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Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama
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Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,985 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
*Why do seemingly rational, intelligent people commit acts of cruelty and violence?

*What are the root causes of destructive behavior?

*How can we control the emotions that drive these impulses?

*Can we learn to live at peace with ourselves and others?

Imagine sitting with the Dalai Lama in his private meeting room with a small group of world-class scientists and philosophers.
Paperback, 448 pages
Published March 30th 2004 by Bantam (first published February 29th 2000)
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Aug 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I'm an atheist, but I find Buddhism to be a compelling religion. I admire the Dalai Lama (duh), but what is truly stunning is his scientific curiosity. Never before have a I heard a religious leader say that if scientific evidence contradicts the dogma of a religion, that religion *must change* to accommodate this new data - that's exactly what the Dalai Lama states in this book. Read it!
Nov 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is not an easy read. This is not the kind of material that I breezed through and I've found that while the rational and logical aspects kept me rooted, some realizations along the way were pretty painful. I read this with a journal next to me. And I'm not finished reading it yet. The book offers a lot of self-reflection and one of the most poignant takeaways I received from this is how the Dalai Lama had to take a break during one seminar when he learned that Westerners hated themselves. He ...more
Nov 03, 2015 rated it liked it
The structure of the book took some getting used to with its propensity for "dialogues". But the book holds many gems. One of my favorites takes place when the Dalai Lama is asked how we're supposed to have compassion for others.

This is paraphrased:
He said the greatest example of compassion is the compassion a mother has for her child. If we can take that type of compassion and focus it on all we come in contact with. That is compassion. That is love.
Jul 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
The book was written as the proceedings of the eighth Mind and Life meeting, having as the main topic destructive emotions. The biographies of the participants are as interesting as the topic of the discussion. In order to better portrait the participants, The author also gives some short information about their lives and what motivates them in their research. We are told about the Dalai Lama’s childhood and his interest in science from a young age. Another nice example is Jeanne Tsai, who was b ...more
Michael Vagnetti
May 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It's unfortunate that this book is titled what it is. It's really a book of comparative psychology/philosophy of mind: Western vs. Buddhist. It explores in detail the complex Buddhist concept of emotions/afflictions, and how Western language and philosophy have framed ideas of compassion, mind, and ethics in contrasting ways. A practical bridge between the mythical elusiveness of concepts like nirvana and samsara and the way that the brain actually handles emotions across cultures. The scientist ...more
Nov 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
A great primer for anyone who wants to get some knowledge on neuroscience. Additionally one would appreciate how the author explains on length different sections of the brains anatomy ,for many of the uninitiated it would be their first time coming across terms such as as Amygdala, Hippocampus , Frontal Lobes et al.
Going beyond just explaining brain anatomy , Daniel Goldman illustrates how all of these parts have a great bearing on our personalities and behavior.The book breaks through the Freu
Jan 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Unfortunately, Daniel Goleman rather gets in the way of the "dialogue” to which the title refers. He seems much more intent on creating a Dalai Lama hagiography than presenting the reader with a pellucid transcript of the proceedings of what, to be fair, does seem to have been an amazing colloquium. Notwithstanding the annoying smarminess of Goleman, the book has its moments. In particular I found discussions in which neuroscience research findings were described and related to Tibetan Buddhism ...more
Dawn Frese
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was perspective-changing for me. I came across this book when I was in a state of hurt and uncertainty. The combination of Western science and Eastern philosophy, and how to apply both to our lives, was incredibly engaging. If more people read this book, I think a lot of lives would be changed.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ricardo Roman
Nov 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Como pocos libros teóricos, Emociones Destructivas tiene la facultad de evocar emociones profundas de afecto y admiración por seres humanos visionarios en el sentido más profundo de lo que necesitamos en estos tiempos. Comprender las emociones como parte de la mente, y la mente como algo más que una máquina de procesamiento de información. Es un diálogo entre científicos experimentales y sabios del budismo tibetano, que incluye sorprendentes experimentos de primera línea científica, que debiera ...more
Mar 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Christi by: Brandon DeCuir
Fascinating! While it was a long read (because I kept re-reading), it was worth every minute. This book is the account of the eighth Mind and Life meeting, held March of 2000 in Dharamsala, India.

