Famous Quotes & Sayings

Stephen Batchelor Quotes & Sayings

Enjoy the top 87 famous quotes, sayings and quotations by Stephen Batchelor.

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Famous Quotes By Stephen Batchelor

Stephen Batchelor Quotes 1136940

Habitually, as we anxiously flee from the responsibility of our existence as a whole, we place our hope in the particular objects and situations of the world. This, however, fails to provide us with a secure refuge and our initial anxiety asserts itself again. — Stephen Batchelor

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We took a bus to the nearby monastery of one of the last great Tang dynasty Chan masters, Yun-men. Yun-men was known for his pithy "one word" Zen. When asked "What is the highest teaching of the Buddha?" he replied: "An appropriate statement." On another occasion, he answered: "Cake." I admired his directness. — Stephen Batchelor

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Consciousness is an emergent, contingent, and impermanent phenomenon. It has no magical capacity to break free from the field of events out of which it springs. — Stephen Batchelor

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Our religion, with its beliefs, rituals, and dogmas becomes another segment among all the other segments that constitute our linear and fragmented existence. It offers us another set of possible acquisitions, even more tempting than all the others: a meaning to life, immortality, enlightenment, the kingdom of heaven. — Stephen Batchelor

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For a while I hoped that Buddhism Without Beliefs might stimulate more public debate and inquiry among Buddhists about these issues, but this did not happen. Instead, it revealed a fault line in the nascent Western Buddhist community between traditionalists, for whom such doctrines are non-negotiable truths, and liberals, like myself, who tend to see them more as contingent products of historical circumstance. — Stephen Batchelor

Stephen Batchelor Quotes 751950

To embrace the contingency of one's life is to embrace one's fate as an ephemeral but sentient being. As Nietzsche claimed, one can come to love that fate. But to do so one must first embrace it, though one instinctively recoils at such a prospect. — Stephen Batchelor

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To preserve the integrity of the tradition, we have to distinguish between what is central to that integrity and what is peripheral. We have to discern between what elements are vital for the survival of dharma practice and what are alien cultural artefacts that might obstruct that survival. — Stephen Batchelor

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Each time the dharma moved into a different civilization or historical period, it faced a twofold challenge: to maintain its integrity as an internally coherent tradition, and to express its vision in a way that responded to the needs of the new situation. — Stephen Batchelor

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A secular approach to Buddhism is thus concerned with how the dharma can enable humans and other living beings to flourish in this biosphere, not in a hypothetical afterlife. Rather than emphasizing personal enlightenment and liberation, it is grounded in a deeply felt concern and compassion for the suffering of all those with whom we share this earth. — Stephen Batchelor

Stephen Batchelor Quotes 1937646

Awakening is not a state but a process: an ethical way of life and commitment that enables human flourishing. As such, it is no longer the exclusive preserve of enlightened teachers or accomplished yogis. Likewise, nirvana-the stopping of craving-is not the goal of the path but its very source. For human flourishing first stirs in that clear, bright, empty space where neurotic self-centredness realizes that it has no ground at all to stand on. One is then freed to pour forth like sunlight. — Stephen Batchelor

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It is only when the question ceases to be identified with the subject-verb-predicate structure of grammar, and is recognized within its original ground, within existence itself, that we can start looking for an answer. But such an answer will not be restricted to the confinements of language; it too must be revealed within an existential structure. — Stephen Batchelor

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A compassionate heart still feels anger, greed, jealousy, and other such emotions. But it accepts them for what they are with equanimity, and cultivates the strength of mind to let them arise and pass without identifying with or acting upon them. — Stephen Batchelor

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We are participatory beings who inhabit a participatory reality, seeking relationships that enhance our sense of what it means to be alive. In terms of dharma practice, a true friend is more than just someone with whom we share common values and who accepts us for what we are. Such a friend is someone with whom we share common values and who accepts us for what we are. Such a friend is someone whom we can trust to refine our understanding of what it means to live, who can guide us when we're lost and help us find the way along a path, who can assuage our anguish through the reassurance of his or her presence. — Stephen Batchelor

