After Buddhism Book Review

After Buddhism Book Review

after buddhism book review

Book Title: After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age
Author: Stephen Batchelor
Yale University Press
Year Published:
Paperback Price: $
Kindle Price: $

Stephen Batchelor is a renowned Buddhist author, teacher, and scholar from the UK who also routinely writes articles and leads meditation retreats around the world.  He is a noted proponent of agnostic/secular Buddhism.

He has studied in Dharamsala, India under Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey and was ordained as a Buddhist monk in the Gelug tradition in 1974.  After this he studied with Geshe Rabten who was residing in Switzerland at the time.  He is also very familiar with the Korean version of Zen Buddhism and has studied in the Songgwangsa Monastery in South Korea, where he met another nun there and future wife-to-be Martine Fages under the auspices of Kusan Sunim.  After Sunim’s death both left the monastic order and married.

Nowadays he leads meditation retreats and is a contributing editor of the Tricycle: The Buddhist Review which is a popular Buddhist magazine that publishes Buddhist teachings and practices.

He is also the author of other Buddhist books such as “The Jewel in the Lotus: A Guide to the Buddhist Traditions of Tibet”, “Buddhism Without Beliefs”, and “Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist”.

Book Summary

This book is the culmination of four decades of deep study of the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, and Theravada Buddhism. The central message of this book is to communicate a secularized version of the teachings and life of the Buddha without the religious trappings.

This means that he combines readings of the earliest texts of the Pali Canon with narrative accounts of five figures in Buddha’s inner circle, Mahanama, Pasenadi, Sunakkhatta, Jivaka, and the Buddha’s personal assistant Ananda.

In this book, the author makes the case that the Buddha was not a dogmatic religious teacher but instead he was a pragmatic ethicist who was all too human but who had found a solution to suffering in the one-pointed concentration of the mind.

after buddhism book review

Stephen Batchelor

Chapter 1: After Buddhism
Chapter 2: Mahanama: The Convert
Chapter 3: A Fourfold Task
Chapter 4: Pasenadi: The King
Chapter 5: Letting Go of Truth
Chapter 6: Sunakkhatta: The Traitor
Chapter 7: Experience
Chapter 8: Jivaka: The Doctor
Chapter 9: The Everyday Sublime
Chapter 10: Ananda: The Attendant
Chapter 11: A Culture of Awakening

Also included are selected discourses from the Pali Canon

My Critique

This was one of the most interesting books on Buddhism that I’ve read in a while.  I recommend this book to anyone who is curious about the earliest teachings of the Buddha and his teaching career.

He presents Buddhism a “constantly evolving culture of awakening” which is part of the reason why Buddhist continues to survive to this day.


Overall, this was a great book though it’s very detailed so it’s useful to know that before you start reading.  There’s a lot of research presented in this book that help make the author’s point clear.  It’s a very interesting read overall and it’s indispensable if you’re a fan of history in general.

Buy your own copy of After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age from Amazon today!

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8 Responses to After Buddhism Book Review

  1. Jeanette says:

    Hello Ian,

    This is a very interesting review. I have been very curious about Buddhism since I decided that religion was not for me. You have definitely spiked my interest.

    I like the fact that you said the centralized message of the book is to communicate a secularized version of the teachings and life of the Buddha without the religious trappings. I really don’t want to be associated with any religions, but the Buddhist teachings seem to align well with my own personal beliefs about life. I will be checking out this book soon. Thank you so much!


    • Ian H says:

      Hi Jeanette,
      I think that if you’re looking for a secular Buddhism, then this book is definitely for you.

  2. Debra says:

    I’ve always been a very spiritual person, and for years I’ve read spiritual books from authors like Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Joyce Meyer, and more. It wasn’t until Oprah came out with her show on the OWN network called Super Soul Sunday that I started to learn more about buddhism. But I have to say, the more I’m learning about it, the more I realize it is a truly “calming” (that’s the only word I can think of) way of spirituality. Thank you for the review of this book. I’ll definitely be getting this one.

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Debra,
      Yes, Buddhism is definitely calming and settles the mind. The meditation can aid with focus and concentration as well. I encourage you to get this book, I think you will enjoy it. Feel free to use the links on this page which take you there.

  3. Courtney says:

    I am scared to discuss religion these days, Historians has done religion and Biblical matters a dis-service.The words secular and agnostic in the context of religion is a surprise to me. I Love the word ETHICIST and can relate to it in a spiritual context. the more i read about religion the more confuse i get; let’s adopt the word Ethicist and be happy and spiritual. Do you share your personal views?Blessings.

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Courtney,
      Ethics definitely forms the backbone of the Buddhist teachings which is connected to the law of karma (action). I think the Buddha would have appreciated the word Ethicist. I think that religions should communicate more so that there is an understanding and respect for all paths since they all ultimately lead back to liberation from suffering. The Buddha Dharma is a more direct route, so to speak.

  4. Nemanja says:

    I’ve been interested in spirituality for the most of my life, and this view on Buddha, that he was actually just a pragmatic ethicist.. well, let’s just say that was something new to me, haha.

    Moreover, i love Buddha’s way. I’ve read countless stories, and i think i’ll be reading this one as well!

    Thank you for the great review!

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