It has been more than a year since we last posted a newsletter. Apologies, as usual, for the delay.
Since December 2014, I have been posting a daily photograph on Instagram. As of writing, there are now 620 posts. This has become an important practice for me and one I intend to continue for the foreseeable future. You can follow me at https://www.instagram.com/agnostic108/
I have been very much involved in the Bodhi College (www.bodhi-college.org), which began offering courses at the beginning of this year. Twenty-three students from eleven different countries have now completed two of the six modules of our two-year Secular Dharma course. I have taught this together with Martine, Letizia Baglioni and Jenny Wilks. It is inspiring to facilitate a group of people who have committed themselves to this programme and, as a result, are beginning to enjoy a strong sense of communal learning and practice. The Bodhi College programme for 2017 will be published in September and available on their website. However, the next Secular Dharma course will not start until 2018.
My book After Buddhism was also published by Yale University Press early this year in hardback, e-book and audio formats. The paperback version will appear in the spring of 2017. I have also signed a contract for another book with Yale, which will be entitled Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World. This collection of new and previously published essays will also be published in the spring of 2017.
After the summer break, Martine and I will be leading retreats in Switzerland (18-26 September), Italy (8-16 October), Holland (6-12 November) and Paris (2-4 December – in French). See our teaching schedule for further details.
On 29 and 30 October Mara: A Chamber Opera in Two Acts on Good and Evil will be premiered at the Black Box Theater in Florence, South Carolina. I have been working on the libretto for this opera intermittently for several years. The music (for three voices and a string ensemble) has been composed by my friend Sherry Woods. The production will be directed by Ronn Smith. Depending on the success of this performance, we will then seek to bring the production to other cities in the United States.
TICKETS are available for purchase online at www.fmupac.org, via phone at (843) 661-4444, and at the Performing Arts Center Box Office (201 South Dargan Street), which is open Monday through Friday from 12pm until 5pm.
Realize Media will be re-broadcasting my four recorded talks on the Four Great Tasks throughout November, followed by live interactive sessions where I will answer questions and offer clarifications (see https://www.realizemedia.org/stephen-batchelor/. Again, see our teaching schedule for details.
My talks at Gaia House in 2016 can be found at http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/169/.
And finally, I will be co-leading a pilgrimage to Burma with my colleague Shantum Seth from 3-15 January, 2017. In addition to visiting Yangon, Mandalay and Pagan, we will also plan to meet with contemporary Buddhist teachers and conclude with a short retreat on Imle Lake. For further information, go to: http://www.buddhapath.com/
Echo Point Books has reprinted Meditation for Life and it is available in a brand new version at http://www.echopointbooks.com/our-titles/meditation-for-life.
In June I went to a conference in Korea on Ganhwaseon. I presented a paper on Comparing Alertness and Quiescence (sŏng sŏng 성성 惺 惺 jŏk jŏk 적 적 寂寂) in Ganhwa Sŏn and Samatha and Vipassanā as found in the Pali Discourses and the Modern Vipassana Movement. After this I participated in a Ganhwaseon retreat in a monastery in the mountains. It was refreshing and inspiring to live again for a few days in a Korean monastery. I greatly enjoyed waking up at 3am, meditating and walking around the grounds before dawn.
In March 2017 I will lead another online course with Realize Media and this time it will be about Deepening the Practice, Exploring Consciousness.
You can listen to my 2016 Gaia House talks at http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/119/
I am also posting photos on Instagram. You can follow me at https://www.instagram.com/martinebatch/
Sorry for the even longer than usual gap between our admittedly irregular newsletters. Since we last wrote, we participated in the first European Mind and Life Summer Research Institute, held in a delightful Benedictine nunnery on an island in the Chiemsee in southern Germany at the end of August. In addition to our usual retreat schedule, we also taught a “secular mindfulness” retreat for the first time, hosted by the University of Bangor at the Trigonos centre in the Welsh hills. And in January, we spent three weeks travelling down the east coast of India from Kolkata to Hyderabad visiting the numerous ancient Buddhist sites that have been excavated in these areas.
New Teaching Events
On Sunday, 11 May, Stephen will offer a live, on-line talk Clearly Visible but Hard to See at 11am Pacific US Time, 2pm Eastern US time, 7pm UK time, 8pm Central European time, 4am Monday Australia time (AEST), for 90 minutes. This will include a guided meditation, talk and discussion. For further information:
At 8pm on Friday, 22 May, Stephen will give a public talk at Casa del Tibet in Barcelona, entitled The Four Great Tasks. http://www.casadeltibetbcn.org/en/tibet-house-foundation
From 27 May - 21 June, Stephen will teach an online course hosted by Realize Media. This will include a series of four pre-recorded video presentations, followed by four interactive question and answer sessions. The title: The Four Great Tasks: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age. For further information and booking details, go to:
From 28 August - 3 September, Martine will be teaching meditation at the second European Mind and Life Summer Research Institute at the Chiemsee in Germany. For further details, go to: http://esri.mindandlife-europe.org/
On 30 October, Stephen and John Peacock will hold a public discussion at the Friends House, Euston Rd., London on the theme: Early Buddhism: Theory and Practice. http://www.londoninsight.org/programme/event/stephen-batchelor-and-john-peacock.-early-buddhism-theory-and-practice/
The Faith to Doubt
The 25th anniversary edition of Stephen’s book on his experiences of Sŏn Buddhism in South Korea has just been republished by Counterpoint Press. Out of print for a number of years, this edition has been updated with a new preface and afterword.
