Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment Hardcover – 30 Nov. 2017
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—Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
“Provocative, informative and... deeply rewarding.... I found myself not just agreeing [with] but applauding the author.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“This is exactly the book that so many of us are looking for. Writing with his characteristic wit, brilliance, and tenderhearted skepticism, Robert Wright tells us everything we need to know about the science, practice, and power of Buddhism.”
—Susan Cain, bestselling author of Quiet
“I have been waiting all my life for a readable, lucid explanation of Buddhism by a tough-minded, skeptical intellect. Here it is. This is a scientific and spiritual voyage unlike any I have taken before.”
—Martin Seligman, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and bestselling author of Authentic Happiness
“A fantastically rational introduction to meditation…. It constantly made me smile a little, and occasionally chuckle…. A wry, self-deprecating, and brutally empirical guide to the avoidance of suffering.”
—Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine
“[A] superb, level-headed new book.”
—Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian
“Robert Wright brings his sharp wit and love of analysis to good purpose, making a compelling case for the nuts and bolts of how meditation actually works. This book will be useful for all of us, from experienced meditators to hardened skeptics who are wondering what all the fuss is about.”
—Sharon Salzberg, cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society and bestselling author of Real Happiness
“Wright’s mix of conceptual ambition and humbly witty confiding makes for a one-of-a-kind endeavor—instead of a formulaic how-to book, a fascinating why-not-give-it-a-try book.”
“What happens when someone steeped in evolutionary psychology takes a cool look at Buddhism? If that person is, like Robert Wright, a gifted writer, the answer is this surprising, enjoyable, challenging, and potentially life-changing book.”
—Peter Singer, professor of philosophy at Princeton University and author of Ethics in the Real World
“Delightfully personal, yet broadly important.”
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In particular, he is interested in two Buddhist concepts: not self and emptiness. Incidentally, these are two ideas I have long struggled with... Let's start with emptiness because Wright helped me finally nail this idea. Although we see, for example, our home as the source of security, continuity and lots of warm feelings associated with family, it is really just a pile of bricks and mortar. In the Buddhist sense it is an empty concept onto which we have projected all these emotions. Sure, our home evokes lots of strong reaction but a passing stranger would just see a house and react to the architecture or the location - which once again carries various cultural projections about whether a detached house is better than a semi-detached and how close it is to shops or how remote (which are all equally arbitrary criteria). As a therapist, I'm used to the concept that nothing is inherently good or bad but coloured by how we marshal our experiences, our prejudices and our expectations.
So good so far... but not-self is a much tougher idea. What I did find interesting is that Wright scuppers the idea of self as CEO which sits somewhere inside us and decides rationally what actions to take. Instead he uses neuroscience to explain that we have various modules that take charge. Rather than fighting temptation - for example to eat high sugar and fat foods - he suggests using the acronym: RAIN. Recognise the feeling, Accept it, Investigate the feeling and finally - the hard bit but meditation apparently helps - to Non-identify with the feeling and have Non-attachment to it. In this way the urge is allowed to form but does not get constantly re-inforced by the short term pleasure of, for example, eating the cake. Thus the link to the reward is broken and although the urge might still blossom without gratification it reduces and ultimately subsides.
The downside to this book is that Wright - like the majority of us - is a relative beginner to meditation and when it comes to seeking clarifications about Buddhism and enlightenment, he has to interview people further along the road. My suspicion is he often hears what he wants to hear, simplifying the arguments and glossing over the complexities of his case. Having said that I am convinced that I need to meditate more and take on board the concept of emptiness - because it is my attachment to particular things and outcomes which is often the source of so my unhappiness.
A useful book that I will stay with me for a long time and I recommend to others who want to take the red pill and see the 'truth'.
While my Favourite Book on Eastern Philosophy / Religion remains Freedom From the Know (by that acknowledge Master Krishnamurti) the Book under review is now firmly in my Top 3 Sharing a shelf with the aforesaid, and with Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now.
To share bookshelf space with Krishnamurti and Eckhart Tolle, you’ve really got to deliver something special - this book most definitely does! Think you’ll love it.
Pick this up if you’ve doubts about meditation. In this book’s context, the author uses his own meditation experiences and encounters to bring readers to at least understand that the actions or inactions will lead to a blissful awareness. In this book, the author talks about the Buddhist meditation practice.
