Saturday, April 07, 2012

informal book review on goodreads

Alone with Others: An Existential Approach to BuddhismAlone with Others: An Existential Approach to Buddhism by Stephen Batchelor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought--what do I want to read? and I wanted to read this book.  It's a book that tries to update Buddhism with existentialism, among other things.

I've read it before, after I read what I think is his best seller, Buddhism Without Belief.  I wanted to see if it stood up the way I remembered it.

Batchelor is skeptic, doesn't want to just follow the herd, and is an original independent deep thinker.  I've met him in person and he's a swell guy.  I think my only criticism of him is that he hasn't built a movement, and doesn't seem to value deep friendships the way my order does.  Now, I can't actually know how deep his friendships are, but when asked who was sangha to him, he reported other celebrity Buddhists.  I find that hard to believe.

At times the jargon of Existentialism feels a bit forced, but for the most part this book is filled with gems of insight.  It touches on all the major important ideas of Buddhism, and feels congenial with my tradition, which is inclusive, but it also hits home at similar points.  While this is a short book, it is jam packed with important stuff, that makes it hard to write a general review.

This rich book will be reread by me, hopefully in the future.

Like many books, this book leads to other books.  I want to read Heiddiger's Being and Time, I think a better understanding of that book would help me to see more what this book is trying to do.  But this books stands on it's own.

I'm not tempted to read the Christian theologians he does, but I'm happy to read the nugget he finds.  I've read all his Buddhist books, and reread Buddhism Without Belief, and this one.  I think this one might be his best, though for the average reader I'd probably read his last one Confessions of an Atheist Buddhist, which is the fullest memoir to date.

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