“A daring and reasoned work of
remarkable scope, vision, scholarship,
and promise.”—Jon Kabat-Zinn
Stephen’s next book After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age will be published on 27 October in North America, and on 15 January 2016 in the UK, by Yale University Press. A German translation is underway and is scheduled to appear in the fall of 2016.
Stephen will be in the USA from 1-22 November to promote this book. He will be in Los Angeles from 1-5 November; Minneapolis/St Paul from 7-9 November; Boston from 10-11 November; Pittsfield, Mass. on 12 November; Barre, Mass. (BCBS) from 15-20 November; and New York City, from 21-22 November. Further details will be available on this site nearer the time.
Descent to Lanka
The Bodhi Institute – “Early Buddhist Teaching for a Secular Age” – will start offering a number of long and short courses in the UK and continental Europe in 2016. The core faculty are Stephen Batchelor, Christina Feldman, John Peacock and Akincano Weber.
The Bodhi Institute will have a public launch in London on 30 October as part of Stephen and John Peacock’s dialogue at Friends House (see New Teaching Events above for details).
For further information on the Institute’s programme, go to: www.bodhi-institute.org
Secular Dharma Course
As part of the Institute’s programme, Stephen and Martine, together with Letizia Baglioni and Jenny Wilks, will teach a two-year course on Secular Dharma, which will include two four-day residential study modules plus one week-long residential meditation retreat per year. It is intended for students with a basic knowledge of Buddhism and a commitment to meditation, who are seeking a secular form, language and community for their practice of the dharma. In addition to the study modules and retreats, students will be assigned a mentor whom they will meet monthly for guidance in their own further reading, study and practice. Twenty-five places will be available, applications for which will open in September 2015.
Each of the four study modules will focus on one of the four tasks that the Buddha presented as the core of his awakening:
- Comprehending Suffering (February 17-21, 2016).
- Letting go of Reactivity (November 2-6, 2016).
- Beholding the Ceasing of Reactivity (Spring, 2017).
- Cultivating the Path (Autumn, 2017).
The first year’s meditation retreat (July 16-23, 2016) will focus on the practice of stillness (samatha) and insight (vipassana) through the cultivation of mindful awareness. The second year’s retreat (Spring, 2017) will be in the practice of questioning (hwadu) as found in the Korean Sŏn tradition.
The study modules will be held at St. Cuthman’s Retreat near Horsham, West Sussex, and the retreats at Gaia House, Devon.
You can now follow both Martine and Stephen on Instagram.
For Stephen, go to: https://instagram.com/agnostic108/
For Martine, go to: https://instagram.com/martinebatch/
They both post photographs on a regular basis.
Other Bits and Pieces
You can view a video discussion, recorded last year at Mountain Cloud Zen Center, Santa Fe, between Stephen and Henry Shukman about early Buddhism, Zen and Greek philosophy here: http://www.tricycle.com/blog/going-back-source
On 3 January, Stephen published an op-ed piece in the International New York Times on the practice of collage and meditation: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/03/opinion/a-cosmos-of-found-objects.html?_r=0
On 13 February, Stephen recorded a conversation with the philosopher Robert Ellis on the Middle Way. You can listen to it here: http://www.middlewaysociety.org/the-mws-podcast-51-stephen-batchelor-robert-m-ellis-on-the-middle-way/
From 20-22 March, Stephen spoke at the Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship Convocation at the Garrison Institute, New York. You can find audio and video recordings of his presentations here: http://uubf.org/wp/audio-recordings-from-stephen-batchelors-presentation-32015/
Welcome to another edition of our somewhat irregular bulletin. In March we returned from a teaching tour in Australia – Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns – and have been busy leading retreats, giving talks, and writing articles and books since. We are both looking forward to a couple of weeks holiday at home in France before heading off again for the first European Mind and Life Summer school in Germany at the end of this month.
There are still a few places left on our pilgrimage to the Ancient Buddhist Monasteries of Eastern India, which we will co-lead with our friend Shantum Seth, from 5-18 January, 2015. Starting in Kolkata (Calcutta), we will head down the eastern coast of India via Bhubaneshwar (Orissa) and Vishakapatnam to Guntepalle (both in Andhra Pradesh). This will be followed by an optional extension to visit the sites of Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda from 19 to 23 January. As on our previous pilgrimage to the ancient Buddhist monasteries in Western India, we will symbolically restore these sites to their original purpose by conducting sessions of meditation and sutta study in each place. There will also be a pre-trip visit to Shantineketan from 2-4 January. For details go to:
Due to technical problems on the website during the month of July, the “contact us” service was out of action for some time. If you sent a message during that period and did not receive a reply, please resend. Sorry for the delay and any inconvenience caused.
We are happy to announce that our teaching schedule for 2015 is now posted on this site.
Apart from teaching, most of my year so far has been taken up with completing my current book, which started out life as After Buddhism and has now mutated into The Solar Buddha. (Whether either of these end up as the published title is anyone’s guess.) I finally sent off a complete draft on August 8th. If all goes according to plan, the book should be available from Yale University Press in the autumn of 2015.
