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The Faith to Doubt: Glimpses of Buddhist Uncertainty

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Kierkegaard said that faith without doubt is simply credulity, the will to believe too readily, especially without adequate evidence, and that “in Doubt can Faith begin.” All people involved in spiritual practice, of whatever persuasion, must confront doubt at one time or another, and find a way beyond it to belief, however temporary. But “faith is not equivalent to mere belief. Faith is the condition of ultimate confidence that we have the capacity to follow the path of doubt ...
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Overview


Kierkegaard said that faith without doubt is simply credulity, the will to believe too readily, especially without adequate evidence, and that “in Doubt can Faith begin.” All people involved in spiritual practice, of whatever persuasion, must confront doubt at one time or another, and find a way beyond it to belief, however temporary. But “faith is not equivalent to mere belief. Faith is the condition of ultimate confidence that we have the capacity to follow the path of doubt to its end. And courage.”

In this engaging spiritual memoir, Stephen Batchelor describes his own training, first as a Tibetan Buddhist and then as a Zen practitioner, and his own direct struggles along his path. “It is most uncanny that we are able to ask questions, for to question means to acknowledge that we do not know something. But it is more than an acknowledgement: it includes a yearning to confront an unknown and illuminate it through understanding. Questioning is a quest.”

Batchelor is a contemporary Buddhist teacher and writer, best known for his secular or agnostic approach to Buddhism. He considers Buddhism to be a constantly evolving culture of awakening rather than a religious system based on immutable dogmas and beliefs. Buddhism has survived for the past 2,500 years because of its capacity to reinvent itself in accord with the needs of the different Asian societies with which it has creatively interacted throughout its history. As Buddhism encounters modernity, it enters a vital new phase of its development. Through his writings, translations and teaching, Stephen engages in a critical exploration of Buddhism's role in the modern world, which has earned him both condemnation as a heretic and praise as a reformer.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This is a spiritual autobiography and meditative journal of the author's three-year stay in a Korean Zen monastery. What makes the account even more interesting is that this Englishman had previously had eight years of training in Tibetan Buddhism and was an ordained monk who then came, as a result of a retreat in the Burmese meditation tradition, to doubt the Tibetan claims. Batchelor's experiences of mindfulness and of mystical illumination become the basis for doubt, for questioning, and for reflection on Buddhist text and traditional teachings, as well as on technique, on cultural forms, and on self. While a personal account, this book also contains real scholarship: those studying Buddhism academically as well as personally will find it of interest.
From the Publisher

Praise for Buddhism Without Beliefs:

"Batchelor...suggests that Buddhism jettison reincarnation and karma, thereby making possible what he calls an 'existential, therapeutic and liberating agnosticism." —Time

Praise for Confession of a Buddhist Atheist:

"While Batchelor may exaggerate the novelty of his Buddhism without beliefs stance, this multifaceted account of one Buddhist's search for enlightenment is richly absorbing." —Publishers Weekly

Praise for Living With the Devil:

“A moving and timely study of the problem of evil from a Buddhist perspective. [Batchelor] draws deeply on traditional Buddhist insights as well as stories from the legends surrounding the Buddha’s life to suggest that our need to divide experience into good and evil is itself the problem… Rejecting this violence and its dualities, Batchelor suggests, will leave us free for true awareness… highly illuminating.” –Library Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780938077220
  • Publisher: Parallax Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1990
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 142
  • Product dimensions: 5.41 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 0.45 (d)

Meet the Author


Stephen Batchelor was born in Scotland, in 1953. He grew up in a humanist environment with his mother and brother in Watford, north west of London. After completing his education at Watford Grammar School, he travelled overland to India in 1972, at the age of eighteen. He settled in Dharamsala, the capital-in-exile of the Dalai Lama, and studied at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. He was ordained as a novice Buddhist monk in 1974. In April 1981 he travelled to Songgwangsa Monastery in South Korea to train in Zen Buddhism under the guidance of Ven. Kusan Sunim. He remained in Korea until the autumn of 1984, when he left for a pilgrimage to Japan, China and Tibet. He is the author of several books including Alone With Others, The Awakening of the West, and Buddhism Without Beliefs. His latest book, Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, was published in 2010.
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Read an Excerpt

Doubt is central to the spiritual crisis many people find themselves in today. The beliefs of traditional religion having been undermined, it is often doubt we experience as the core of our spiritual awareness. Such doubt is not merely uncertainty about the claims of a particular spiritual tradition, but doubt about what is the meaning of our existence in this world. IT is precisely this kind of doubt that Zen takes up and channels towards awakening. Just as in India and Tibet desire and other kleshas were transformed into the path, so in Zen doubt is transformed into the path. The energetic power of what is conventionally conceived as an obstacle, a defilement or delusion, is thus used as a vehicle for freedom and illumination.
The Zen tradition often speaks of three factors that need to be cultivated along the path: great faith, great doubt, and great courage. Thus faith and doubt are brought together. Clearly, doubt in this context does not refer to the kind of wavering indecision in which we get stuck, preventing any positive movement. It means to keep alive the perplexity at the heart of our life, to acknowledge the fundamentally we do no know what is going on, to question whatever arises within us. The acceptance of such doubt as basic to Buddhist practice qualifies the meaning of faith. Faith is not the equivalent to mere belief. Faith is the condition of ultimate confidence that we have the capacity to follow the path of doubt to its end. And courage: courage is the strength needed to be true to ourselves under all conditions, to cast aside the obstacles that are constantly thrown our way.

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