Laurens wrote:I do not think it is correct to try to manipulate the teachings of the Buddha to suit one's own personal views, and it is for this reason that I personally abandoned Buddhism. I do not believe in kamma as a system that spans from life time to life time, I do not believe that we are reborn after we die, I do not believe that there are other realms of existence, I do not believe in ghosts. However, I would not seek to make out that the Buddha did not teach these things. I think the most humble thing one can do in that situation is to step away from Buddhism, rather than rewrite it. I felt the practice of Buddhism required me to make leaps and assumptions that I wasn't comfortable making, or to entertain these teachings as probably being true, when I did not feel this was so. Therefore I stopped being Buddhist.
That strikes me as an unnecessarily black and white view. One more typical of theists where one must either accept their holy book in it’s entirety as the word or God or reject it. I don’t think Buddhists, or those who practice his teaching but don’t label themselves as Buddhist, need to buy into that kind of attitude.
I think we owe it to ourselves to read Buddhist scripture intelligently knowing that they were written over several centuries after his death by people who may or may not have fully understood his teaching in languages that have needed to be translated and cultures very different from our own.
One starting point in doing that that Stephen Batchelor recommends is to look for what is unique about the Buddhas teaching, for ideas that didn’t pre-exist him. He lists these four;
The principle of conditionality, conditioned arising
The process of the Four Noble Truths.
The practice of mindful awareness.
The power of self-reliance.
I’d have thought Not Self would be in there too, perhaps it’s part of Conditionality. I’m not sold on Stephens conclusions but I think this is a very good starting point looking at what is unique about the Buddhas teachings.
Laurens wrote:If as the article states and the book title is accurate then it would seem that Batchelor is less of an agnostic, and more of an atheist when it comes to rebirth. Assuming Batchelor's title is accurate then an atheist view on rebirth would be; not believing in rebirth is the default position because the burden of proof for the claim 'there is such a thing as rebirth' has not been met and/or there are no convincing arguments to suggest in favour of rebirth. If Batchelor holds any other view then his title is misleading.
My online dictionary defines Athiest as “a person who does not believe in God or gods”, where did you get the notion it had anything to do with rebirth?
If you listened to Stephens talks or read his books you would know that his position is that while rebirth in the way it’s normally presented makes no sense to him he’s happy to be agnostic about it.
Laurens wrote:My view was that the way I interpreted Buddhism - it would not function without the doctrine of rebirth. Kamma teaches that each of our actions bears a kammic fruit at some point.
If Buddhism did not function then you wouldn’t be able to say “Sure I learnt a lot from it, and I still meditate” now would you.
Laurens wrote:Rather than perverting Buddhism into saying something that it does not, just abandon the label Buddhist, because it clearly doesn't fit with the way you view the world, if you are having to twist the core teachings.
That would be ungrateful in my opinion, if one has learned a lot from Buddhist practice and it has improved your life then I think it a far better thing to teach what you have learned and what worked for you. Rather than declare to the world one has thrown out the baby with the bathwater.