into an open-minded spiritual or philosophical quest with a Buddhist flavour. Just dip into it and see where a non-conventional Buddhist perspective can lead. www.thenakedmonk.com


Here's Dave Webster speaking about greed, one of the three poisons...

 

Or if you're interested in hate and delusion as well, just follow this linkhttp://t.co/LgEQ61cB


The Monk and the Philosopher

I just finished reading The Monk and the Philosopher, by Jean-Francois Revel and Matthieu Ricard. It's a father-son dialogue between Revel, a French philosopher, and his son Matthieu, who trained in science before becoming a Buddhist monk.

The dialogue form and conversational style makes this a useful introduction both to Tibetan Buddhism and to the issues that arise when Eastern and Western philosophical styles come together.

It's quite an old book - published by Thorsons in 1998 - and I regret not having read it earlier. If you can get hold of a copy, it's a worthwhile read.

There's also this talk by Matthieu Ricard in the TED series:

 


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Interested in Buddhist ethics?

Then try the Journal of Buddhist Ethics, for a wide range of articles and topics

http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethics/


Stephen Batchelor

Stephen Batchelor's book Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist is part autobiography, part biography of the Buddha and part survey of what has happened to Buddhism over the last 40 years in terms of the spread of Tibetan Buddhism to the West and its engagement (or lack of it) with western thinking.

It will be of interest to those asking radical questions about the relationship between a pragmatic approach to the potential benefits of religion and the dilemma about beliefs that are intellectually indefensible (in Western terms, at least).  He touches on existentialism, and the theology of Paul Tillich and Don Cupitt - with references to many Western thinkers, from Buber to Dawkins. Click here to buy from Amazonin the USA.

It is an interesting follow-up to Buddhism Without Beliefs, which is a valuable work for anyone struggling with the issue of beliefs and intellectual integrity - very readable, clear and liberating!  Click here to buy from Amazon in the USA.  

Here's what Christopher Hitchens says on the back cover of the Confessions:

The human thirst for the transcendent, the numinous - even the ecstatic - is too universal and too important to be entrusted to the cultish and the archaic and the superstitious. In this honest and serious book of self-examination and critical scrutiny, Stephen Batchelor adds the universe of Buddhism to the many fields in which received truth and blind faith are now giving way to ethical and scientific humanism, in which lies our only real hope.

mug[Except... I'd want to add that Stephen Batchelor and others are helping scientific humanism to appreciate that there is a richness to be discovered in some religious traditions, for those who have the courage not to be blinded my scientific and literary fundamentalism. Just as it takes courage for those who come from a religious background to shed literal supernaturalism!]

To find out more about Stephen Batchelor, see www.stephenbatchelor.org


yound monks

Young men in northern Thailand, towards the end of their time spent as monks during the Rains Retreat.


Help support this website...

Do you shop with Amazon? If so - no matter what you intend to buy when you get there - please use this link. You get your usual discount, and I also get a referral fee. Some of my older books are rarely available in bookshops now, but you can generally get used copies from Amazon.

 

or, if you are in the USA, from Amazon.com...

 

My own books on Buddhism...

Just click any title for more information.

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An e-book for students and adult readers

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... for Key Stage 3

budd bel

... for Key Stages 2/3

budd app

... for GCSE


east

Understand Eastern Philosophy has chapters on Early Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism and Zen

Click here for more information


world phil

 

 

 

 

There are sections in World Philosophy introducing Buddhists and other Eastern philosophies. Here's a sample page. Click here for more information about this book.


BuddhaNet

For information on Buddhist Philosophy, the BuddhaNet gives a useful range of study materials from basic introductions to illustrations of Buddhist art. It covers all the main branches of Buddhism, and presents Buddhist teachings in a particularly accessible and straightforward way. Just click on www.buddhanet.net .