While in Melbourne (14 February) I shared a platform with Bhikkhu Brahmali where we were supposed to hold a public conversation about The Relevance of Early Buddhist Texts for Modern Times. However, it turned into a circuitous and inconclusive debate about the need or not to believe in reincarnation. As you might guess, I suggested that such a belief was entirely unnecessary, while my partner was just as adamant that it was indispensable. You can watch a video of the entire exchange at:
Since returning to Europe I have discovered an excellent study: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts co-authored by Bhikkhu Brahmali and Bhikkhu Sujato. It can be downloaded for free as a PDF:
Rather more fruitful was a public conversation I had in Sydney some days later (19 February) with Dr. Rachael Kohn for the ABC programme The Spirit of Things on the topic of “The Everyday Sublime.” You can listen to or download it here:
My talks (Nirvana is Now; The Everyday Sublime; and A Dry Shit Stick) as well as meditation instructions from our April Korean Zen retreat at Gaia House are now available at Dharmaseed. Go to:
In May I gave a series of lectures on the theme “A Culture of Awakening” at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Much of this material was drawn from my forthcoming book. I co-taught this retreat with my friend Roshi Joan Halifax. All the talks and discussions are available here:
The lectures from the Study and Meditation retreat at Gaia House which took place in July will be available shortly from dharmaseed.org The theme of my presentations was “Secular Buddhism: Challenges and Sources.”
Indeed, our teaching trip to Australia was warm and inspiring, meeting old friends and making new ones. I met one of my favorite animals at a rescue centre near Melbourne, a wombat called Florence. She was healthy and well taken care of. (She was released three times into the wild and three times she came back…!)
After seeing an old photo of myself when visiting South Korea in October last year, I was inspired to reflect on identity and wrote this short article for Tricycle magazine:
My talks from the April Korean Zen retreat at Gaia House (What are We Doing? Who are We? and Where are We Going?) are available here:
Barry Daniels of the Middle Way Society recently interviewed me on the topic of ethics, a podcast of which you can listen to here:
During the July retreat at Gaia House I explored the seven factors of awakening. These talks will be available shortly on dharmaseed.org
A book I read recently which struck me was: I Forgot to Remember by Su Meck. It leads to an interesting reflection on identity and how it is reconstituted after a head injury.
It has been a long time but finally we are back with some news.
Early last year the Dutch Buddhist Broadcast Foundation (BOS) filmed me at our home in France for one of their programs. The result was called Be Your Own Teacher and can be seen here:
On June 16th I taught a daylong at London Insight about mindfulness and appreciative joy. Some of it was filmed and can be found here:
Otherwise, the audio talks are here:
While researching material for a chapter to be included in a forthcoming book about the psychology of meditation, I had a thought provoking email discussion with Dave Vago about vedana, i.e. feeling tone, which can be found at:
In October, we visited Korea for a three-week pilgrimage commemorating the 30th anniversary of the death of our Korean Zen teacher Master Kusan. It was also a reunion of some of the foreign monks, nuns and laypeople who had been his disciples. Our Korean Dharma brothers and sisters took great care of us. It was an inspiring journey. A film (in Korean) was made by KBS (Korean Buddhist Broadcasting), which is viewable in two parts on Youtube at:
Or you can view my photos of the pilgrimage at:
On November 3rd Stephen Schettini, also known as the Naked Monk, interviewed me for a podcast to be found at:
Also in November I shared a platform with Anne Potters in Rotterdam talking about meditation and the use of the Internet. About 25 people came and we had a fruitful exchange. You can check out an audio snippet here:
I would recommend Noaki Higashida's book The Reason I Jump, which touched and inspired me deeply. It is a book by a young Japanese man who is autistic who asks the reader to remember that he is human too.
Another book that impressed me was David Bellos' Is That a Fish in Your Ear? It took me the whole year to read as it was so rich and complete in looking at all aspects of translation and language:
From the 1st February until the 20th March this year we will be teaching in Australia but will answer emails and requests as quickly as possible.
Martine was much busier in 2013 than me. I spent most of the year on a sabbatical, which allowed me to focus on my study and writing, as well as doing things I normally don't have time for. This included hiking in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, walking on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and going on pilgrimage in Korea (see above). In July, I signed a contract with Yale University Press for a book that is tentatively titled After Buddhism. This is scheduled for publication in the autumn of 2015.
Thomas McEvilley, the author of one of my favorite books The Shape of Ancient Thought, passed away on March 2, 2013. An obituary can be found here:
My essay A Secular Buddhism is now available in Spanish at:
and in German at:
Joanna Harcourt Smith interviewed me about the emergence of a contemporary Buddhist culture when I was in Santa Fe last February, which is now available at:
And in December Barry Daniel interviewed me about my artistic work in collage and photography and its connection with Buddhist practice. This can be heard here:
I would also encourage you to check out the website that hosts the podcast. The Middle Way Society is inspired by the work of the philosopher Robert Ellis.
On December 15, I led a daylong for London Insight, entitled On the Nature of Things. The talks and discussions were recorded and can be listened to here:
On Friday February 7, I will be speaking in Adelaide with Prof. Graham Meadows and Dr. Maura Kenny on the theme "Finding Calm in the Chaos" for RiAus, Australia's science hub. This will be live streamed from 6.30 - 8.00 pm AEST:
Both Martine and I will be teaching at the first Mind & Life Europe Summer Research Institute (MLESRI), which will take place from August 23-29, 2014, at the Abtei Frauenwoerth on the Fraueninsel, Chiemsee in Germany. For further information, go to: http://www.mindandlife-europe.org
Apologies for having taken so long to get our next "What's New" posted. We have been travelling a great deal over the past months and only in the last couple of weeks do we find ourselves settling down to a quiet routine at home in France.
