Nothing that David Brazier writes can subtract from the merits of his other two books, "The Feeling Buddha" and "Zen Therapy". (I 5-starred both of them.) As a psychotherapist, Brazier is well qualified to write about how to change yourself. Therefore, I was disconcerted to turn the cover page of this book to be engaged by the explosively confident and allwise face of (who else but?) the author. However, the prominent photo turned out to be completely appropriate, because this book is all about David Brazier and not Buddhism, 'new', revised, "critical", or otherwise.
Brazier's many assertions about what the Buddha thought (well, the Buddha thought what David Brazier thinks, of course, what else?) and what the Buddha would think about numerous present day situations .... these claims are nothing better than [wrong] for us and self-serving for Brazier.
Brazier rants on about "engaged Buddhism", what he has engaged is Brazierism. Not that I disagree with the author's views, except that these have precious little to do with the Buddhadharma of 2500 years ago in India. I shall be glad to vote for Brazier as "boddhisattva of the year", or something like that. But his appeals to invoke the authority of Buddhist scripture and tradition are terribly misplaced.
This is both an intellectually stimulating and entertaining book by a revisionist author who is attempting to forge a new Buddhism for modern Western consumption. It certainly resonates with the Critical Buddhism movement that has been largely erupting in Japan over the last couple decades, and as such shares its strengths and weakness. See Hubbard's Pruning The Bodhi Tree for an overview of this. Being attached to this outlook, Brazier turns a rather skeptical eye to the history and doctrines that have been historically associated with Buddhism, overturning and casting out anything that doesn't fit into his agenda of socially engaged Buddhism. In the process, he turfs many positions that great numbers of Buddhists would think of as being core issues in Buddhist faith. To think that they can be as breezilly dismissed as Brazier handles them is a mistake. How much can be cut out before it's Buddhism in name only? In fact, which of the eight very different views of enlightenment he presents is really ultimate when they each claim to be and shoot down some or all of the others? And if there's so much allowable diversity, why not allow a New Buddhism, even if it comes close to being a Buddhist Brazierism? These are all questions worth hard thought, particularly for a religion without canon or (allegedly) dogma. Given that the Buddha welcomed all questions, however, and preached critical analysis, even of his own views, Brazier has stirred up a tasty pot of issues for thinking Buddhists. Whether you end up agreeing or disagreeing with him, this is one of the most provocative books about Buddhism around.