Bertrand Russell was concerned with three passions: longing for love, search for knowledge and unbearable pity for the endless suffering of mankind. That is something ,particularly in the last one. A great philosopher, a learned man expressing his helplessness ! An academic who wrote a number of treatises on Mathematics, Philosophy and wrote on many other subjects !! Actually he was honest and humane . Many other philosophers were not so forthcoming. Many of them were too busy working out abstract ideas( which then ended up producing unworkable theories like Marxism ). Then the question comes : why this “endless suffering” without hope, why is it so difficult to address ? Well, could there be some fundamental contradictions between these “ passions”-three or whatever ? After all, these are fundamentals issues , faced by everybody at one time or another. In this hopeless situation let us turn to a historical figure. It was sometimes back ,actually 2500 years ago ; 500 years before Christ. One minor prince from India named Siddhartha Gautama was haunted by the miseries of life . He was not interested in abstract theories like Metaphysics, Epistemology etc (like most philosophers ). He was concerned with “mundane” problems like ageing, diseases and death which nobody could escape including himself !!. He wanted a solution , if there was one. He left behind his baby, his wife , family, everything and went into a jungle to meditate. He came out after years of meditation with a solution. He has become the Buddha, the “awakened one “ . It is not a religion. He said human salvation does not depend on god, it depends on himself ,his karma !!! He said anybody can become a Buddha !!! Think of some religions !!! A former prince, he became a Bhuku , begging for food in the morning and eating only once a day if some people were kind enough to give him some food , wondering from place to place ,not settling down anywhere, wearing rags etc. !!! To ordinary mortals like me, the cure seems more terrifying than the disease itself!! But He-at least- gave us a SOLUTION or so it appears. However philosophers “forgot” to examine his system for a long time . Brahmins in India did not like him because he attacked the Brahminical caste system , Muslim invaders were more brutal (non-violence of Buddhism made the slaughter easy ); Monasteries , great Universities were razed to the ground. Buddhism virtually vanished from India. But time does change , particularly when thousands of years have elapsed. Arthur Schopenhauer was influenced by Indian religious texts and later claimed that Buddhism was the "best of all possible religions. Husserl says :” That Buddhism - insofar as it speaks to us from pure original sources - is a religio-ethical discipline for spiritual purification and fulfillment of the highest stature - conceived of and dedicated to an inner result of a vigorous and unparalleled, elevated frame of mind, will soon become clear to every reader who devotes themselves to the work. Buddhism is comparable only with the highest form of the philosophy and religious spirit of our European culture. It is now our task to utilize this (to us) completely new Indian spiritual discipline which has been revitalized and strengthened by the contrast.” After he became Buddha , Siddhartha came to meet his father . His father was furious :” Are you not ashamed to beg in a place where you once were a Prince ?” It need not be that Buddhism is the ONLY solution but it is worth examining. If you want to know more about Buddha and his ways , try this book. It is wonderful.
Intresting and attention catching book. 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.
This book is a masterpiece. Anyone who has attended a Vipassana camp bnut isnt clear about the intellectual aspects must read this book for clarity. The lucidiity of abstract concepts, dry humor and structure of the book make for a engaging read
An absolute treasure for those who amusingly seek the answers but miss the concrete closure on connection and relevance of meditation or its Buddhist version of mindfulness with reference to evolutionary perspective and the development of brain and the journey and space of psychological function . The unfolding is balanced with a scientific hypothesis ensuring that nothing is left to assumption , hence from the illogical to logic , from articulate to inarticulate this offering by Prof.Robert wright with due diligence is made as simple as it can get to ingest the four Noble truths to eightfold path in light of modern day psychology with extensive and ongoing research in quest of answers to human predicament and the shift in consciousness as the thruthful answer to both the skeptics and hopeful seekers.
I loved the fact that a man of academic background with experience in mindfulness has written this book. His natural skepticism and tendency to analyse and connect principles of Buddhism to knowledge from other field makes for such an interesting read.
This book grounds many Buddhist precepts in Evolutionary Psychology. I had lot of transformative changes in my thought processes after reading this book. Our minds have evolved thoughts and feelings which are due to natural selection. Such thoughts are grounded in feelings and may be regarding acquisition, mate selection or jealousy. These thoughts and feelings are harmful. They are explained nowadays by the modular theory of mind in which various modules get activated in the brain subconsciously due to external stimuli. These has been proven by many experiments in psychology. By not associating with these thoughts and feelings and letting them dissipate we refuse the concept of "self". This is also core to Buddhist precept called "non self" which ties to this finding. This is brought out very lucidly. The next chapter deals with the concept of "essence". Are things by nature good, bad or ugly? Is a buzz saw noise disturbing? The author illustrates through his own meditation experiences that you can argue that the nature of essence is not permanent or a property of the objective but a matter of psychological perception. He quotes numerous psychological theories including the fundamental attribution error. He then discusses the concept of "tanha" or "desire" and how it feeds on itself and is proven to be harmful psychologically. Further the author stresses that we need a ethical and moral theory along with benefits that accrue from discovering "non self" and "emptiness" via meditation. However, he claims that meditation will bring us close to truth and thus to morality and we will lose all the tribalism that besets modern people.
I enjoyed the book very much. The summary at the end are the core hypothesis on "non self", "dukkha", "tanha", "emptyness" and "conditioning" that the author has put forward as having a basis in evolutionary psychology. His descriptions on meditation will be useful to both beginners and experts in actually understanding the "Why" behind the processes. The book includes the authors personal experiences and quotes from various Buddhist masters he has practiced which is quite entertaining and very in-depth analysis.
A must for anyone who wants to understand Buddhism and meditation scientifically.