After teaching for a month in South Africa (Dhammagiri in the Drakensberg, the Buddhist Retreat Centre near Ixopo, and Emoyeni in the Magaliesberg), in mid-January we flew to Mumbai for a two-week visit with Shantum Seth and a group of thirty pilgrims to the ancient Buddhist monasteries of India. Martine has published an article on this journey in Aeon magazine:
while a selection of her photographs taken on the trip can be found here:
From February 10-15 Stephen taught at two courses at Upaya Zen Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Together with Ritchie Davidson, Evan Thompson, Al Kazniak and Joan Halifax, he was part of the faculty for the annual "Zen Brain" program. Then with Roshi Joan he taught on the theme "After Buddhism," of which podcasts of his lectures are available at:
From March 24-27 we both participated in the first international colloquium on Secular Buddhism at the Barre Centre of Buddhist Studies in Massachussetts. This gathering of twenty-five or so teachers, scholars and practitioners was inspiring and thought provoking. There are plans to make some of this material available on-line as well as to compile a book of the presentations. For now you can read Chris Talbot's account of the proceedings here:
Related to our discussions at the Barre colloquium, you may also enjoy this video of a dialogue between one of the participants, Winton Higgins, and the radical Christian theologian Sir Lloyd Geering. The topic: "Is Secular Religion a Contradiction in Terms?" It took place in Wellington, New Zealand, on February 15:
On 5 April, BBC Radio 3's programme "Belief" broadcast an interview with Stephen by Dame Joan Bakewell. You can listen to their conversation here:
From 19-26 April, we ran our yearly Korean Zen retreat at Gaia House. Our talks will be available shortly at www.dharmaseed.org.
June 29-30: we will be leading a seminar/workshop in Barcelona on the theme "A Culture of Awakening" (Una cultura del despertar) in the Casa d'espiritualitat Sant Filip Neri. For further information go to:
September 21: Together with the theologian Don Cupitt and the former bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway, Stephen will be speaking at a day-long conference entitled "Secular Religion?" organized by the Sea of Faith at St John's Church, Waterloo Road, London SE1, 10.30-5.00. Further information:
Martine: Aeon Magazine has also published a recent article of mine on meditation:
Here are two short suttas from the Pali Canon that you might find interesting to peruse. The first one is about identification and comparison:
The second one is about an old battle....
Stephen: I recently came across a website with an extensive library of books on early Buddhism that can be downloaded as pdf files:
I would also like to offer heartfelt thanks to the selfless work of those monks and scholars who have developed the extraordinary site: www.suttacentral.net
This site provides easy access to the entire Pali Canon as well as parallel texts in other Asian languages as well as English translations. The Pali texts now incorporate a dictionary link, enabling you at a click to find a brief definition in English of the term you are reading in Pali.
Continuing with my interest in Hellenistic philosophy, I would highly recommend The Inner Citadel by Pierre Hadot, an in-depth study of the Meditations of the Stoic philosopher and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.
Equally engaging is the first volume of the Contre-histoire de la philosophie by Michel Onfray, entitled Les Sagesses antiques. This work presents ancient Greek philosophy as though Democritus and Epicurus had turned out to be the dominant figures we remember today rather than Plato and Aristotle. Unfortunately, it is not available in English.
We are about to leave France for a four-week teaching tour in South Africa, followed by two weeks’ pilgrimage to the ancient Buddhist monasteries of India. Follow Martine on Twitter if you would like to keep track of our movements.
My article "A Secular Buddhism" has now been published in the Journal of Global Buddhism. This is the most detailed account I have written on the topic. It is available for free at: http://www.globalbuddhism.org/13/batchelor12.pdf
More recently, on the website Sweeping Zen, I posted some reflection on the fraught issue of sexual relations between Buddhist teachers and their students. This can be found at: http://sweepingzen.com/buddhism-and-sex-the-bigger-picture/
Confession of a Buddhist Atheist continues to be translated into other languages. Since the beginning of the year, it has been published in Spanish, French, Italian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil) and Russian. I have been told that the title in Russian reads: What is Buddhism? How to Live According to the Principles of the Buddha. To know more, go to: http://www.ozon.ru/context/detail/id/19042592/
For those interested in photography, you might enjoy this short film of Henri Cartier-Bresson commenting on his own photographs. It is available at: http://www.openculture.com/2011/11/henri_cartier-bresson.html
A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by Joan Bakewell as part of a series of programmes to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3, each evening during Christmas week, under the title Belief. I do not yet know the date, but it will on one such evening at 9pm (UK time).
I have also just completed an audio recording of Buddhism Without Beliefs, Verses from the Center, and Confession of a Buddhist Atheist for Audible, the audio-book division of Amazon. As soon as there is a release date, I will post it on this site.
And as for books, I was very impressed with Johannes Bronkhorst's Buddhism in the Shadow of Brahmanism. This academic study convincingly portrays how the area where the Buddha taught in India was almost entirely free from the influence of Brahmanism. The caste system was not in place, Brahmanic beliefs were not widespread, and Sanskrit was not in use outside Brahmanic circles. Bronkhorst argues that as Brahmanism came to define the social norms of India in the following centuries, it "colonized the past" by claiming that its influence was far greater than it actually was at the Buddha's time. The tragedy is that when Buddhists came to believe this account as well, they tacitly accepted Brahmanism as normative, a step, says Bronkhorst, that contributed to its eventual disappearance from the sub-continent. In dispelling the shadow of Brahmanism, early Buddhism is able to appear in a much clearer, sharper light. The book is published by E.J. Brill and, unfortunately, is very expensive. I was lucky to have been sent it as a pdf file by a colleague.