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Evasion of the unadorned immediacy of life is as deep-seated as it is relentless. Even with the ardent desire to be aware and alert in the present moment, the mind flings us into tawdry and tiresome elaborations of past and future. This craving to be otherwise, to be elsewhere, permeates the body, feeling, perceptions, will - consciousness itself. It is like the background radiation from the big bang of birth, the aftershock of having erupted into existence. — Stephen Batchelor

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You only set out to prove what you have already decided to believe. — Stephen Batchelor

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To embrace suffering culminates in greater empathy, the capacity to feel what it is like for the other to suffer, which is the ground for unsentimental compassion and love. (157) — Stephen Batchelor

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Living from our deepest understanding requires an enormous effort, especially when it goes against the stream of our instinctually programmed perceptions of the world. — Stephen Batchelor

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There is nothing one can have that one cannot fear to lose. Instead of living life in order to have more abundantly, live life in order to be more abundantly. — Stephen Batchelor

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Rather than seek God - the goal of the brahmins - Gotama suggested that you turn your attention to what is most far from God: the anguish and pain of life on this earth. In a contingent world, change and suffering are inevitable. Just look at what happens here: creatures are constantly being born, falling ill, growing old, and dying. These are the unavoidable facts of our existence. As contingent beings, we do not survive. And — Stephen Batchelor

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The art of dharma practice requires commitment, technical accomplishment, and imagination. As with all arts, we will fail to realize its full potential if any of these three are lacking. The raw material of dharma practice is ourself and our world, which are to be understood and transformed according to the vision and values of the dharma itself. This is not a process of self- or world- transcendence, but one of self- and world- creation. — Stephen Batchelor

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How extraordinary it is to be here at all. Awareness of death can jolt us awake to the sensuality of existence. Breath is no longer a routine inhalation of air but a quivering intake of life. The eye is quickened to the play of light and shade and color, the ear to the intricate medley of sound. This is where the meditation leads. Stay with it; rest with it. Notice how distraction is a flight from this, an escape from awe to worry and plans. — Stephen Batchelor

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When there is great doubt," says a Zen aphorism that Kusan Sunim kept repeating, "then there is great awakening." This is the key. The depth of any understanding is intimately correlated with the depth of one's confusion. Great awakening resonates at the same "pitch" as great doubt. So rather than negate such doubt by replacing it with belief, which is the standard religious procedure, Zen encourages you to cultivate that doubt until it "coagulates" into a vivid mass of perplexity. — Stephen Batchelor

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I reject karma and rebirth not only because I find them unintelligible, but because I believe they obscure and distort what the Buddha was trying to say. Rather than offering the balm of consolation, the Buddha encouraged us to peer deep and unflinchingly into the heart of the bewildering and painful experience that life can so often be. — Stephen Batchelor

Stephen Batchelor Quotes 1996109

While originating in acts of imagination, orthodoxies paradoxically seek to control the imagination as a means of maintaining their authority. The authenticity of a person's understanding is measured according to its conformity with the dogmas of the school. While such controls may provide a necessary safeguard against charlatanism and self-deception, they also can be used to suppress authentic attempts at creative innovation that might threaten the status quo. The imagination is anarchic and potentially subversive. The more hierarchic and authoritarian a religious institution, the more it will require that the creations of the imagination conform to its doctrines and aesthetic norms. Yet — Stephen Batchelor

Stephen Batchelor Quotes 1934160

So the Buddha is presenting awakening not as a single mystical experience that may come upon us at some meditation, some private moment of transcendence, but rather as a new engagement with life. He is offering us a relationship to the world that is more sensitized to suffering and the causes of suffering, and he gives rise to the possibility of another kind of culture, another kind of civilization. — Stephen Batchelor

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Our conceptions of the world affect our perceptions of the world which, in turn, condition the way we subsequently conceive the world. — Stephen Batchelor

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Of the monastic institutions on which it depended. Since celibate monks tended to — Stephen Batchelor

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Yet Gotama's Dhamma is more than just a series of axioms. It is to be lived rather than simply adopted and believed in. It entails that one embrace this world in all its contingency and specificity, with all its ambiguity and flaws. — Stephen Batchelor

