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Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic Hardcover – 9 Dec 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (9 Dec. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231158343
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231158343
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 16.1 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,168,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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The suggestion brought to the fore by Flanagan and Wallace-that Buddhism may be a source of insight in these areas-is a welcome and tantalizing one. -- Daniel Stoljar Nature This book is a stirring attack on the hubris and blind spots of the scientific establishment, combined with an engaging presentation of Buddhist wisdom as the antidote. -- Joseph S. O'Leary Japan Times

About the Author

B. Alan Wallace spent fourteen years as a Buddhist monk, ordained by H. H. the Dalai Lama. He then earned his undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, in physics and the philosophy of science at Amherst College, and his doctorate in religious studies from Stanford University. His Columbia University Press books are Mind in the Balance: Meditation in Science, Buddhism, and Christianity; Hidden Dimensions: The Unification of Physics and Consciousness; Contemplative Science: Where Buddhism and Neuroscience Converge; and Buddhism and Science: Breaking New Ground. A prolific writer and translator of numerous Tibetan Buddhist texts, he is the founder and president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies (

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A well researched dialogue for the twenty first century. B. Alan Wallace has continued questioning throughout his life, and is able to discuss a viewpoint with insight and ease. A must read.
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Wonderful, high-quality book, a must for today's scientists!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Free your mind 1 Mar. 2012
By Weedar - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
With clarity, the author explains Buddhist philosophy and contrasts it with the modern worldview of scientific materialism. He looks at how Buddhism and Science could cooperate in creating a better understanding of our mind and our world.

But where this book really shines, is when it uses what the author calls "radical empiricism" to dissect the idea that there exists an objective physical world that is prior to and independent of consciousness. This section alone is worth the price of the entire book, and has the potential to free minds from bondage to materialist philosophy.

I should add that this book is not just for Buddhists (I am not one). I think any person with an open mind can benefit from it regardless of creed and worldview.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Changing our views, values and way of life 24 Jan. 2015
By Claudio Li Calzi - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In this book, Dr. Wallace invites us to investigate our worldview, values and way of life. These three have indeed an enormous impact in the way we shape our existence and, as a consequence, the planet in which we live. Veiled by the pursuit of our day-to-day affairs, our views and values may often remain implicit, as they have been in my own experience. However, it is obvious that shopping malls, bigger and better houses, bigger and better cars & airplanes, more and more electronic gadgets, better vacations, bigger and better entertainment & pollution, sweatshops and a workaholic population were not the norm only 150 years ago. Technologies developed in the late 19th and 20th centuries have exponentially increased our hedonic well-being. However, at the same time, the extent of the environmental, social & individual, political & economic issues affecting the world nowadays is unprecedented. As many respected institutions, like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2014, p.8,, mention in their peer-reviewed reports, our planet is facing the biggest crises in terms of environmental degradation, climate change, rate of wildlife extinction, fisheries depletion and so forth. All these effects inevitably stem from human choices and preferences.

These are the external effects of the modern, materialistic way of life and, as the IPCC argues, these choices are clearly not sustainable. If dramatic changes in the way we harness energies and use the planet's resources are not implemented, the IPCC estimates that by the end of this century our planet may incur severe, pervasive and irreversible damage for people and ecosystems (IPCC 2014, p.8). As the Dalai Lama recently commented, “Under a materialistic outlook a priority is placed on money. However, money is no guarantor of inner peace.” However, international and national corporations now dominate the economic arena (often having the power to even sue governments to fulfil their economic interests, see e.g. Monsanto) and when they publish their annual reports, the overwhelming emphasis is on the growth of their bottom line for investors - profit is given priority, as every stock market vehemently shouts.

As a consequence of both the corporations and nations' emphasis on economic growth, a consumeristic way of life is naturally advertised and then pursued by people. Although adequate food, clothing, housing, education and medical care are indispensable for human survival and flourishing, as ends in themselves they are devoid of meaning. If we hold a merely materialistic outlook, without knowing that anything else is possible, then it is clear that no matter how much we possess, it will never be enough to satisfy our craving for happiness.

It is now apparent that a materialistic worldview, as expressed in our economies, our politics, our sciences, has created an immense desire for more hedonic consumption in every country. We can see it in every city of the world, in every major airport. Shopping malls offer the view that accumulation and consumption of material things bring satisfaction. But, it is now apparent that this model of the good life is in crisis. Our planet cannot sustain anymore this way of life.

Hence, Dr. Wallace invites us to challenge this worldview that currently dominates the modern world. If a drastic change in our lifestyles is needed to avoid environmental, social and economic catastrophe, a shift of perspective is absolutely required in terms of what we value and how we view the world and our role in it.

Dr. Wallace strikes at the core of this issue by presenting the materialistic worldview, and exposing its flaws. He shows that, in our constant intoxication with the outside world, we failed to notice our inner resources and capacities for well-being and meaning. The role of consciousness resurfaces from the cemetery of materialism, because we cannot deny this fundamental facet of our existence, that we are conscious beings. Since the materialistic worldview has brought about so much damage, to the point that we may face the demise of our human species in a few decades, it behooves us to investigate our current assumptions in all fields of human endeavours, and see for ourselves if different worldviews - that sustain human flourishing and the planet - are indeed available and realistic.