I would also highly recommend Susan Carol Stone's novel: The Kosambi Intrigue (see the flyer below for details). An excellent Christmas gift for Buddhists.
I am pleased that I have been able to find the time to write some articles. One short article entitled The Busier You Are, the Slower You Should Go came out in the Barre Centre of Buddhist Studies' digital newsletter at : http://www.bcbsdharma.org/2012-10-29-insight-journal/
Another one entitled No Magic, No Mystery should appear in the January issue of Aeon Magazine, a digital magazine at: http://www.aeonmagazine.com
I recently went back to reading Oliver Sacks and enjoyed The Oaxaca Journal and Hallucinations. Through the byways of the internet I stumbled across a book by Timothy Kurek entitled The Cross in the Closet. This was a fascinating read as the young author used to be a fervent evangelical Christian who decided that what he thought about gay people might be wrong. So to try to change his mind, he decided to come out as a gay man for a year (although he is heterosexual). This book shows that the more you exclude, the more you become exclusive and divisive even among your own groups, while the more inclusive you become, the more your heart opens.
We are going to be away in South Africa and India and will answer emails as best as we can, whenever and wherever the internet connection is working.
We are pleased to announce that our teaching schedule
for 2013 is now posted on this site.
Since our last posting in July, we have led retreats in Austria, England and Switzerland. In August we attended the Buddhist Geeks Conference in Boulder, Colorado, which was stimulating and fun. Earlier this month, I was a keynote speaker at the German Buddhist Union congress in Hamburg.
The talks given during the July retreat at Gaia House are now available on Dharma Seed: http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/119/ (Martine)
and http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/169/ (Stephen).
On May 12, I gave a talk at the Musée de Mariemont in Belgium entitled Vers une nouvelle culture de l’éveil? A transcription in French is now available in the French language section of the website.
On May 18, I had a public dialogue with the Christian theologian Don Cupitt in the Friends’ Meeting House in London. A transcript of our discussion is now available on-line at:
My article “A Secular Buddhism” is to be published in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Global Buddhism (http://www.globalbuddhism.org). This is the longest treatment I have written on this topic so far.
In 2013 – my sixtieth year – I will be taking a sabbatical, in order to focus on study and writing. This means that I will cut back on teaching and only be leading (with Martine) two retreats during the year: the Zen Retreat at Gaia House from 19-26 April, and the Study Retreat, also at Gaia House, from 13-21 July. If you intend to join either of these, you would be advised to register early – for details, see our Teaching Schedule.
I will be visiting the United States only once, for the “Zen Brain” conference with Evan Thompson, Joan Halifax, Ritchie Davidson and others at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe from February 7-10, followed by a study/workshop programme with Joan Halifax and Sylvia Boorstein from 11-15 entitled “After Buddhism” – for details, see our Teaching Schedule.
Our pilgrimage to the Ancient Buddhist Monasteries of India in January 2013 with Shantum Seth is fully booked.
Reading: I would recommend the following titles:
Pankaj Mishra. From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia
Sherry Turkle. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other
John M. Cooper. Pursuits of Wisdom: Six Ways of Life in Ancient Philosophy from Socrates to Plotinus
Please note that Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s long-awaited translation of the Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Anguttara Nikaya) is now available from Wisdom Publications.
I have managed to prepare our accounts all the way up to September – I have also done some work in the garden, kindly battling weeds with stupendous roots!
My presentation at Buddhist Geeks is available on You Tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPK9k0QYjbw
The film I made for the background of the presentation was unfortunately cut short because of technical problems. You can find the full version here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8qBGPv1Sc4&feature=plcp
I enjoyed reading Future Babble by Dan Gardner. It reassured me that people have constantly worried about the future but that most of the times their alarming predictions did not become true. I was also greatly moved by Who is Afraid of Post-Blackness by Touré.
First, an apology to anyone who sent one of us an email through the “Contact Us” section of the website earlier this year. For a period of about three months – from February to April – a technical problem resulted in all messages from the website being classified as spam and then deleted. So if you wrote to us during that time but did not get a response, please resend.
After returning from Australia and New Zealand, I have been writing an essay titled “Experience,” a 12,000 word analysis of what seem to me the key ideas the Buddha used to present his phenomenology of the human condition, i.e. the five khandha, namarupa and consciousness, the links of conditioned arising etc. I am now working on an essay of similar length titled “Meditation.” Both these pieces will probably form part of a book length project tentatively called “After Buddhism.” They will likewise provide materials for forthcoming talks at retreats.
From May 10-12 I was hosted by the Belgium Buddhist Union to give a series of lectures in Ghent, Antwerp and Mariemont. Many thanks to Michel Deprèay for taking care of me during the visit.
On May 20, I participated in a public dialogue with the radical Anglican theologian Don Cupitt on the future of religion at the Friends Meeting House, London, sponsored by London Insight. Unfortunately, the recording of the two hour discussion was of too poor quality to post as a podcast. There are plans to transcribe it and make it available as a transcript. The short paper I prepared for the event will be published in the Fall 2012 edition of Tricycle magazine under the title “A Secular Buddhist.”
