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Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic [Hardcover]

Alan Wallace
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

9 Dec 2011
A radical approach to studying the mind. Renowned Buddhist philosopher B. Alan Wallace reasserts the power of shamatha and vipashyana, traditional Buddhist meditations, to clarify the mind's role in the natural world. Raising profound questions about human nature, free will, and experience versus dogma, Wallace challenges the claim that consciousness is nothing more than an emergent property of the brain with little relation to universal events. Rather, he maintains that the observer is essential to measuring quantum systems and that mental phenomena (however conceived) influence brain function and behavior. Wallace embarks on a two-part mission: to restore human nature and to transcend it. He begins by explaining the value of skepticism in Buddhism and science and the difficulty of merging their experiential methods of inquiry. Yet Wallace also proves that Buddhist views on human nature and the possibility of free will liberate us from the metaphysical constraints of scientific materialism. He then explores the radical empiricism inspired by William James and applies it to Indian Buddhist philosophy's four schools and the Great Perfection school of Tibetan Buddhism. Since Buddhism begins with the assertion that ignorance lies at the root of all suffering and that the path to freedom is reached through knowledge, Buddhist practice can be viewed as a progression from agnosticism (not knowing) to gnosticism (knowing), acquired through the maintenance of exceptional mental health, mindfulness, and introspection. Wallace discusses these topics in detail, identifying similarities and differences between scientific and Buddhist understanding, and he concludes with an explanation of shamatha and vipashyana and their potential for realizing the full nature, origins, and potential of consciousness.

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Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic + Mind in the Balance: Meditation in Science, Buddhism, and Christianity (Columbia Series in Science and Religion)
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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 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 978,423 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 12/8/2011 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 4/8/2012

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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must for today's scientists 20 Aug 2014
By darjo
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wonderful, high-quality book, a must for today's scientists!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 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.
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 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!
19 of 67 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Apologetics 6 Jan 2012
By Speculative Non-Buddhism - Published on
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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