A lively and genuine experience-to-conceptual presentation of a daily practice, when done conscientiously, liberates the mind. For any novice, first timer, even a doubter, the message from this book is - why not? Try it.
For me, I’ve been doing daily meditation for decades. I truly appreciate the author’s work, beautiful, genuine and touching.
I also agree with the title of the book (Though it does come across as arrogant). If any spiritual movement has got it right, Buddhism has got the closest in my honest opinion. The book describes a grown up version of spirituality thats not stuck in the middle ages and actually encourages you to use and master your mind (rather than shutting it down and believing what you are told to believe).
Most recommended from me!
Top international reviews
Excellent backdrop of evolutionary theory used to make his point. Even those not interested in meditation can read as a scientific book on inner life.
Highly recommended to all to go for it.
Not just this book, but read each and every book written by Robert Wright viz Moral Animal, Non-Zero Sum, Evolution of God etc.
Let me explain.
I'm by no means an expert on meditation or on any science around the philosophy of meditation and enlightenment, so my boredom came about because I felt like I'd acquired this knowledge before, either through having read similar, or from having explored meditation in my earlier life (this sounds arrogant of me, but I promise you, it's not intended to sound like that at all), and because the author tended to sermonise too much, in my opinion, which I found very annoying.
I think that the minute I realised this about the book, is about the time that I simply switched off and lost interest, but regardless, I still read it to the end, because I don't like leaving books unfinished and at least wanted to give the author the due respect to read his book to the end.
Having said this, there were bits in the book that resonated with me, especially because it seemed 'common core' as the author puts it. The bits where he speaks of questioning an emotion and getting an answer, and suddenly the emotion is gone! I've done this many times before in the course of my entire life, and I was thrilled that the author had also had this experience. An example of this experience would be in which I'd suddenly be in a situation where I'd placed a judgement call (be it subconsciously) of someone new to me, and because of that judgement call, I'd find myself feeling aggravated, only to then realise in an instant that I'm feeling this way and to check-in with myself and ask the magic question, why? Why am I feeling this way about that person? And as soon as I'd get my answer, it's like an epiphany and the sky opens up and the angels in the universe are all suddenly playing a harp together, and instantly, whatever feelings and thoughts I had of that person, positive or negative, it's gone.
Other than that, the other stuff in his book, was 'common core,' stuff that you may already know and may have tried before, such as; meditate. Still the mind. Feel the emptiness. Know you are nothing and simultaneously know that you are something, that is in the here and now, forever more. Easy done for some of us, but not so easy for some of us. For me. What can I say? I'm here, right now. My mind is actively active, but can be a blank as I focus on my breath or focus on simply being.
You get the gist.
Reading this book gave me the "eureka" moment in understanding these concepts. Brilliantly explains in simple language how the human brain has been engineered for survival, which also leads to delusion and suffering. It explains the state of enlightenment and how meditative practices can take us closer to state of liberation.
I take away 1 star because I think this book does tend to meander into areas that seemed academic to me. But overall I will recommend this book as a good read.
I needed a oxford pocket dictionary to understand many new words for me. Skipping those words meaning would result in different understandings.
You can the photo of backside of book for review by others.
It’s completely about philosophy and meditation. It’s not about being a good buddhist.
A must read for everyone who is interested in mindfulness, meditation and philosophy.
I have it as paper and audiobook now.
Robert Wright “Budhhism is right” – (you have to get beyond the awful title!) His position is that modern and esp evolutionary psychology accords with Buddha on much of this (so what), and that mindful meditation can help get some measure of clarity..
Seemingly knowledgeable and uses lots of citations (haven't investigated how credible they are, but presented as eminent psychologists and taken on trust). His delivery is a little flippant and irreverent to a degree – so easy to read and amusing at times.
and always when you image something big, reality is different..from the title, i was expect a book that can open my mind, with scientific proof about Buddhism, and the why, the book is very hard to understand ( i'm not english native), and very very boring about personal history, personal fact from the past, so he became heavier and heavier, i didn't finished it, but i was expecting something more focus on why, examples, studies, scientific way plus personal experience. i found other book much more interesting than this one.