On June 20, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation aired a show in its programme IDEAS, entitled “Idolatry for Beginners.” Producer Frank Faulk explored the meaning of idolatry in a secular age with Daniel Suelo, Mark Sundeen, Lorna Dueck, and myself. You can listen to it here:
From August 9-11, I will be a speaker at the second Buddhist Geeks conference in Boulder, Colorado. My keynote address “Buddhism and the Art of Imagining” will be live-streamed at 3.45pm MST on Saturday 11th, and thereafter available as a podcast. For further details, go to:
I shall also be giving a short talk at the Buddhist Geeks conference on the topic of “Creativity without Grasping.” I am preparing a short silent film made up of recent photos and films I have taken, which will be projected as a background during the talk. This will take place at 9.30 am MST on Friday 10th.
I recently stumbled upon the Pali expression yatha butham nana dassanam (usually translated as “seeing and knowing things as they are”). I am enjoying researching and reflecting on this idea, and am now talking about it as “creative equanimity.” I continue to take care of my mother and the garden but have not managed to get to my accounts yet. This is my Holy Grail at the moment: to find the time to input all the various bits of paper into a coherent recorded whole.
I am enjoying reading Zen Baggage: A Pilgrimage to China by Bill Porter. I would recommend it to anyone would like to know about the situation of Zen Buddhism in China today.
If you are interested in some instructions on Zen you can access them from my dropbox. This is an experiment to see if this might be another way to have access to some of our talks, which we record on our iPads. Let me know if this works.
Pilgrimage to the Ancient Buddhist Monasteries of India
There are still a few places left on the pilgrimage to the ancient Buddhist monasteries of India from 17 - 31 January, 2013, which will be co-lead by Stephen and Martine and Shantum Seth.
The cost for the two week trip will be: US $ 5,750 (shared room); single room supplement: US $1,965. This does not include travel to and from India.
Stephen has been invited to give a public talk on the evening of 16 January in Mumbai. Details about title, location and time will be posted as soon as they are confirmed.
We have recently returned from a stimulating teaching tour in New Zealand and Australia, where we visited Wellington, Sydney, and Brisbane and taught two residential retreats back-to-back at Sine Cera, a delightful rural facility in a rain forest in northern New South Wales.
Secular Buddhism seems to be gaining a fair amount of interest in the antipodes. Secular Buddhism New Zealand has recently posted three videos on YouTube: (1) my 2002 TV interview with Noel Cheer; (2) my 2004 talk “Living with the Devil” in Wellington; (3) my 2010 dialogue with Sir Lloyd Geering “Can Christianity and Buddhism remain relevant?” These can all be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/user/wellingtoninsight
The talk I gave at St Andrews church in Wellington on 27 February, “Being Completely Human – Buddhist Practice in a Post-Christian World,” should be available at the above site shortly.
However, my dialogue with Bhante Sujato: “Secular Dhamma, Traditional Dhamma: the Buddha and Rebirth in the 21st Century,” which took place in Redfern, Sydney, on 5 March, can be watched on line at: http://west-wight-sangha-video1.blogspot.fr/2012/03/discussion-between-stephen-batchelor.html
I would like to congratulate Lenore Lambert for launching Secular Buddhism Australia. Go to: http://www.secularbuddhism.org.au
My talks from the retreats at Sine Cera are now available as a set of nine lectures on Secular Buddhism at http://www.dharmaseed.org. Note that they have been listed in an odd order. Start with no. 1, then proceed to 2, 3 etc. (the site goes 3,2,1), then you need to go to the end of the page to find no. 4, 5, 6 etc.
For more information and links on Secular Buddhism, see the entry in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_Buddhism
All this travelling has given me time to read some excellent books:
1. David McMahan. The Making of Buddhist Modernism. This brilliant and engaging book provides the best overview so far of the interplay between Buddhist traditions and modernity since the beginning of the 20th century. It is reviewed by David Loy in the recent issue of Tricycle.
2. David Grabier. Debt: The First Five Thousand Years. For someone who has thought of himself as tone deaf regarding economics, this readable, radical and sobering history of debt and money provided me with the clearest account I have read of how the world economy “works.”
3. Charles Freeman. The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Freedom. For those who do not have the time to read Gibbon, this book tells the tragic story of the decline of the schools of classical Greek philosophy and the rise to dominance of Christianity during the last centuries of the Roman Empire.
Sine Cera, the centre where we taught in Australia, was very special for its amazing fauna, from goannas to wallabies via leeches.
I have also read some interesting books. I enjoyed the conclusion of The Decisive Moment, whichexplores how the brain makes up its mind, that basically we need to learn from our mistakes and cultivate openness to make better decisions. I thought that meditation could help us in this, by making us more aware and more open.
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldiershowed clearly that the potential for causing harm is very dependent on conditions. The most astonishing, though it makes sense, is that from day one boy soldiers are given lots of drugs daily.
The Land of Decorationis a fascinating novel about being raised in a born again Christian family by Grace McCleen, who herself came from a similar background.
And King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman, is a book about Africa where one can see modernity meeting ancestral traditions with cunning elders being wrong footed by an energetic and ethical Ghanaian secretary.
Finally, an emotionally wrenching book about a Korean family, beautifully written and so, so Korean: Please Look After Momby Kyung-Sook Shin.