By drawing from the wisdom of the Buddhist tradition and other sources, Dr. Wallace openly questions the current materialistic outlook and invites us to begin our personal inner search in order to restore meaning to the world, to see whether and how we can tap into the inner capacities of consciousness.

Understanding the role of consciousness in the world may indeed bring about a revolution in our worldview, thus offering a chance of survival to human civilisation and true human flourishing. It is currently the missing factor in all fields of science, as there is no testable explanation of the origin, nature and potential of consciousness so far, and also no knowledge of how potential discoveries of the role of consciousness could impact all the other fields of science and beyond, including also social, political and economic paradigms.

I wish that you will be inspired and moved by this book as I have, and that it may help people find a worldview based on reality. I deeply thank Dr. Wallace for his invitation to challenge unseen assumptions, because therein lies a potential for development and progress of knowledge. And when there is progress in our knowledge - a true revolution that sweeps away a worldview not based on reality – then this phrase from the Dalai Lama seems very appropriate: “Greater understanding, greater responsibility.” [In my interpretation, to live according to that deeper worldview discovered.]

Thank you.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Take the Challenge. 31 Jan. 2015
By Rhonda Schiffler - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Even the title of Dr B. Alan Wallace’s book “Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic: A Manifesto
For the Mind Sciences and Contemplative Practice” holds a challenge.
Who is willingly bold enough, to challenge their most cherished assumptions and put them to the test of empirical investigation?

As William James pointed out in “Talks to Teachers on Psychology”
The Law of Economy--"in admitting a new body of experience, we instinctively seek to disturb as little as possible our pre-existing stock of ideas." We always try to name a new experience in some way which will assimilate it to what we already know. (p. 111).
In later life . . . a new idea or a fact which would entail extensive rearrangement of the previous system of beliefs is always ignored or extruded from the mind in case it cannot be sophistically reinterpreted so as to tally harmoniously with the system" (p. 111).

Understandably then, there is a reluctance to go down that rabbit hole.
Nevertheless, what a great disservice to our vast body of knowledge, not to enter here and set forth on that expedition to make new and unprecedented discoveries?

Dr B. Alan Wallace has said “I aspire to the skepticism of the Buddha, who challenged many of the religious and philosophical assumptions of his era. But he wasn’t satisfied to remain a mere agnostic but rather devoted himself wholeheartedly to probing the nature of existence through his own personal experience, refined through the use of highly advanced contemplative training. I likewise idealize the skepticism of Galileo and William James, both of whom challenged many of the commonly held beliefs of their times and responded to them in radically empirical ways. So my approach to science and to Buddhism is one of radical empiricism, tempered by the use of rigorous logic.”

The invitation then, is to delve into the book wholeheartedly and discover what there is to discover. Subsequently, by investigating these ideas in the spirit of open inquiry, using rigorous methodology, one will come to unveil the true nature and potentials of consciousness.
What have we got to lose but the illusion of knowledge? "The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge." ~ Daniel J. Boorstin
Rather than realise posthumously the breadth and depth of this erudite scholar and accomplished practitioner’s gnosis, why not harken to his words post-haste, take up Dr B. Alan Wallace’s challenge, and contribute to the Revolution in the Mind Sciences and a Renaissance of the Contemplative Traditions of the world, as he is suggesting. It is surely long overdue.
Rhonda Schiffler.
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A Superb Book 29 Jun. 2012
By Mike Anson - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Another superb book by Alan Wallace. The book builds bridges between science and Buddhism and is rich, erudite and clear. I highly recommend it!
20 of 73 people found the following review helpful
Apologetics 6 Jan. 2012
By Speculative Non-Buddhism - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In his new book, Wallace claims to be offering a breakthrough in scientific knowledge that can serve to remove "obstacles to a revolution in the mind sciences." In support of his approach, Wallace cites Daniel J. Boorstin's contention that "illusions of knowledge," and not merely or only wrongheaded ignorance, have historically created the most serious obstacles to new scientific knowledge. "In the past," Wallace writes, "these illusions of knowledge were often traced to religious beliefs and philosophical speculations. But now the primary obstacles to discovering the origins, nature, and potentials of human consciousness lie in the illusions of knowledge of mechanistic materialism."

Is that so? Or might Wallace be repeating in some form the ancient "illusion of knowledge" known as "Tibetan Buddhism"? Considering the basis on which he constructs his argument, I have to wonder whether what Wallace gives us here are not yet more obstacles thrown up by religious belief rather than anything--much less a "breakthrough"--resembling science.

Tom Pepper writes, for instance: "Wallace's main scientific target is the biological reductionism that would assert that the mind is nothing more than neural activity. He also wants to reject what he calls 'metaphysical realism' (28). By this, he means the "scientific worldview" that insists that the only things that are real and can produce effects are physical things, and that physical is equivalent to matter. Of course, not even the most reductive of empiricists would actually deny the existence of energy in the universe, so Wallace's argument involves a bit of sleight of hand, as he elides everything but material 'entities,' and then denies their reality. This sophistry is fascinating..."

You can read the entire essay at [...]
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