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Failure to summon forth the courage to risk a nondogmatic and nonevasive stance on such crucial existential matters can also blur our ethical vision. If our actions in the world are to stem from an encounter with what is central in life, they must be unclouded by either dogma or prevarication. Agnosticism is no excuse for indecision. If anything, it is a catalyst for action; for in shifting concern away from a future life and back to the present, it demands an ethics of empathy rather than a metaphysics of fear and hope. — Stephen Batchelor

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Ironically, we may discover that death meditation is not a morbid exercise at all. Only when we lose the use of something taken for granted (whether the telephone or an eye) are we jolted into a recognition of its value. When the phone is fixed, the bandage removed from the eye, we briefly rejoice in their restoration but swiftly forget them again. In taking them for granted, we cease to be conscious of them. In taking life for granted, we likewise fail to notice it. (To the extent that we get bored and long for something exciting to happen.) By meditat- ing on death, we paradoxically become conscious of life. — Stephen Batchelor

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It has taken four billion years of evolution to generate this kind of organism with this kind of brain, and yet we wake up in the morning and feel bored. — Stephen Batchelor

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Letting go of a craving is not rejecting it but allowing it to be itself: a contingent state of mind that once arisen will pass away. Instead of forcibly freeing ourselves from it, notice how its very nature is to free itself. To let it go is like releasing a snake that you have been clutching in your hand. By identifying with a craving ('I want this," don't want' that"), you tighten the clutch and intensify its resistance. Instead of being a state of mind that you have, it becomes a compulsion that has you. As with understanding anguish, the challenge in letting go of craving is to act before habitual reactions incapacitate us. — Stephen Batchelor

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In taking life for granted, we fail to notice it. — Stephen Batchelor

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As a way of life, a middle path is an ongoing task of responsiveness and risk, grounded on a groundless ground. Its twists and turns are as turbulent and unpredictable as life itself. — Stephen Batchelor

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Nowadays, the tendency to be preoccupied with having, at the expense of losing touch with the dimension of being, is becoming ever more pronounced. In times such as ours, when secular and material values dominate social and cultural life to an extreme degree, the intensity of the urge to have creates an ever widening gulf from the awareness of who and what we are. — Stephen Batchelor

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Ironically, the more we crave to possess and dominate the world and others, the deeper and more unbearable becomes the chasm of our own emptiness. — Stephen Batchelor

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In varying degrees, the authority of the dharma was replaced by the authority of the guru, who came, in some traditions, to assume the role of the Buddha himself. — Stephen Batchelor

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As for the law of moral causation ('karma'): this is human justice dressed up as cosmic justice and then imputed to the impersonal workings of the natural world. — Stephen Batchelor

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Buddhism, I think, is probably facing the single most difficult transition from one historical epoch to another, which is really the transition to modernity. — Stephen Batchelor

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Learning and education have frequently degenerated into the systematic accumulation of facts and information. — Stephen Batchelor

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The individuation of dharma practice occurs whenever priority is given to the resolution of a personal existential dilemma over the need to conform to the doctrines of a Buddhist orthodoxy. Individuation is a process of recovering personal authority through freeing ourselves from the constraints of collectively held belief systems. — Stephen Batchelor

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To meditate is not to empty the mind and gape at things in a trancelike stupor. Nothing significant will ever be revealed by just staring blankly at an object long and hard enough. To meditate is to probe with intense sensitivity each glimmer of color, each cadence of sound, each touch of another's hand, each fumbling word that tries to utter what cannnot be said. The — Stephen Batchelor

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What lies ahead is revealed to us through our being confronted with possibilities. Our possibilities, however, are not unconditional and infinite but are limited by the structure of our actual existence. — Stephen Batchelor

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Erotic names, robes, insignia of office, titles- the trappings of religion- confuse as much as they help. — Stephen Batchelor

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After all, people desire immortality and do not wish to embrace the inescapable reality of death; they long for happiness and shy away from the contemplation of pain; they want to preserve their sense of self, not desconstruction it into fleeting and impersonal components. It is counterintuitive to accept that deathlessness is experienced each moment we are released from the deathlike grip of greed and hatred; that happiness in this world is only possible for those who realized that this world is incapable of providing happiness; that one becomes a fully individuated person only by relinquishing beliefs in an essential self. — Stephen Batchelor