It is still possible to book places on the pilgrimage to the ancient Buddhist monasteries of India from 17 - 31 January, 2013, which will be co-lead by Stephen and Martine and Shantum Seth. (See the What’s New for December 2011 for details of the journey. Please note that Tricycle magazine will no longer be participating as a sponsor; the trip will be managed entirely through Buddhapath in Noida, near Delhi.)
The cost for the two week trip will be: US $ 5,750 (shared room); single room supplement: US $1,965. This does not include travel to and from India.
We have enjoyed a prolonged stay at our home in France with Zoë (the cat) over the past month and a half. On February 11 we leave for a six-week teaching tour of New Zealand and Australia. Please look at the Teaching Schedule for details of our talks, courses and workshops.
We will both be speaking at this summer’s Buddhist Geeks Conference in Boulder, Colorado from August 9-11. See http://conference.buddhistgeeks.com for further information.
Stephen will also be a speaker at the German Buddhist Union’s conference “Buddha im 21. Jahrhundert” in Hamburg, Germany, from 12-14 October. Go to http://www.buddhismus-kongress.de for further information.
We would like to congratulate Anantacitta Tunnel on having developed and launched a British-based Secular Buddhist website:
You can hear my recent two-part interview with Vince Horn of Buddhist Geeks at:
As well as an interview with me by Ted Meissner of The Secular Buddhist Association on my book Let Go:
Remember that I am active on Facebook.
You can also follow me on Twitter: @MartineBatch.
Ted Meissner of the Secular Buddhist Association interviewed me about my recently republished book The Awakening of the West, which can be heard at:
During January I have written a 10,000 word article entitled “A Secular Buddhism” for the Journal of Global Buddhism (www.globalbuddhism.org). This is the most detailed and scholarly statement I have made so far in defining what a secular Buddhism might be. It is scheduled to appear in a special issue of the journal dedicated to the topic of Secular Buddhism later this year.
I have been reading The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt, a book that recounts the discovery in the 15th century of the lost Epicurean work De Natura Rerum by the Roman philosopher-poet Lucretius. In addition to providing a vivid account of the emerging humanism of the Renaissance, Greenblatt shows how Lucretius’ text established the foundations for a way of understanding the world based solely on the movement of atoms in the void.
This inspired me to read A. E. Stallings’ beautiful new translation of Lucretius’ work for Penguin Classics: The Nature of Things.
Among other insights, Lucretius offers a compelling and witty refutation of a mind existing independently of the body and the possibility of reincarnation.
Finally, I would recommend a fascinating lecture by the Buddhist scholar Gregory Schopen on early canonical depictions of the Buddha as a person engaged in the economic life of his world. This can be viewed at:
It is now possible to book places on the pilgrimage to the ancient Buddhist monasteries of India from 17 - 31 January, 2013, which will be co-lead by Stephen and Martine and Shantum Seth. (See the What’s New for December 2011 for details of the journey. Please note that Tricycle magazine will no longer be participating as a sponsor; the trip will be managed entirely through Buddhapath in Noida, near Delhi.)
The cost for the two week trip will be: US $ 5,750 (shared room); single room supplement: US $1,965. This does not include travel to and from India.
Urgent Appeal for Woza Moya
As usual, it is the poorest who get hit the hardest first. As the world economic recession continues, funding for charities who work at the coal face of human suffering is one of the first things to dry up.
Woza Moya, the AIDS awareness charity that Stephen and Martine have been supporting for the last ten years in rural Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, is presently struggling to maintain its level of support to the impoverished community it serves in the Ufafa Valley near Ixopo. For those of us living in the “first” world, it is hard to imagine the levels of hardship, distress and misery that are everyday realities for the men, women and children who eke out a simple existence in these picturesque but desperately poor villages.
For further information on Woza Moya, as well as details about helping them to continue their work, go to: www.wozamoya.org.za
Whatever you can afford to give will be gratefully received.
Martine and Stephen have just returned home after two months teaching in Canada, the United States and Mexico. During this time they taught retreats at Hollyhock, Cortes Island, British Columbia, Canada; Upaya Zen Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Woodacre, California; and Insight LA, Santa Monica, Los Angeles. In Mexico they taught in Zacatlan, Xalapa and Veracruz. Many thanks to everyone who was involved in the organization and hosting during this trip.
On 19 October, Stephen gave a talk "Truth and Violence" at Upaya Zen Center, which can be heard here: http://www.upaya.org/dharma/stephen-batchelor-10-19-11-truth-and-violence/
The thirteen sessions of Stephen and Martine's "A Secular Buddhist Retreat", given at Upaya Zen Center from 21-26 October, can be heard here: http://www.upaya.org/dharma/a-secular-buddhist-retreat-all-13-parts/
Recorded talks from their daylongs "Self, Consciousness and Namarupa" (Stephen) and "Creative Equanimity" (Martine), as well as the Dharma talks of their seven-day study retreat "Towards a Secular Buddhism" given at Spirit Rock from 29 October to 6 November are all available on Dharmaseed audio archive:
for Stephen: http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/169/
and Martine: http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/119/
A video of Stephen's pubic talk in Los Angeles "Four Noble Truths or Four Noble Tasks?" on 11 November is available at http://www.insightla.org/video/
Audio recordings of Stephen and Martine's weekend in Los Angeles from 12-13 November can be heard at: http://www.insightla.org/audio/
Stephen: During the last two months, I have discovered the work of Etty Hillesum, a young Jewish woman from Amsterdam, whose diaries and letters offer a luminous, heart-wrenching account of her experience of the Nazi occupation of Holland and her eventual deportation in 1943 to Auschwitz, where she dies some months later. The diaries and letters are published as An Interrupted Life. I have also been inspired in my thinking by two books by the Italian philosopher, politician and Roman Catholic Gianni Vattimo. In After Christianity, and A Farewell to Truth, Vattimo reflects on the current state of religion and philosophy under the conditions of postmodernity, and in particular on the process of secularization, which he regards not as the failure of the Christian tradition but its triumph. As for fiction, one of the most impressive novels I have read for a long time is Pascal Mercier's Night Train to Lisbon.
