1: Stephen Batchelor

Stephen Schettini is in conversation with Stephen Batchelor around the question, “Does Buddhism Matter?”

Stephen Schettini talks with Stephen Batchelor on the question, “Does Buddhism Matter?”

Stephen Batchelor in
Lower Dharamsala, 1972

Stephen Batchelor is a contemporary Buddhist teacher and writer known for his secular or agnostic approach to Buddhism. Stephen considers Buddhism to be a constantly evolving culture of awakening rather than a religious system based on immutable beliefs. His critical exploration of Buddhism’s role in the modern world has earned him both condemnation as a heretic and praise as a reformer.

Stephen is also one of my earliest friends in Buddhism. We studied together under Geshe Rabten in the scholastic Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism in the 1970s and Stephen was my very first teacher of scriptural Tibetan. We had many conversations about the meaning of what we were studying and how it applied to the present day. That conversation continues today.

In this talk we discuss why we should or shouldn’t call ourselves Buddhists and about the mainstreaming of mindfulness. We also discuss his recasting of the Four Truths into the Four Tasks and the difficulty we have digesting this fundamental change in the way we see Buddhism.

Episode 1 – Stephen Batchelor (46 minutes) RSS

Or, download as MP3: 001-StephenBatchelor – 43.6 MB

Web Links

Stephen Batchelor’s website The Music: Bach’s 2nd Violin Partita


Author: Stephen Schettini

Host of The Naked Monk

7 thoughts on “1: Stephen Batchelor”

  1. Thank you!

    Raised in a fundamentalist Christian belief system, I knew at a very early age — I am now 75 — that something was wrong, but it was much later that I found the courage to face my unbelief. As mentioned in your podcast, defining myself now as (classical) Buddhist would be challenging.

    Listening to podcasts and studying a lot of material from Jack Kornfield, Gil Fronsdal and Jon Kabat-Zinn was helpful, but none of them helped me express my own understandings.

    I have read and appreciated your book, “The Novice” as well as Stephen Batchelor’s book “Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist.” They were each extremely helpful to me. Your podcast discussion with Stephen Batchelor might have been the most important dialogue that I’ve ever read or heard. I do not disagree with a single statement.

    Thank you again! I’ll be eagerly awaiting Episode 2.


  2. Dear Stephen and Stephen,

    Welcome to the world of podcasts, though I know that neither of you are entirely new to this. This is a very nice introduction to your work, but there is one statement that comes off as quite offensive, even perhaps racist: that ‘of those 150 thousand [Buddhists in the UK], you should subtract around 100 thousand who are working in Chinese restaurants and Thai restaurants…’

    You go on to say (I paraphrase) that this leaves 50 thousand people or so who are committed to Buddhism and self-identify and are probably converts like you and me.

    Either you have figures on UK restaurants that I haven’t heard before and that don’t seem relevant to the conversation or this is a very crude stereotype of Asian Buddhists in the UK.

    Could you clarify these statements?

    1. Response to Justin from Stephen Batchelor. Thanks for your comment, Justin. I take your point, and hope that my comments do not strike people as racist – certainly not intended. In the light of frequently heard claims such as “Buddhism is the fastest growing religion in the West” etc., I am often asked “so exactly how many Buddhists are there in Britain?” and until recently have not been even able to make a guess since there was simply no data. The last British census, however, asked, for the first time, for each person to state their religion. The result, so I have been told, came to 150,000 Buddhists. In order to relate this to the “fastest growing religion in the West” question, I was advised by a Buddhist friend who is interested in these matters to subtract about 100,000 (ethnic Chinese etc) in order to get a sense of the number of converts, hence the estimate of 50,000. I do not in any way intend to suggest that the ethnic Buddhists are somehow less committed to Buddhism (how would I know?) but I do find it helpful to differentiate between those who tick “Buddhist” because that is part of the cultural identity into which they were born, as opposed to those who have made a conscious decision to convert as adults.

    2. There’s a world of difference between inheriting a religious culture and adopting one as a deliberate choice. We talk about Buddhism as if it’s something objective, and while there may be collection of text and images ‘out there,’ the reality of Buddhism is expressed in the way people behave. Generally, we express our birth religions/cultures in more subconscious ways, and our adopted ones in more self-conscious ways. This distinction is significant.

  3. This type of “podcast” is very nourishing for me. Stephen Batchelor’s quest to present the dharma in an unfiltered original format is what is needed for our time. His commitment to clarity and integrity are what draw’s me to investigate the unfoldment of his writings as he continuously teases out the underlying meanings that have been lost in time. For me, Stephen Batchelor’s presentation of “The 4 Noble Truths’s” as tasks to be performed rather than statements of truth is an example of how new understandings can be appreciated when The Buddha’s message is examined free from the cultural bindings in which it grew.

  4. To my understanding ur remark about our asain siblings was not racist. I especially eco Richard’s remark about the 4.

    Dear Stephen Bachelor, If an uneducated (working on that) 60 y old disabled veteran who has no work or permanent housing can appreciate and love ur honest and sincere thoughts, others will also. B@peace, a friend… Jose
    P.S. Please write back at ur convenience. I’m studying the complimentary relationship between sience, especially quantum physics, and the dharma. Be well my friend…I study as much of ur teachings that I can afford…u have my support on ur noble quest !!

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