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P. 62 ... meditation ... exposes a contradiction between the sort of person we wish to be and the kind of person we are. Restlessness and lethargy are ways of evading the discomfort of this contradiction. — Stephen Batchelor

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I was perplexed by the failure of teachers at school to address what seemed the most urgent matter of all: the bewildering, stomach-churning insecurity of being alive. The standard subjects of history, geography, mathematics, and English seemed perversely designed to ignore the questions that really mattered. As soon as I had some inkling of what 'philosophy' meant, I was puzzled as to why we were not taught it. And my skepticism about religion only grew as I failed to see what the vicars and priests I encountered gained from their faith. They struck me either as insincere, pious, and aloof or just bumblingly good-natured. (p. 10) — Stephen Batchelor

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The tensions between Gotama and the Buddha and between the dharma and Buddhism may have started during Gotama's lifetime. The discourses themselves provide ample examples of how Gotama was transformed from a human being into a quasi-deity, and the dharma was transformed from a practical ethics into a metaphysical doctrine. The texts that make up the early canon cannot, therefore, be regarded as sharing an equivalent antiquity, but need to be understood as products of the doctrinal and literary evolution of a tradition that took place over at least three centuries. — Stephen Batchelor

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Not only are we inescapably alone in the realms of our private thoughts, perceptions and feelings, but we are also, paradoxically, inescapably together in a world with others. — Stephen Batchelor

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We could decide simply to remain absorbed in the mysterious, unformed, free-play of reality. This would be the choice of the mystic who seeks to extinguish himself in God or Nirvana - analogous perhaps to the tendency among artists to obliterate themselves with alcohol or opiates. But if we value our participation in a shared reality in which it makes sense to make sense, then such self-abnegation would deny a central element of our humanity: the need to speak and act, to share our experience with others. — Stephen Batchelor

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Great works of art in all cultures succeed in capturing within the constraints of their form both the pathos of anguish and a vision of its resolution. Take, for example, the languorous sentences of Proust or the haiku of Basho, the late quartets and sonatas of Beethoven, the tragicomic brushwork of Sengai or the daunting canvases of Rothko, the luminous self-portraits of Rembrandt and Hakuin. Such works achieve their resolution not through consoling or romantic images whereby anguish is transcended. They accept anguish without being overwhelmed by it. They reveal anguish as that which gives beauty its dignity and depth. — Stephen Batchelor

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Our old religious and moral traditions," writes Cupitt in The Great Questions of Life (2005), "have faded away, and nothing can resuscitate them. That is why a tiny handful of us are not liberal, but radical, theologians. We say that the new culture is so different from anything that existed in the past that religion has to be completely reinvented. Unfortunately, the new style of religious thinking that we are trying to introduce is so queer and so new that most people have great difficulty in recognizing it as religion at all. — Stephen Batchelor

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one who loves himself should not harm others. — Stephen Batchelor

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This deep agnosticism is more than the refusal of conventional agnosticism to take a stand on whether God exists or whether the mind survives bodily death. It is the willingness to embrace the fundamental bewilderment of a finite, fallible creature as the basis for leading a life that no longer clings to the superficial consolations of certainty. — Stephen Batchelor

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In pride we consciously elevate our own standing and concerns and look down upon others as essentially inferior. — Stephen Batchelor

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For pragmatist philosophers such as these, a belief is valued as true because it is useful, because it works, because it brings tangible benefits to human beings and other creatures. Siddhattha Gotama's Four Noble Truths are "true" not because they correspond to something real somewhere, but because, when put into practice, they can enhance the quality of your life. In — Stephen Batchelor

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Inner spiritual transformation is just as dependent upon the effect of our economic life upon the world as transformations in the world are dependent upon spiritual re-orientation. — Stephen Batchelor

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This body is fragile. It is just flesh. Listen to the heartbeat. Life depends on the pumping of a muscle. — Stephen Batchelor

