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Living With The Devil: book event

Living With The Devil

Former buddhist monk Stephen Batchelor will speak on the theme of his latest book, Living With The Devil: a Meditation on Good and Evil, a work on humankind's greatest struggle -- to become good -- at the National Library Auditorium, cnr Aitken & Molesworth Streets, Wellington, on Thursday 2 December at 7:30pm.

This talk will take place during Batchelor's visit to New Zealand to lead a 4-day residential retreat for Wellington's insight meditation community at Riverslea Lodge, Otaki. He will be leading the retreat alongside his wife Martine Batchelor, a former buddhist nun who is also a buddhist teacher and writer. The focus of the retreat is 'Deep Agnosticism'.

In this talk and in his book, Batchelor traces the trajectory -- from the words of Buddha and Christ, through the writings of Shantideva, Milton and Pascal, to the poetry of Baudelaire and the fiction of Kafka -- of those obstacles that keep us from doing what's in our own and others' best interest. He shows us the myriad forms those obstacles take: a wandering farmer, a caring friend, a devout religious believer, a powerful king, even a frustrated old man who doodles in the sand when he cannot snare the Buddha.

The devil need not appear with horns and a forked tail; it stands for everything that paralyses one's innate wisdom, freedom and empathy, thereby blocking one's path in life. In a world of black and white, Stephen Batchelor paints in shades of grey, showing what it means to live in an ambiguous and precarious environment that constantly tempts us away from what we hold to be good.

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Drawing on classic religious texts from east and west as well as the findings of modern physics and evolutionary biology, he asks us to examine who we really are, and to rest in the uncertainty that we may never know. For the alternative to this creative unknowing is to freeze ourselves inside rigid definitions of self -- the very work of Mara, the demonic figure that appeared to Buddha -- and blindly follow the feeling that we are "self-begot" (Milton), independent and permanent. To be free from such diabolic constriction entails creating a path that imbues one's life with purpose, freedom and compassion.

This is a hopeful book about living with life's contradictions. Stephen Batchelor argues that freedom from the demonic is not achieved by suppressing it or projecting it onto others, but by calmly and clearly recognising and understanding those inhibiting and destructive powers as they well up from within us and assail us from without. Such an approach not only releases the grip in which the devil holds us, it opens up the world as an astonishing play of endless flux and contingency. This leads to a perspective of vigilant care from which we can respond to the cries of the world rather than reacting to them out of habitual self-interest and fear.

Living With The Devil: a Meditation on Good and Evil was published by Riverhead Books (a Penguin Group USA imprint) in July 2004.


Stephen Batchelor was a buddhist monk for ten years, first in the Tibetan gelugpa tradition and then in the Korean zen tradition. He disrobed in 1985 and returned to England where he became co-ordinator of the Sharpham Trust and then co-founder of the Sharpham College for Buddhist Studies and Contemporary Enquiry in 1996. He also worked as a buddhist chaplain at a nearby prison. From 1990 he has been a guiding teacher at Gaia House meditation centre in Devon and since 1992 a contributing editor of Tricycle: the buddhist review. He works as a writer and photographer and travels worldwide to lead meditation retreats and teach buddhism.

He is the translator and author of numerous books and articles on buddhism including The Faith to Doubt, Alone with Others and the bestselling Buddhism Without Beliefs. He has recently published sixty colour and black and white photographs in Martine Batchelor's Meditation for Life. Living With the Devil: a Meditation on Good and Evil is Stephen's latest book. He lives in southwest France with his wife Martine.


To find out more about Stephen Batchelor visit

To find out more about Wellington's insight meditation community, visit

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