Zen and the Brain Paperback – 30 Jul 1999
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" This is a book written with passion and seriousness." -- "Psychoanalytic Books"
" . . . remarkable in its synthesis of the mystical point of view with the scientific." -- "Bodhi Tree Book Review"
& quot; This is a book written with passion and seriousness.& quot; -- Psychoanalytic Books
& quot; . . . remarkable in its synthesis of the mystical point of view with the scientific.& quot; -- Bodhi Tree Book Review
"This is a book written with passion and seriousness."--"Psychoanalytic Books"
." . . remarkable in its synthesis of the mystical point of view with the scientific."--"Bodhi Tree Book Review"
About the Author
James H. Austin, clinical neurologist, researcher, and Zen practitioner, is Professor Emeritus of Neurology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Clinical Professor of Neurology at the University of Missouri (Columbia) School of Medicine. He is the author of Zen and the Brain, Chase, Chance, and Creativity, and Zen-Brain Reflections, all published by the MIT Press.
Top customer reviews
The publishers briefly describe the work as a "Comprehensive text on the evidence from neuroscience that helps to clarify which brain mechanisms underlie the subjective states of Zen, and employs Zen to 'illuminate' how the brain works in various states of consciousness".
Zen Unbound have said of this book "This new book is surely THE most important zen book of the decade..".
The Journal of the American Medical Association (the most widely circulated medical journal in the world) said of this work "Zen and the Brain is well worth reading by those interested in cognitive brain function, especially the mechanics of consciousness. However, it is far from a dry scientific text and would be enjoyable to someone more interested in the philosophical implications"
Zen and the brain also won the 1998 Scientific and Medical Network Book Prize.
The work is written in a most engaging style and is divided into 158 chapters, which makes it very easy to read for such a large work. The work also includes a number of interesting appendices, a very useful glossary and a section containing copious references and notes.
There are also a number of subsequent/follow-up works Zen-Brain Reflections and Selfless Insight, both of which are also excellent and Meditating Selflessly which is due to be published in November 2011.
As with any such work there are weaknesses - sometimes the scientific processes are described too densely. However the author has a keen eye for a telling anecdote or illustration and seldom allows the theory to continue unrelieved for more than a couple of pages. Although always uncomfortable to read about the suffering of animals in experiments designed to increase our understanding of the brain this is at least acknowledged and recognised as an issue rather than being glossed over as is the case in many works of this nature.
The sections of the book that deal with zen directly, either through descriptions of personal experience or through an intelligent synthesis of traditional literature are perhaps the better half of the work, being both insightful, extremely well-expressed and occasionally very moving. The author comes across as both an enthusiastic and a serious guide to both his science and his journeys into zen 'experience' (for want of a better word!). This is a fascinating and unusual book which deserves to be better known (indeed, an updated edition taking into account the recent advances in neuroscience would be very welcome... and I look forwards immensely to reading the two sequels...) and makes a thoughtful and thought-provoking companion for anyone interested in the relationship between human behaviour, experience and the brain.
from a western perspective and trying to align it to an eastern model.
He goes on a journey to Japan and undergoes his own zen path, full of doubt
and fear a good thing and comes up with an greter understanding of zen and the brain.
It is a book that you can read time and time again, and it is a great lesson on how little we know of the brain and our acceptance if at all of what we do not fully understand /comprehend.
It is a real eye opener and each one who reads will have a differing perspective, but we will have gained whatecever it is we need to know at that moment.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
As for the weakness, it’s that the book was written in the late 1990’s. Ordinarily, I would say that wouldn’t matter much, but concerning our understanding of the brain, it might as well have been the Stone Age—hyperbole duly noted. One doesn’t put together a book of almost 1000 pages overnight, and so much of the references for “Zen and the Brain” are actually from papers from the 1980’s and earlier. The fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine didn’t even come out until the early 1990’s, but—of course—it took a while for the studies featuring this powerful technology to reach publication.
The book is arranged into a whopping 158 chapters divided amongst 8 parts. Some of the chapters are pure neuroscience, and there are detailed descriptions of the brain and the functions of its various parts. Other chapters are designed to give one an insight into the practice of Zen and aren’t technical at all. The author has a reasonably engaging writing style when he’s not conveying the minutiae of brain science. He tells stories of his experience as a practitioner of Zen, and passes on the wisdom of past Zen masters.
I have an unconventional recommendation for this book, which I got so much out of. I recommend you first check out the book “Zen-Brain Horizons” put out by the same author and press (MIT Press) in 2014. While I haven’t yet read that book, it seems to hold three advantages. First, it’s only one-third as long and seems to cover similar material. Obviously, it goes into far less detail. (But you may find that a plus.) Second, the 2014 book is reasonably priced. “Zen and the Brain” is one of the most expensive books I’ve bought in recent years. I’m not saying I regret paying as much as I did, because it was a useful book, but cheaper would be better. Finally, the 2014 has the benefit of access to a lot of great research from the past couple decades. If you read the 2014 book and think you need more detail about the brain, then—by all means—get this book.
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