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The Scientific Buddha: His Short and Happy Life
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The Scientific Buddha: His Short and Happy Life

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  37 ratings  ·  11 reviews
This book tells the story of the Scientific Buddha, "born" in Europe in the 1800s but commonly confused with the Buddha born in India 2,500 years ago. The Scientific Buddha was sent into battle against Christian missionaries, who were proclaiming across Asia that Buddhism was a form of superstition. He proved the missionaries wrong, teaching a dharma that was in harmony wi ...more
Hardcover, 168 pages
Published September 25th 2012 by Yale University Press
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Apr 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a follow up Lopez's earlier book "Buddhism and Science". Recommend reading that first for a fuller picture of the Scientific Buddha premise. This book is a push back against a modern conception of the Buddha's teaching as the only religion compatible with science. Statements about the compatibility of Buddhism and science go back to at least to the 1860s. But, "it is clear that the Buddhism that is compatible with science must jettison much of what Buddhism has been, and is, in order to ...more
Khang Diep
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-science
This book is not what I expected to find but the history and the author's writing style got me hooked. For a while, I had fallen into the conviction that Buddhism is a Science, and that the Buddha was a Natural Philosopher - or what we used to call scientists. Well, this book challenged that very perspective, in which I naively picked up the book thinking it will confirm my own bias. The narrative that Buddhism is a Science was first introduced to the West by Buddhist elites in the 19th century ...more
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhist
This series of expertly researched and argued essays has broadened my understanding of the Wellness Proliferation. This slow building movement to remove all that was 'unscientific' from the Buddha's biography and champion him as almost the template of a scientist began in the late 18th century. The public perception of the Buddha, at least among many ill-informed western minds, is that he jjst helped people feel better by removing stress. Donald Lopez argues that this is not, in fact, the histor ...more
P. Es
Very enlightening read, and one I would share. I know the author doesn't intend that i leave the book feeling blanket skeptical of the value of Buddhism for more than a nice set of notions with no truth claim value that lead me to ethical, orthoprax behavior - and not simply (as he probably intended with the mind he may or may not 'have'...;-) ), cautious when engaging representations of "modern buddhisms" - but that's how I left it.
A quick thought (since I would say more about the book b
Oct 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: buddhism
I picked this book up because I'd noticed I was becoming slightly annoyed at the recent and increasing proliferation of 'mindfulness', and I wanted to read what a Buddhist expert might have to say about that.

Lopez starts from the beginning. He briefly traces the history of the West's encounters and interaction with Buddhism, from early utter misunderstanding to the invention of, as Lopez calls it, the 'Scientific Buddha', the West's idea of who the Buddha was, what he stood for and w
Peter Bibler
Oct 11, 2014 rated it liked it
The first part detailing the history of the interaction between the Westerners and Buddhism is quite interesting, as his explanations of basic concepts of karma and meditation. His thesis though -- that the push to make Buddhism more palatable to science and to Westerners over the past 200 years (e.g. trying to show how karma resonates with evolution, or using mindfulness meditation as a self-help technique) distorts the historical Buddha and traditional teachings of Buddhism -- seems to go too ...more
S. Kumar
Apr 29, 2014 rated it did not like it
An exercise in illogic resulting from a forced attempt to connect superficial knowledge of the subject (both Buddhism and Science). Still useful if you are interested in developing an understanding of how misplaced intent can lead us astray. Conclusions drawn in the book are as valid as the theory of African origin of Buddhism.

Looking for a simple introduction to Buddhism - try What Makes You Not a Buddhist. Looking for a simple introduction to Quantum Mechanics - try Quantum Enigma.
Apr 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Make sure you read Lopez with a playful grin on your face, this is fun history with a point to make. It's pleasurable to see him craft such a truly original argument while telling the story of our "Scientific Buddha". This is a true cultural critique that crosses swords with both scientists and Buddhists, both historians and practitioners. Lopez gives us cause to give more serious attention to reconsidering how we approach colonials, Buddhisms (of all times and places), and the westerners who wr ...more
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Lopez right on point, as he tends to be. A very sharp cultural critique sure to stir up emotions in those who view Buddhism as a refuge from the choice between religion and science. Dr. Lopez' prose makes for another very captivating read, and while his arguments are sure to challenge many, his extensive knowledge on history and doctrine also provides a very thorough primer into Buddhism(s) as they exist textually and culturally.
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Pay attention to the title: "the Scientific Buddha: His SHORT and Happy Life." Lopez argues that buddhism is no more scientific than any other religion - despite our desire and current fascination for it to be so. Close scrutiny quickly eliminates the delusion. Its a good read -- but disquieting if you are of a western scientific bent and seek congruence between that world view and the buddhist world view.
Karl Nehring
Oct 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
A refreshing overview of the development of the Western understanding of Buddha and Buddhism. Lopez writes clearly and concisely, making the book a bracing read for anyone interested in Buddhist thought.
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Donald Sewell Lopez, Jr. (born 1952) is the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan, in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures.

Son of the deputy director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Donald S. Lopez.