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He has no interest in pursuing an abstract argument to demonstrate a purely theoretical truth. His practical reason is ethical. Its first principle could be stated thus: Do no evil, Take up what is good, Purify the mind - This is the teaching of buddhas.11 In seeing conditioned arising as a "ground," Gotama implies that insight into conditionality provides "grounds" on which to act. — Stephen Batchelor

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I know very little with anything approaching certainty. I know that I was born, that I exist, and that I will die. For the most part, I can trust my brain's interpretation of the data presented to my senses: this is a rose, that is a car, she is my wife. I do not doubt the reality of the thoughts and emotions and impulses I experience in response to these things. . . . Yet apart from these primary perceptions, intuitions, inferences, and bits of information, the views that I hold about the things that really matter to me--meaning, truth, happiness, goodness, beauty--are finely woven tissues of belief and opinion. — Stephen Batchelor

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The origin of the conflict, frustration, and anxiety we experience does not lie in the nature of the world itself but in our distorted conceptions of the world. — Stephen Batchelor

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A person who is asleep is either lost in deep unconsciousness or absorbed in a dream. Metaphorically, this was how the Buddha must have seen both his previous self as well as everyone else he had known: they either were blind to the questions of existence or sought consolation from them in metaphysical or religious fantasies. — Stephen Batchelor

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While 'Buddhism' suggests another belief system, 'dharma practice' suggests a course of action. The four ennobling truths are not propositions to believe; they are challenges to act. — Stephen Batchelor

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[Mindfulness] is not concerned with anything transcendent or divine. It serves as an antidote to theism, a cure for sentimental piety, a scalpel for excising the tumor of metaphysical belief. (130) — Stephen Batchelor

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We should not allow ourselves to be deceived by our outward show of 'civilized' manners and 'cultured' social behavior into believing that self-concern, desirous attachment, aversion, and indifference are steadily losing their hold over us. — Stephen Batchelor

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Awakening is the purpose that enfolds all purposes. — Stephen Batchelor

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Buddhism has become for me a philosophy of action and responsibility. It provides a framework of values, ideas, and practices that nurture my ability to create a path in life, to define myself as a person, to act, to take risks, to image things differently, to make art. The more I prize Gotama's teachings free from the matrix of Indian religious thought in which they are entrenched and the more I come to understand how his own life unfolded in the context of his times, the more I discern a template for living that I can apply at this time in this increasingly secular and globalized world. — Stephen Batchelor

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Exotic names, robes, insignia of office, titles - the trappings of religion - confuse as much as they help. They endorse the assumption of the existence of an elite whose explicit commitment grants them implicit extraordinariness. — Stephen Batchelor

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Anxiety, alienation, loneliness, emptiness, and meaninglessness are the fruits of living as an isolated subject admist a multitude of lifeless objects. Although our scope of involvement may extend to numerous and diverse fields of interest and concern, as long as the notion of having predominates, our being remains empty and superficial. — Stephen Batchelor

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The Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo makes a similar point to Rorty: "We don't reach agreement when we have discovered the truth," he observes; "we say we have discovered the truth when we reach agreement. — Stephen Batchelor

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An agnostic Buddhist would not regard the Dharma as a source of answers to questions of where we came from, where we are going, what happens after death. He would seek such knowledge in the appropriate domains: astrophysics, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, etc. — Stephen Batchelor

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The problem with certainty is that it is static; it can do little but endlessly reassert itself. Uncertainty, by contrast, is full of unknowns, possibilities, and risks. (65) — Stephen Batchelor

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Patience is the specific antidote to anger and hatred. It is an attitude of accepting both the harm caused by others and the pains and discomforts found in life instead of angrily retaliating against them. Only in the calm afforded by patient acceptance is one able to clearly discern the nature of the situation and proceed to deal with it realistically. Once the mind becomes distorted and disturbed with anger, any possibility of objectivity is lost. One consequently embarks upon a course of action grounded in misconception that inevitably leads to a heightening of the initial conflict rather than its resolution. — Stephen Batchelor

