Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 2014

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Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 2014

Postby plwk » Fri Mar 28, 2014 12:40 am



Stephen Batchelor and Ven Brahmali debate the relevance of the early Buddhist texts for the modern world at event hosted by Melbourne Insight Meditation Group in conjunction with the BSV. The event took place at the Augustine Centre in Melbourne, VIC, Australia on 14 Feb 2014.
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby Kasina » Fri Mar 28, 2014 1:47 am

plwk wrote:

Stephen Batchelor and Ven Brahmali debate the relevance of the early Buddhist texts for the modern world at event hosted by Melbourne Insight Meditation Group in conjunction with the BSV. The event took place at the Augustine Centre in Melbourne, VIC, Australia on 14 Feb 2014.


Nice video, thanks.
"This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed — but I could not see it."


Sn 4.15 PTS: Sn 935-951 "Attadanda Sutta: Arming Oneself"

"You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go... This is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life..."

Wilbur Mercer in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby Kasina » Fri Mar 28, 2014 2:35 am

It seems that no matter how many times people explain these things to Batchelor, he doesn't understand...
"This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed — but I could not see it."


Sn 4.15 PTS: Sn 935-951 "Attadanda Sutta: Arming Oneself"

"You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go... This is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life..."

Wilbur Mercer in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby Jeffrey » Tue Apr 01, 2014 6:09 am

Thanks for posting this. I've been laying about sick for a couple of days, a good chance to watch this without feeling like I should be out doing something else.

Not much of a debate really. Each time the microphone was passed off, one or the other said, "I agree with you," except at the end when Batchelor took exception to being characterized as someone who easily dismissed rebirth. For my money the debate went to Batchelor, who has obviously spent many hours discussing and defending his ideas. In comparison the Ajahn seemed ill-prepared and repeated himself once too often. In fact, Batchelor seemed the more open, probing intellectual, while the Ajahn appeared pinned down and unable to adequately explain the practical ramifications of an agnostic position on rebirth.

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Tue Apr 01, 2014 9:34 am

I watched this on the uposatha and actually thought Ajahn Brahmali was more convincing than Batchelor but that may be indicative more of my own views than anything else. I encourage anyone who has not watched it and has a pare hour or two to give it a go.
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-Dhp. 183

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby fivebells » Tue Apr 01, 2014 5:32 pm

Are you kidding? Batchelor wasted him, making him look like an ignorant, dogmatic bigot. It was a completely unfair contest.

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby daverupa » Tue Apr 01, 2014 6:01 pm

Are there any transcripts available?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Tue Apr 01, 2014 8:47 pm

fivebells wrote:Are you kidding? Batchelor wasted him, making him look like an ignorant, dogmatic bigot. It was a completely unfair contest.


What is funny to me is that I honestly don't see it that way at all. I felt like Batchelor never left the gate as he couldn't provide any justification for calling himself a Buddhist while simultaneously doubting the Dhamma of the Buddha at every turn. I guess confirmation bias rears its ugly head again.
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby ancientbuddhism » Tue Apr 01, 2014 9:54 pm

Brahmali came off as expected with his specious diatribe on rebirth agnosticism. But it was Batchelor that really surprised me. In his books, Stephen Batchelor has been difficult for me to read for his overreaching position to disprove rebirth and other Buddhist metaphysical claims. But in this debate I think he handled himself rather well by staying within a true agnostic position. I also thought Batchelor was rather gracious after Brahmali’s rebuke that he cannot consider himself a Buddhist because he does not accept rebirth.
Anuvicca papañca nāmarūpaṃ
ajjhattaṃ bahiddhā ca rogamūlaṃ,
sabbarogamūlabandhanā pamutto
anuvidito tādi pavuccate tathattā
.

“Having known the naming of objects,
With its proliferation, its root in illness – within and without;
One is released from bondage to the root of all illness.
And thus is called the Knowing One – the Such.

– Sn. 3.6 (Sabhiyasuttaṃ)

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby daverupa » Tue Apr 01, 2014 10:00 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:Brahmali came off as expected with his specious diatribe on rebirth agnosticism. But it was Batchelor that really surprised me. In his books, Stephen Batchelor has been difficult for me to read for his overreaching position to disprove rebirth and other Buddhist metaphysical claims. But in this debate I think he handled himself rather well by staying within a true agnostic position. I also thought Batchelor was rather gracious after Brahmali’s rebuke that he cannot consider himself a Buddhist because he does not accept rebirth.