While reading, I actually felt as if I were sitting amongst the renowned scientist, monks and philosophers. This conference combines ancient Buddhist wisdom and breakthroughs in a variety of fields of scientific study (neuroscience to child development). The relevant discoveries illustrate how we can r
Luke Fullagar
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I *loved* how this potted summary of the conference afforded the narrative a relaxed feel.
It was so much fun hearing the way each of these luminaries would interject with their two cents when the conversation would turn to points of cultural difference.
The extended treatment of the three poisons and their twenty derivatives was the best I've come across.
Just so many subtle moments in this book where he smallest of distinctions opened whole new possibilities for how I conceive of the role emot
Munteanu Rodica
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Cartea ofera o perspectiva diferita asupra budismului, budismul fiind schitat ca un stil de viata, si nu ca o religie. Se doreste a se scoate in evidenta atat asemanarile dintre culturi in ceea ce priveste emotiile, cat si diferentele culturale. In final, mesajul de tinut minte este ca atat de ravnita schimbare a unor temperamente dificile, care ne umbresc viata, este posibila, sustinuta fiind de neurologia actuala care a dovedit existenta neuroplasticitatii. Merita cele 5 stele si doar pentru s ...more
Jan 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This record of conversations between the Dalai Lama, Buddhist scholars and American & European psychologists and neuroscientists was absolutely delightful. There were big, complicated ideas discussed, but explained! This book gave me a lot to think about, (like the idea that anger isn't necessarily something innate we can't get rid of). Hmmmmm.
Oct 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Everything I love, spirituality, psychology, neurology.
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saggi
Un opera completa sulla natura delle emozioni distruttive nata dal confronto tra il quattordicesimo Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso e numerosi scienziati (psicologi, psichiatri, filosofi, neurobiologi) durante una serie di incontri avvenuti nella sede del governo tibetano in esilio in India. Estremamente interessante il tentativo, per molti versi riuscito, di trovare delle prove tangibili nel campo delle scienze della mente sull'efficacia di alcune tecniche di meditazione, sviluppate nel corso dei seco ...more
Five-Toed Sloth Bear
A little background on me: At a time when adversity led to anger that was destroying my physical and mental health (those that know me can easily locate that abyss in time), I found the book Destructive Emotions by the Dalai Lama and Daniel Goleman. It brought together the more philosophical side of Buddhism (which could be considered one of the world's oldest and most effective psychologies) with Western psychology. It really brought me out of the nosedive and led to the journey of reading that ...more
Steven Day
The 3rd of these books I've read and it had some really interesting points but there was no real conclusion other than read the books by the others involved in the discussion! Kept my attention but heavier going than the other books.
Feb 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting book on destructive emotions, their source, and what to do with them. As seen from a scientific and a buddhistic perspective. Although quite puristic at times, when the dialogue goes on about heuristic aspects of certain words and the difference in meaning in both English and Tibetan.
Major Doug
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Listened to this book: somewhat disappointed that the majority of the interchange was the westerners presenting thoughts/theories/scientific facts, and the DL would smile and say 'yes, yes'. I was looking for some tactics/techniques to deal with the book title topic.
Carlos Xavier
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very short but full of thought-provoking information from leading experts about emotions... i had a lot of fun reading it and I am very grateful for doing so.
Stephanie Koclanis
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The interjections and inquiry between the philosophers, neuroscientists, psychologists, and Buddhist scholars made this a fascinating read on emotion
Juan Manuel  Charry Urueña
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: main
Se trata del dialogo entre la inteligencia emocional y el budismo. Algunas de las cosas que dice el libro: El odio (la más destructiva de todas las emociones). Los budistas denominan los Tres Venenos (el odio, el deseo y la ignorancia). Todos los seres humanos compartamos el mismo conjunto de sentimientos básicos. Occidente ha tratado de corregir farmacológicamente el efecto de las emociones destructivas. Kierkegaard: «La pureza de corazón significa querer sólo una cosa». El vínculo existente en ...more
Jan 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: intellectualism
This book was excellente. If it sounds at all interesting, get it and read it.

