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Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment
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Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  11,171 ratings  ·  1,177 reviews
From one of America’s greatest minds, a journey through psychology, philosophy, and lots of meditation to show how Buddhism holds the key to moral clarity and enduring happiness.

Robert Wright famously explained in The Moral Animal how evolution shaped the human brain. The mind is designed to often delude us, he argued, about ourselves and about the world. And it is
Kindle Edition, 337 pages
Published August 8th 2017 by Simon & Schuster
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Isobel Atkins I read this book because I really enjoyed Nonzero, a book the author wrote a while ago. At first I was disappointed he was writing about Buddhism…moreI read this book because I really enjoyed Nonzero, a book the author wrote a while ago. At first I was disappointed he was writing about Buddhism because it wasn’t a subject I was interested in. I had meditated before in yoga classes, it was kind of boring. I really enjoyed the book and it has convinced me to give meditation another try. A meditation retreat may even be somewhere in my distant future and if I do ever end up going I would need to credit the influence of this book.(less)
Dan Hewitson I've been pondering this similarity a lot recently. I think the core of Christianity, and not the tarnished beliefs of humans that have used as a mode…moreI've been pondering this similarity a lot recently. I think the core of Christianity, and not the tarnished beliefs of humans that have used as a mode of control, is very close to many Buddhist concepts. The bridging of these two traditions can have wonderful effects in an individual's understanding of reality.(less)

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Roy Lotz
A far more accurate title for this book would be Why Mindfulness Meditation is Good. For as Wright—who does not consider himself a Buddhist—admits, he is not really here to talk about any form of traditional Buddhism. He does not even present a strictly “orthodox” view of any secular, Western variety of Buddhism. Instead, this is a rather selective interpretation of some Buddhist doctrines in the light of evolutionary psychology.

Wright’s essential message is that the evolutionary process that
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, religion
“The problem with introspection is that it has no end.”
― Philip K. Dick


For years I've told people I was a Zen Mormon. More as a way to squirm into the edges of LDS cosmology, and less because I was practicing anything really approaching a hybrid of Buddhism and Mormonism. But I've always been attracted to Buddhism, like many Westerners before me. I'm thinking of Herman Hesse, W. Somerset Maugham, Jack Kerouac, and Peter Matthiessen. I've always been attracted to the intersection of cultures,
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read every book Wright's written and all have been fantastic. This is my favorite. It's the perfect book for the cultural moment we're in. Forget the title--it's misleading. The book is a nice primer on meditation and evolutionary theory with some helpful insights. Basically, our brains are not wired for peace and happiness--only to propel our genes forward. There's a yearning for more programmed into us and the only antidote is mindfulness meditation. I've read a ton of evolutionary theory ...more
Science (Fiction) Nerd Mario
This is a fact-based and serious book that uses brain science, evolutionary psychology/biology and sociobiology to prove each claimed assumption and maybe one of the best explanations of how and why mindfulness and a livelong training and evolution of meditation and self-reflection might be advisable.

A few examples: Someone working hard and achieving amazing results after decades of training and exercising to become a leading expert, master, maybe even a prodigy, world elite. People bursting
May 18, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I disagree with the author’s view of meditation as a study of one’s thought. But then there are so many schools of meditation… I’m primarily interested in the evolutionary psychology angle here, but have to sit through these pages that don’t entirely accord with my Soto Zen dharma. But as Shunryu Suzuki-roshi once said—read Zen Mind, Beginners Mind—there’s something to be gained from all schools of meditation, and we should seek those aspects of any dharma which strengthen our practice instead ...more
Brian Bergstrom
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a truly remarkable, fantastic book. It is one of those rare volumes that will turn your head inside out and leave you seeing the world differently, not because he (or it) is extreme, but because reality is extreme; he is sewing together science and philosophy and offering readers a breathtaking tapestry for their consideration. Briefly, his argument is that our minds are populated by evolved psychological adaptations that were naturally selected for their adaptive utility, NOT for seeing ...more
Otis Chandler
This was a really compelling book for me - it made me think deeply about myself and the world and opened my eyes a bit too. It's no coincidence that multiple of my smarter friends have told me to read it!

Meditation is a subject that is interesting to me because of how many smart/successful people that I've talked to or read about highly recommend it. I wanted to better understand it, but I didn't predict all the directions this book would take.

One of the main interesting takeaways was how
Aug 26, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Neither scientific, nor philosophical, nor in fact, enlightened, this book is the perfect example of facile thinking.

