Lessons of History

Stephen Batchelor

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Stephen Batchelor, proponent of "Buddhism without beliefs," investigates the historical development of Buddhism across different cultures—and uncovers a difference in the conception of history itself.


Nearly thirty years have passed since I first became involved in Buddhism. I was nineteen at the time, dizzy with the optimism of the 1960s and the thrill of having traveled overland from England to India. The Tibetans had been in exile from their homeland for just over a decade. The Dalai Lama was only thirty-seven years old and had yet to visit the West. I remember walking up the mist-drenched hills above Dharamsala into the hushed village where the Dalai Lama and his followers had settled. My traveling companions and I visited and lived in impoverished Tibetan refugee communities. We were enthralled by the exploration of a virtually uncharted terrain under the guidance of extraordinary teachers who had literally stepped out of an ancient Buddhist civilization into the modern world.

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