When I consider the presence in the Nikayas of both the Wager discussion as well as Right View with effluents, I see a similar bit of chafe between agnostics and believers from early times.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby fivebells » Tue Apr 01, 2014 10:03 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote:I felt like Batchelor never left the gate as he couldn't provide any justification for calling himself a Buddhist while simultaneously doubting the Dhamma of the Buddha at every turn.


I think he gave a very good account for why he doesn't care at all whether Brahmali thinks he's a Buddhist or not, and no one else should, either.

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby Mr Man » Wed Apr 02, 2014 6:59 am

Batchelor came across as the practitioner. Ajahn Brahmali as not really being willing or able to investigate and being more keen on shoring up a belief system.

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Apr 02, 2014 7:31 am

Intially, I was not going to listen/watch this, but after doing so, in my opinion Batchelor comes across far better than does Ven Brahmali, whom I think was in over his head in this discussion.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby fivebells » Wed Apr 02, 2014 9:01 am

Yeah, it would be great to see the same debate between Batchelor and some more thoughtful, pragmatic representative of Thai Forest practice.

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby Anagarika » Wed Apr 02, 2014 11:37 am

I thought Ajahn Brahmali acquitted himself quite well. He took a Sutta based position, and for my money, that's a safe position to argue from. Reject rebirth? OK, but don't call yourself a "Buddhist," or "Gautamist." To S. Batchelor's credit, he claims he has an open mind concerning rebirth and other aspects of the Pali Sutta teachings, and for that, he gets props. To be absolutist, fundamentalist, or blind to the possibility of further evidence is neither good science or good professorial sense, and SB ends with that kind of sensibility, though his books have sold based on an agnostic ("secular Buddhism") premise that rejects some core teachings of the Buddha. Ajahn Brahmali won't sell as many books, but he's selling good old fashioned salt, while SB sells cotton candy.

At the end of the day, how we feel about this debate is something of a litmus test for our own biases on these issues.

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby Jeffrey » Wed Apr 02, 2014 12:44 pm

The Ajahn didn't claim to have seen rebirth himself, only to accept it as something that must be true since it was taught by the Buddha. If I had been there, I would have liked to have asked, what is the real life consequence? If I practice long enough and deep enough, presumably, I will too will see and understand rebirth. Until then, are there any negative effects to holding to an agnostic position? Why is one less a Buddhist when neither has yet experienced the truth of rebirth?

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Apr 02, 2014 1:18 pm

Jeffrey wrote: Why is one less a Buddhist when neither has yet experienced the truth of rebirth?
For the monk to characterize Batchelor as not Buddhist because he did not adhere to a particular belief reflected rather badly on the bhikkhu. As noted above Batchelor came across as a Dhamma practitioner far more so than did Ven Brahmali who had very little to actually say.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Stephen Batchelor & Ajahn Brahmali: Melbourne Debate 201

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Apr 03, 2014 4:21 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:I thought Ajahn Brahmali acquitted himself quite well. He took a Sutta based position, and for my money, that's a safe position to argue from. Reject rebirth? OK, but don't call yourself a "Buddhist," or "Gautamist." To S. Batchelor's credit, he claims he has an open mind concerning rebirth and other aspects of the Pali Sutta teachings, and for that, he gets props. To be absolutist, fundamentalist, or blind to the possibility of further evidence is neither good science or good professorial sense, and SB ends with that kind of sensibility, though his books have sold based on an agnostic ("secular Buddhism") premise that rejects some core teachings of the Buddha. Ajahn Brahmali won't sell as many books, but he's selling good old fashioned salt, while SB sells cotton candy.
Have you read any of his books? The interesting thing is that Batchelor showed a better handle on the suttas than did Ven Bramali.

At the end of the day, how we feel about this debate is something of a litmus test for our own biases on these issues.
sure, but that is not the only basis. Batchelor made a reasonable argument that his position was inline with the Buddha's teachings based upon the suttas.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson


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