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Being-in-the-world means that I am inextricably knit into the fabric of this fluid, indivisible, and contingent reality I share with others. There is no room for a disembodied mind or soul, however subtle, to float free from this condition, to contemplate it from a hypothetical Archimedean point outside. Without such a mind or soul, it is hard to conceive of anything that will go on into another life once this one comes to an end. My actions, like the words of dead philosophers, may continue to reverberate and bear fruits long after my death, but I will not be around to witness them. — Stephen Batchelor

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Buddhism, it seemed, was a rational religion, whose truth-claims could withstand the test of reason. — Stephen Batchelor

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ANGUISH EMERGES FROM craving for life to be other than it is. In the face of a changing world, such craving seeks consolation in something permanent and reliable, in a self that is in control of things, in a God who is in charge of destiny. The irony of this strategy is that it turns out to be the cause of what it seeks to dispel. In yearning for anguish to be assuaged in such ways, we reinforce what creates anguish in the first place: the craving for life to be other than it is. We find ourselves spinning in a vicious circle. The more acute the anguish, the more we want to be rid of it, but the more we want to be rid of it, the more acute it gets. Such — Stephen Batchelor

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Dharma practice is founded on resolve. This is not an emotional conversion, a devastating realization of the error of our ways, a desperate urge to be good, but an ongoing, heartfelt reflection on priorities, values, and purpose. We need to keep taking stock of our life in an unsentimental, uncompromising way. — Stephen Batchelor

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Loneliness is not only positively characterized by a certain degree of isolation, but is negatively characterized by a deficiency of participation. — Stephen Batchelor

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A lack of being remains unaffected by a plenitude of having. — Stephen Batchelor

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What is it that makes a person insist passionately on the existence of metaphysical realities that can be neither demonstrated nor refuted? (176) — Stephen Batchelor

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The Buddha described his teaching as "going against the stream." The unflinching light of mindful awareness reveals the extent to which we are tossed along in the stream of past conditioning and habit. The moment we decide to stop and look at what is going on (like a swimmer suddenly changing course to swim upstream instead of downstream), we find ourselves battered by powerful currents we had never even suspected - precisely because until that moment we were largely living at their command. — Stephen Batchelor

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Man's mastery over nature, then, is a mastery which has less and less control over itself ... A world where techniques are paramount is a world given over to desire and fear; because every technique is there to serve some desire or fear.2 - Gabriel Marcel — Stephen Batchelor

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In taking the everyday details of life for granted, we fail to appreciate the extraordinary fact that we are conscious at all. — Stephen Batchelor

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Mindfulness can have a sobering effect on the restless, jittery psyche. The stiller and more focused it becomes, the more I am able to peer into the sources of my febrile reactivity, to catch the first stirring of hatred before it overwhelms me with loathing and spite, to observe with ironic detachment the conceited babbling of the ego, to notice at its inception the self-demeaning story that could tip me into depression. And — Stephen Batchelor

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The astronaut in his technical and complex machine, effortlessly orbiting the earth, alone and weightless in the emptiness of space, is the perfect symbol of man today. Despite our domination of the forces of nature and our highly developed technology, we have come to feel ourselves as empty, alienated, anxious, and lonely, without any real inner purpose or meaning to our existence. — Stephen Batchelor

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The Four Noble Truths are pragmatic rather than dogmatic. They suggest a course of action to be followed rather than a set of dogmas to be believed. The four truths are prescriptions for behavior rather than descriptions of reality. The Buddha compares himself to a doctor who offers a course of therapeutic treatment to heal one's ills. To embark on such a therapy is not designed to bring one any closer to 'the Truth' but to enable one's life to flourish here and now, hopefully leaving a legacy that will continue to have beneficial repercussions after one's death. (154) — Stephen Batchelor

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I greatly enjoyed these studies. Geshe Rabten communicated the ideas clearly and succinctly, then had us divide into pairs to pick apart in debate the details of what he had just taught. This was an excellent intellectual discipline. It made me aware of how much of my thinking was muddled. Without subjecting one's ideas to such scrutiny, it is easy and reassuring to cherish opinions that, in the end, are found to rest on the sloppiest of unexamined assumptions. This — Stephen Batchelor