You will say, I won't deal with the "supernatural" part of a religion, god, reincarnation and karma etc., but will riff only about what you like: mindfulness practice that helped you out of your southern baptist metaphysical prejudices;
You will not question one iota of the theory of evolutionary psychology, or darwinism in general and claim that the buddhism you prefer is
62nd book of 2017.

I imagine the author at a diner party, demanding complete attention from those present, while he describes at length being at an intense macho meditation retreat in the Maine woods, having the unfortunate luck of sitting next to a fat flatulent person. Telling all present very seriously that he's not the sort of person who is OK with flatulence, especially from other people, especially if they are fat, but because of his very serious (but also very modest) attempts at mediation
Indran Fernando
Oct 02, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Even if this book has its occasional thought-provoking moment, my overwhelming reaction is shock at how fluffy and slipshod the writing is. It seems as if Wright submitted a rough draft to make some quick cash. (Why waste time on an editor--just throw a goldfish on the cover and wait for the Whole-Foods-goers to take out their mandala-adorned hemp wallets.) A promising book was undermined by the author's unwillingness to do research or teach himself about Buddhism or anthropology.

Instead, he
The title is a bit misleading, in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way. This book is really about Wright wanting you to know why he thinks secular Buddhism makes sense, and why mindfulness meditation is good for you. Wright goes with the basic idea that suffering is caused by our desires, and that our desires are caused by our illusory perception of reality. Buddhist practice aims to bring people out of that state of delusion and suffering, but Wright wanted to know, very practically, how that works. ...more
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Growing up I always had a problem reading philosophy books, which often seemed to be written in a way that made them deliberately obtuse and inaccessible. For that reason I was really glad when I discovered the writing of Will Durant, an early 20th century writer who became popular for revisiting the arguments of the great philosophers in a clear and unpretentious language. It struck me as a very American thing to do, and I think with this book Robert Wright does much the same thing with ...more
Shilpi Somaya  Gowda
For the first time ever, as soon as I finished this book, I returned to the beginning and began it again.
In book titles, the sub-title after the title is a popular but often unnecessary thing. In this case, it's necessary. Why Buddhism Is True is very much indeed about The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment.

Especially the science. Or so it struck me, who at times grew impatient with the science aspect. Frankly, I was much more engaged by the Buddhism part of the book--Wright's experiences, chiefly, and his attempts (in Buddhism, there can be nothing but attempts) to explain the
Michael Austin
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
Here are a two things about myself that shaped my reading of Why Buddhism Is True

First, I like to play at evolutionary theory. I am not a scientist, but I did write a book on evolutionary psychology (Useful Fictions: Evolution, Anxiety, and the Origins of Literature) as it applies to the human attraction to literature, and, in writing this book, I read a lot of popular-science-type evolutionary psychology, including Robert Wright’s first three books. I liked them, and I thought that they were a
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wright looks at Buddhism through the lens of modern psychology, but with a primary focus on his specialty: Evolutionary Psychology. The book served to be pretty enlightening , as it gave a solid overview of a secular, or "naturalistic " perspective of Buddhism - by showing how many psychological theories that are currently entertained by the scientific community have, all the while ,been accepted(albeit in a implicit sense... very implicit sense) by Buddhists for thousands of years . Well, at ...more
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I’d strongly recommend this for anyone curious about meditation, specifically the Buddhist Vipassanā “mindfulness” meditation that everyone and their dog is doing, attempting, or at least talking about.

What Robert Wright provides is the very welcome examination of the scientific basis of the claims and practice. Wright is a journalist so deeply embedded in cognitive science that he has taught in the philosophy department at Princeton and the psychology department at the University of
Ross Blocher
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been interested in many of Robert Wright's other books, but this is the first one I've read. The title is misleading (and perhaps nonsensical?), but there's plenty of interesting reflection here on the benefits of mindfulness meditation, both in terms of personal health and wellbeing, and in better understanding the nature of self and the universe in ways consistent with what scientific discovery has revealed on those subjects. It is in THAT sense that Buddhism is "true", and Wright hastens ...more
Laura Noggle
Enjoyed this book, however— I don’t think you can pinpoint anything in it that 100% “proves” why Buddhism is “true.”

