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Buddhadharma : Winter 2015
74 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2015 notwithstanding. Batchelor’s confla- tion of ideological prescription and his- torical description—the ought and the is—has probably undermined his cred- ibility with critically informed readers more than his radical prescription for contemporary Buddhism—with which, I suspect, many such readers might in various ways agree. I’m happy, then, to report that in his latest and most ambitious work, After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age, Batchelor makes a sustained and serious attempt to argue for his vision of Buddhism, primarily through a theoretically self-conscious, historically informed, and linguistically nuanced analysis of the Pali canon and other early sources. The book is per- haps not quite the work of “systematic theology” that Batchelor claims, but it is a careful, honest, and typically elo- quent exposition of what he believes and why he believes it. revieWs The title After Buddhism needs pars- ing. By “Buddhism,” Batchelor means the religion—with its myths, doctrines, rituals, and institutions, its metaphys- ics and morals—that arose in the wake of Gotama Buddha’s passing, spread through much of Asia, and now has arrived in the West. Here, it stands in uneasy relation to a culture whose views and values—shaped by such ide- ologies as science and democracy—are not easily harmonized with any tradi- tional religion, including Buddhism. Thus, if the dharma is to take root in the West, it must be synchronized with current notions of life, humanity, and the cosmos. Modern people, therefore, should be concerned not with preserv- ing “Buddhism” but with creating the form dharma takes after Buddhism has been left behind. This dharma, how- ever, is not created anew; rather, it is the recovery of the skeptical, pragmatic teaching of Gotama from beneath the My own chief objection to Batchelor’s previous work is that in his quest to jus- tify his particular version of Buddhism, he has, with scant methodological self- awareness and insufficiently rigorous argument, cherry-picked Buddhist lit- erature (especially the Pali canon) for evidence of his views. Unsurprisingly, he has discovered that what he thinks Buddhism ought to be in our era turns out to be what Buddhism was at the beginning, evidence to the contrary aFter buddhism: rethinking the dharma for a secular age by stephen batchelor yale university press, 2015 400 pages; $28.50