Batchelor, Stephen 1953-
BATCHELOR, Stephen 1953-
PERSONAL: Born April 7, 1953, in Dundee, Scotland; married Martine Fages, 1985. Education: Studied with Geshe Ngawang Dhargyev (Dharamsala, India), 1972-75; studied with Geshe Rabten (Switzerland), 1975-79; studied Zen Buddhism with Kusan Sunim at Songgwangsa Monastery (South Korea), 1981-84. Religion: Buddhist.
ADDRESSES: Home—Aquitaine, France. Agent— Anne Edelstein Literary Agency, 20 West 22nd St., Suite 1603, New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Writer, photographer, translator, teacher, and leader of Buddhist retreats. Buddhist monk, 1978-85. Worked as translator for Geshe Thubten Ngawang at Tibetisches Institut, Germany. Gaia House, Devon, England, guiding teacher, 1990-2000; Sharpham Trust, Devon, England, coordinator, beginning 1992; Sharpham College for Buddhist Studies and Contemporary Equity, cofounder, beginning 1996.
AWARDS, HONORS: Thomas Cook Guidebook Award, 1988, for The Tibet Guide.
(Translator) Acharya Shantideva, A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (Dharamsala, India), 1979.
Alone with Others: An Existential Approach to Buddhism, Grove (New York, NY), 1983.
(Translator) Geshe Rabten, Echoes of Voidness, Wisdom Publications (Boston, MA), 1983.
Flight: An Existential Conception of Buddhism (pamphlet), Buddhist Publication Society, 1984.
(Editor and author of introduction) Kusan Sunim, The Way of Korean Zen, translated by Matine Fages, Weatherhill (New York, NY), 1985.
(Editor and author of introduction) The Jewel in the Lotus: A Guide to the Buddhist Traditions of Tibet, Wisdom Publications (London, England), 1987.
The Tibet Guide, foreword by the Dalai Lama, Wisdom Publications (London, England), 1987, second edition, with Brian Beresford and Sean Jones, published as The Tibet Guide: Central and Western Tibet, 1998.
(Translator) Geshe Rabten, Song of the Profound View, Wisdom Publications (Boston, MA), 1989.
The Faith to Doubt: Glimpses of Buddhist Uncertainty, Parallax Press (Berkeley, CA), 1990.
(Translator) Geshe Rabten, The Mind and Its Functions: A Textbook of Buddhist Epistemology and Psychology, Rabten Choeling (Pélerin, Switzerland), 1991.
The Awakening of the West: The Encounter of Buddhism and Western Culture, Parallax Press (Berkeley, CA), 1994.
Buddhism without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 1997.
(Editor, with Gay Watson and Guy Claxton) The Psychology of Awakening: Buddhism, Science, and Our Day-to-Day Lives, Rider (London, England), 1999, S. Weiser (York Beach, ME), 2000.
Verses from the Center: A Buddhist Vision of the Sublime, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2000.
(Photographer) Martine Batchelor, Meditation for Life, Wisdom Publications (Boston, MA), 2001.
Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to anthologies, including Space in Mind: East-West Psychology and Contemporary Buddhism, edited by John Crook and David Fontana, Element (Shaftesbury, England), 1990; Dharma Gaia: A Harvest of Essays in Buddhism and Ecology, edited by Allan Hunt-Badiner, Parallax (Berkeley, CA), 1990; Sharpham Miscellany, edited by John Snelling, 1992; Buddhism and Ecology, edited by Martine Batchelor and Kerry Brown, Cassell (London, England), 1992; For a Future to Be Possible, Parallax (Berkeley, CA), 1993; Religion in Europe: Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Sean Gill, Gavin D'Costa, and Ursula King, Kok Pharos Publishing House (Kampen, the Netherlands), 1994; The Buddhist Forum Volume IV: Seminar Papers 1994-1996, edited by Tadeusz Skorupski, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1996; Faith and Praxis in a Postmodern Age, edited by Ursula King, Cassell (London, England), 1998; and Buddhism in America: Proceedings of the First Buddhism in America Conference, edited by Al Rapaport, Tuttle (Vermont), 1998.
Contributor of articles to magazines and journals, including Tricycle, Middle Way, Interlink, and Inquiring Mind. Contributing editor, Tricycle, 1992—.
Author's works have been translated into German, Dutch, French, and Italian.
ADAPTATIONS: Buddhism without Beliefs was adapted for audiocassette, 2002.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A book that will develop the concept of an agnostic Buddhism.
