April 09, 2010

Stephen Batchelor's Tricycle Retreat, Week 1

Stephen Batchelor's Tricycle Retreat, "Buddhism for This One and Only Life," is nearing the end of its first week. It's not too late to become a Tricycle Community Sustaining Member and join the retreat, however! Here's a sample of his Week 1 video so you can see what he's getting at. We'll provide one of these for your consideration every week.

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Ted Christopher's picture


Having watched this video and read the interview I add some observations.

It comes off as an academic exercise/talk and I doubt that is helpful.

His point of jettisoning the religious beliefs associated with (really underpinning) Buddhism is largely redundant. As far as I can tell the norm in Western Buddhist practice is to largely pretend around these beliefs anyway. In the very long works by James Austin for example, I didn't see a single sentence even acknowledging the religious content of Zen.

Further a place like the Springwater Retreat Center was founded almost thirty years with the distinguishing cry for a break from the religious elements. Having been there this past year I can report they - like apparently everyone else - are not doing well. Sustained Buddhist practice or not-Buddhist practice is not doing well amongst Westerners.

If Batchelor wants to shed some useful light on the awakening topic he might just say 'This transforming experience has happened rarely amongst people who have lived their entire life in pursuit of it. Thus traditionally lay people - and certainly lay people in an extraordinarily distracted realm such as our own - have not been encouraged with its imminent availability'. He might even stay academic and throw in the Huang Po quote on the subject.

Finally, the underlying and vital issue of rebirth(/reincarnation) and karma can be investigated. Such an investigation could then provide a larger context (beyond this life) for Buddhist practice. I sent in a letter on this to Tricycle and perhaps they will publish it.