I'm really interested in the buddhist approach to emotional issues:
'"To consider whether those destructive emotions are part of the basic nature of mind, we need to examine them. Take anger, for example. A strong burst of anger seems irresistible, very compelling. We feel almost powerless not to feel angry; it is as if one has no choice but to experience it. This is because we don't really look at the nature of anger i
Peter Neiger
A fascinating meeting between scientists and the Dalai Lama to discuss negative emotions, both what they are and what (if anything) can be done about them. I particularly enjoyed the scientific research provided that showed the benefits of meditation and having a positive outlook on life. Our minds and bodies are combined and if you are a negative person you are more likely to be physically ill and have weaker social bonds. Meditation is a technique that has been shown to improve the quality of ...more
Susan Mills
Oct 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The Dalai Lama is a fascinating person, as has been said before. The book makes it apparent that he is deeply intelligent and engaged both on a spiritual and temporal level. He has an insightful mind as to many scientific inquiries. Here, he and other high lamas are an integral part of a conference of neuroscientists exploring how the mind works and, in particular, how we can better manage and train our minds, our youth, to steer away from destructive emotions and find a happier mindset. The Da ...more
Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
Hm, it seems rather awkward (if not ungenerous) to write but I wouldn't recommend this book. I was very interested at first, learning that Buddhism is open to changing as science provides explanations that contradict Buddhist teachings, but this work is no more than a summary of a week-long presentation by various specialists in religion, biology and psychology on mental states that can be deemed destructive, whether in the East or West. In the course of the book, it became clear that the specia ...more
I thought the most interesting part of this was the beginning of the book when there were scans done on the brain of an established monk while meditating. There were distinct patterns that emerged and proved that he changed his brain through thought alone. The rest was very much a record of the discussion surrounding psychological and Buddhist interpretation of what the West calls destructive emotions.

Made me want to find a way to incorporate meditation into my life on a regular basis. And gives
Dec 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone.
This is one of my current favorite books. It is the most lent, read, and then bought book on my shelf. The Dalai Lama has been participating in Mind and Life conferences where modern western scientists and brilliant Buddhist philosophers discuss current science findings that show the ancient philosophy of Buddhism to have been quite accurate and ahead of its time. I can not wait to hear about the next conference as there should be even more data that shows the power of meditation on brain waves, ...more
David Haws
Apr 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
I'm giving a lecture on commitment and the willingness to suffer (ostensibly about the death of Socrates) and I remember these two Dalai Lama books that I read a few years ago. I think the point is that empathy is human, and empathy requires us to share suffering. Suffering is in the Affective Domain, but the causes of suffering can be physical, cognitive, or affective. I think the point with Socrates (the Crito) is that he empathizes with the suffering in Athens caused by a cognitive deficiency ...more
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Author of Emotional Intelligence and psychologist Daniel Goleman has transformed the way the world educates children, relates to family and friends, and conducts business. The Wall Street Journal ranked him one of the 10 most influential business thinkers.

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“Ética para un nuevo milenio. Si” 0 likes
“The Extraordinary Persons Project In fact, Ekman had been so moved personally—and intrigued scientifically—by his experiments with Öser that he announced at the meeting he was planning on pursuing a systematic program of research studies with others as unusual as Öser. The single criterion for selecting apt subjects was that they be “extraordinary.” This announcement was, for modern psychology, an extraordinary moment in itself. Psychology has almost entirely dwelt on the problematic, the abnormal, and the ordinary in its focus. Very rarely have psychologists—particularly ones as eminent as Paul Ekman—shifted their scientific lens to focus on people who were in some sense (other than intellectually) far above normal. And yet Ekman now was proposing to study people who excel in a range of admirable human qualities. His announcement makes one wonder why psychology hasn't done this before. In fact, only in very recent years has psychology explicitly begun a program to study the positive in human nature. Sparked by Martin Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania long famous for his research on optimism, a budding movement has finally begun in what is being called “positive psychology”—the scientific study of well-being and positive human qualities. But even within positive psychology, Ekman's proposed research would stretch science's vision of human goodness by assaying the limits of human positivity Ever the scientist, Ekman became quite specific about what was meant by “extraordinary.” For one, he expects that such people exist in every culture and religious tradition, perhaps most often as contemplatives. But no matter what religion they practice, they share four qualities. The first is that they emanate a sense of goodness, a palpable quality of being that others notice and agree on. This goodness goes beyond some fuzzy, warm aura and reflects with integrity the true person. On this count Ekman proposed a test to weed out charlatans: In extraordinary people “there is a transparency between their personal and public life, unlike many charismatics, who have wonderful public lives and rather deplorable personal ones.” A second quality: selflessness. Such extraordinary people are inspiring in their lack of concern about status, fame, or ego. They are totally unconcerned with whether their position or importance is recognized. Such a lack of egoism, Ekman added, “from the psychological viewpoint, is remarkable.” Third is a compelling personal presence that others find nourishing. “People want to be around them because it feels good—though they can't explain why,” said Ekman. Indeed, the Dalai Lama himself offers an obvious example (though Ekman did not say so to him); the standard Tibetan title is not “Dalai Lama” but rather “Kundun,” which in Tibetan means “presence.” Finally, such extraordinary individuals have “amazing powers of attentiveness and concentration.” 0 likes
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