Martine: During the last two months, I have enjoyed reading Mistakes were Made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. It has echoes of creative engagement in a secular context. In this book you will find the best chapter I ever read about working as a couple and what helps and what does not. As for fiction, I was struck by a novel called Before I go to Sleep by S. J. Watson. It has an interesting take on living in the moment each day without memory and how you would go about building a self.
Stephen's The Awakening of the Westis now available as a paperback from Echo Point Press. ISBN: 0963878441
Mit dem Bösen Leben: Warum wir das Gute Wollen und immer wieder das Böse tun (Renate Seifarth's German translation of Living with the Devil) has just be re-issued by edition steinrich, Berlin. ISBN 978-3-942085-19-9
Stephen will co-lead with Shantum Seth a pilgrimage to the ancient Buddhist monasteries of India from 18 January - 2 February, 2013. The journey will be sponsored by Tricycle magazine, New York.
This pilgrimage will take us to some of the rare surviving sites in the Indian subcontinent where Buddhism flourished on its home soil from the 3rd Century BCE to the 10th Century CE. This journey will include the world-renowned stupa at Sanchi, the rock-cut monasteries of Ajanta and Ellora, as well as lesser-known rock-cut temples, such as Pitalkora, Karla, Bhaja, Besla, Nasik and Kanheri. Exposure to such a wide-range of sites will grant us a vivid and physical sense of where and how Buddhism evolved in India.
Although these monasteries are no longer active as places of learning and practice, many are in remarkably good condition. Not only will we be able to enjoy the sheer physical beauty and solitude of many of these ancient sites, but also have the unique experience of studying classical Buddhist texts and meditating in the places where these activities originated in India. The pilgrimage includes two day-long retreats: one at the remote Pitalkora, and one at Besla. By travelling to locations that are off the tourist map, we will be able to enjoy them in tranquillity and at leisure, allowing us to appreciate more fully the skill and artistic genius of those who built these inspiring edifices.
This pilgrimage is particularly recommended for those who have completed the traditional journey to the places where the Buddha lived and taught, and would like to extend their awareness of Buddhist India to those places where the Dharma flourished in the centuries after the Buddha's death.
Welcome to the monthly “What’s New” section of our website. We will do our best to make a posting at the beginning of each month to keep you up to date with our writing and teaching projects, as well as anything else we would feel you might find of interest.
Stephen’s Awakening of the West is soon to be reissued by Echo Point Books, a web-based publisher in the U.S. Awakening of the West offers an historical overview of the encounters between Buddhism and Western Culture, from the time of the ancient Greeks until the end of the 20th Century. Originally published in 1994, the Echo Point edition includes a new preface by Stephen.
A new German edition of Stephen’s Verses from the Center (Nagarjuna: Verse aus der Mitte) has just been published in German by edition steinrich. This expanded version of the original includes Stephen’s literal translation of Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamaka-karika as well as a romanised copy of the Tibetan text from which he worked. It is hoped that this expanded edition, which restores the book to the form in which Stephen initially conceived it, will also appear in English in the near future. Verses from the Center is currently out of print.
Translations of Stephen’s Confession of a Buddhist Atheist are now available in German (Bekenntinisse eines ungläubigen Buddhisten. München: Ludwig), Dutch (Bekentenis van een boeddhistisch atheist. Rotterdam: Asoka) and Italian (Confessione di un ateo buddhista. Roma: Ubaldini). French (Le Seuil) and Spanish (La Llave) translations will be published in the Spring of 2012. Other language editions currently in preparation are Indian (English), Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, and Korean.
Martine’s Spirit of the Buddha is now available in an Indian edition, and her Women in Korean Zen has been translated and published in Korean.
Path Press Publications has recently published the collected writings of the English monk Nanavira Thera in two beautiful hardback volumes. Volume One is titled Seeking the Path: Early Writings (1954-1960) and Volume Two Clearing the Path (1960-1965). Clearing the Path, originally published in Sri Lanka, has been out of print for many years, while Seeking the Path has not been published before in book form. For further information, go to www.nanavira.org or www.pathpresspublications.com
Stephen will co-lead with Shantum Seth a pilgrimage to the ancient Buddhist monasteries of India from 17-31 January, 2013. This will be a rare opportunity to visit some of the principal Buddhist sites to have survived in the sub-continent after the disappearance of the Dharma from India in the 12th century. As well as visiting such well-known places as Sanchi and Ajanta, we will also spend time in lesser known rock-cut temples and monasteries. The exact itinerary has yet to be finalized. If you are interested in joining this pilgrimage, please contact Stephen. The journey will be sponsored by Tricycle magazine, New York.