SIDELIGHTS: Born in Scotland and raised in England, Stephen Batchelor left home at age eighteen to travel to India and study Tibetan Buddhism. By 1978 he had become a Buddhist monk and was translating sacred texts. He went on to study Zen Buddhism in Korea, and "disrobed"—left the monastery—in 1985 when he married a former Buddhist nun. Batchelor has become an important voice of Buddhism in the West, both as a writer and as an editor of the magazine Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. He is also the author of several popular books on Buddhism, including The Awakening of the West: The Encounter of Buddhism and Western Culture, Buddhism without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening, Verses from the Center: A Buddhist Vision of the Sublime, and Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil.
Writing in the New York Times, Kennedy Fraser noted that for the Buddhist community in the United States Batchelor is "a celebrity, albeit a somewhat controversial one. His skeptical views on karma and reincarnation, in particular, have been viewed with alarm" by some. Kennedy went on to note that Batchelor "is known as a translator of sacred texts and is steeped in Buddhist tradition. He respects history and lineage. He thinks that some popular American Buddhist centers may be in danger of trivializing the dharma and replacing spiritual inquiry with meditation and psychotherapy."
In The Awakening of the West, Batchelor "provides a clear overview," as Wesley Palmer noted in the Whole Earth Review, of the meeting of Buddhism and European civilization. Batchelor's treatment presents "the interconnectedness of the historical, psychological, and evolutionary changes in this fascinating but obscure relationship," Palmer further commented. Writing in the Contemporary Review, Chris Arthur called The Awakening of the West a "wide-ranging, thoughtful and well-informed account," and went on to observe that it is an "engaging book, written in an easy, accessible style, pleasingly unencumbered by technical vocabulary or distracting scholarly apparatus." In Palmer's opinion, "Batchelor is particularly adept at creating eye-catching cameo scenes which offer fascinating snapshots of Buddhism's Western presence and forcefully claim the reader's attention."
Batchelor's Buddhism without Beliefs explores, as a reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted, "the practical fundamentals of Buddhism and how they can be relevant to both religious and secular-minded Westerners." According to the same reviewer, Batchelor "deliberately eschews elitist, monastic Buddhist traditions," and makes the Buddhist tradition accessible to Westerners. With Verses from the Center he translates the verses of the second-century Indian philosopher and monk Nagarjuna, and makes extensive comments on them. A contributor for Publishers Weekly observed that "although this bracing, abstruse text has been lovingly translated for accessibility, it remains a demanding philosophical treatise geared for the serious student of Buddhism, not the dilettante."
In his 2004 title, Living with the Devil, Batchelor explores the Buddhist concept of evil. Library Journal critic Graham Christian noted that the author "draws deeply on traditional Buddhist insights as well as stories from the legends surrounding the Buddha's life" in this "moving and timely study." Similarly, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt that "Batchelor's genuine concern and desire for a better world come through clearly." For this work, Batchelor surveys not just Buddhist literature, but also Western texts, examining the struggles of the Biblical Job and of the French philosopher Pascal as they dealt with the reconciliation of the ego in the face of certain death.
Batchelor has also put his intimate knowledge of southern Asia to use in The Tibet Guide, first published in 1987 and brought out again in 1998. Harold M. Otness, writing in Library Journal, thought that Batchelor "goes far beyond conventional guidebooks" in this work, serving up chapters on history and religion and including a highly detailed description of Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet. Otness concluded that "this is a guide for serious travelers and is also an excellent reference source."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Review, May, 1995, Chris Arthur, review of The Awakening of the West: The Encounter of Buddhism and Western Culture, p. 271.
Library Journal, March 15, 1998, Harold M. Otness, review of The Tibet Guide, p. 86; July, 2000, James R. Kuhlman, review of Verses from the Center: A Buddhist Vision of the Sublime, p. 99; May 1, 2004, Graham Christian, review of Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil, p. 115.
New York Times, November 3, 1997, Kennedy Fraser, "Buddhism's Flowering in America: An Inside View," p. E2.
Psychology Today, November-December, 2001, review of Meditation for Life, p. 76.
Publishers Weekly, April 14, 1997, review of Buddhism without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening, p. 70; April 10, 2000, review of Verses from the Center, p. 94; May 10, 2004, review of Living with the Devil, p. 54.
Whole Earth Review, winter, 1994, Wesley Palmer, review of The Awakening of the West, p. 20.
Martine and Stephen Batchelor Web site,http://www.stephenbatchelor.com (November 3, 2004).