Other than yes, meditation does help the brain.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of organized religion by any stretch, but out of all of them, Buddhism is my favorite.
Carrie Poppy
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Life changing.
Domenic Molinaro
I've given this 5 stars because it is the first book that I have come across that so neatly and persuasively links together the big ideas of buddhist thought and modern understanding of psychology and neuroscience. I've read great books that focus extensively on Buddhist logic with examples peppered throughout of corroboration with modern neuroscience (Rodney Smith's "Stepping Out of Self-Deception: The Buddha's Liberating Teaching of No-Self) or books that deconstruct Buddhist ideas using a ...more
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I was a huge fan of Wright's EVOLUTION OF GOD where he tracked the progress in humanity's idea of God from an evolutionary paradigm. That is why I was surprised by his new book: In what sense did he mean Buddhism is "true"? Well, he is still a naturalist but he has discovered that Buddhism has done the best job of describing the human problem and how to transcend our natural states and live happier, more peaceful lives--namely, through the practice of meditation. He even has some eschatological ...more
Shaina Robbins
It took me a while to put my finger on why I found this book irritating, but I think I've figured it out. I LOVE self help books based on scientific and psychological research, ones that cite a lot of studies and academic papers. I HATE self help books based on the personal opinions and philosophical musings of the author.

Based on reviews and descriptions of WHY BUDDHISM IS TRUE, I thought it would be the former, when it was in fact the latter.

I also felt like the author only made about five
Cool, the interaction of philosophy of mind, buddhist theology, and recent neuroscience. I can see a number of consistencies between leftist ideas of how the mind works and buddhist conceptions, such as non-self and emptiness doctrines, the notion that desire is separate from the desiring ego, both anterior and superior to it, and how conduct is often based on irrational or pre-rational impulses. This is all worthy of severity.

Less cool, the evopsych insistence on certain hobbesian assumptions.
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I meditated half as much as I read books about meditation it is very possible that I’d be a notch or two from enlightenment by now! But in my own weak defense, I will say that when the writing is good, as it undoubtedly is in this book, reading about the science, philosophy and psychology behind the Buddhist Vipassana tradition of meditation is . . . well, more fun. It would be tempting to lump this book about mindfulness as yet another attempt to capitalize on the current mindfulness vogue. ...more
Aug 09, 2017 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Interview with the author on Fresh Air:
Tom Grover
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is essentially an introduction to secular Buddhism. The emphasis on the utilizing Buddhist ideas and practice to recognize the distortions in our perception of reality both inwardly and outwardly. The book covers several core Buddhist ideas, however, it doesn't actually spend much time with the mechanics of meditation practice. I would recommend that before anyone read this book, they learn and try a little meditation practice. It will help provide context for the concepts the author ...more
Dan Graser
A bit of an extended throat-clearing before I explain rating a book by an author who I hold in very high esteem with a measly 2 stars:
1) I absolutely was enthralled with Robert Wright's, "The Moral Animal," and I think any animal wishing to understand morality should read it.
2) I am not a Buddhist but I have studied meditation extensively and read nearly all of the Buddha's writings, a particular treat was the Glenn Wallis edition of The Dhammapada.
3) Though a skeptic myself, I enjoy engaging
Tadeas Petak
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A good friend of mine suggested this book for a book circle, which was awesome, as it made me read it a bit more thoroughly than I would have otherwise. Given the topic, showing that modern psychology corroborates buddhism and its theories, it is a very good idea to be paying attention.

First things first. If you find the title of the book off-putting, don’t despair. The author goes out of his way to explain why he chose it and multiple times states that he realises how bold of a statement this
Vinit Nayak
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very insightful and raises very good discussion questions.
As expected with a book of this kind, you have to go in w/ an open mind.

More important TL;DRs:
Feelings are very central and important to humans. They’ve been put in place by evolution to get us to where we are today. However, because we far outpaced the rate of evolution, they are now out-of-place and misinterpreted. Feelings aren’t “bad”, they do still provide us with many quick judgements that we wouldn’t be able to make at the
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

ROBERT WRIGHT is the author of The Moral Animal, Nonzero, and Three Scientists and Their Gods. The New York Times selected The Moral Animal as one of the ten best books of the year and the other two as notable books of the year.

Wright is a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism and
“natural selection didn’t design your mind to see the world clearly; it designed your mind to have perceptions and beliefs that would help take care of your genes.” 18 likes
“Ultimately, happiness comes down to choosing between the discomfort of becoming aware of your mental afflictions and the discomfort of being ruled by them.” 18 likes
More quotes…