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Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  9,717 ratings  ·  701 reviews
Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and other great teachers were born with brains built essentially like anyone else's. Then they used their minds to change their brains in ways that changed history.

With the new breakthroughs in neuroscience, combined with the insights from thousands of years of contemplative practice, you, too, can shape your own brain for greater happiness, love,
Paperback, 1st edition, 252 pages
Published November 1st 2009 by New Harbinger Publications
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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Alisa Bowman
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book seemed to want to come into my life. I kept walking past it in the bookstore and it kept coming up as a recommendation on Amazon. Finally one day I broke down and bought it. I was not disappointed. In in, the authors take many of Buddha's teachings and show, through neuroscience, how they change the brain for the better. I've been meditating and studying Dharma for several years, but I still got a lot out of this book. The authors show how certain practices can rewire the brain--helpin ...more
Nicholas Litterski
Mar 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoying this book.

It is well-laid out, not overly technical, and has a handy-dandy "review" section at the end of each chapter. I'm limiting myself to one chapter/day. I could definitely read it quicker, but that seems to defeat my purpose in reading a book like this. In explaining some of the emerging brain science surrounding motivation, happiness, and (Eastern) Wisdom: it succeeds fantastically. It is a nice mix of Western "why" and Eastern "practice". Hence "Practical Neuroscience".
Jan 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: brain-iac
An enlightening book, full of useful techniques to promote compassion, insight and wisdom. Many of the ideas were familiar, but that did not detract from the book. I liked the combination of neuroscience and meditative techniques. I will attempt to use the techniques in my daily life.

"All joy in this world comes from wanting others to be happy, and all suffering in this world comes from wanting only oneself to be happy."

I wish all Goodreaders well!
I only have a few things to say about this book. First of all it's heavy on the vocabulary of the brain. It basically gives you a science lesson throughout much of the book. The "exercises" in this book are more like tips for using the information. I should warn a lot of you that if you are interested in this book then use the physical copy or eBook and not the audio-book. This is a book that you may want to read slow and write notes in. I fell asleep twice to the audio-book and I'm not sure if ...more
Tara SG
Jul 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, on-kindle
* * * 3/4

In Six Words :
never thought about it like that

What I Loved :
As a non-Christian science nerd, this was geared towards me. Not to say that you couldn’t enjoy this book if you are a Christian (but you have to take the evolution sections with a grain of salt if that doesn’t fit with your beliefs) or that if you aren’t into science that this will be boring (this is probably the opposite).

I really enjoyed the sections that explained why we react the way we do to certain situations and related
Apr 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Buddha's brain is a model of how to write a self-help book about meditation and science, presenting complex material with outstanding clarity and making it accessible, readable and digestible. It distills the authors’ considerable understanding of both meditation and neuroscience into punchy advice and things that people can actually do. However, I came to it with some doubts about the whole project of expounding meditation in neuro-scientific terms and my response was mixed. Its scientific fram ...more
Dec 18, 2013 rated it liked it
I have to say that I was quite disappointed by this book. I bought it after hearing a talk by the author where he presented an introduction to the ideas in the book. I found the lecture interesting but tinged with a little bit of "the power of positive thinking" new age evangelism. Much to my chagrin, the same tone was present in the book. I found the scientific evidence presented to be thought provoking but limited and a little over simplistic and I do not know to what extent the research he pr ...more
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Buddha's Brain is an amazingly easy, quick read (it took me some time, due to other readings)
The book has three main parts: The causes of suffering, Happiness and Love.
In the first three chapters, the author goes through basic facts of the brain, how it works, its neurones, how it interacts with the other systems of the body, then come chapter two and three: suffering, what it is, how it happens, how much it can affect you. What I liked the most was the first and second dart part, really interes
Dec 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Less interesting than it sounds. Buddhism distinguishes itself from other religions by accepting the value of science. Hence, writing a book discussing the intersection of Buddhist practices and potential scientific bases for their value, particularly meditation in this case, is a peanut butter and chocolate fit. The neuroscience will be familiar to anyone with a few neurobiology classes behind them - the singulate gyrus, amygdala, pre-frontal cortex, brain wave variations and other familiar st ...more
May 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I don't even know what to say - there's no coherent way I can review this book. It was truly one of the best most helpful books I've ever read, especially in dealing with depression and other mental illnesses. I learned so much from this book: the way my brain has developed, how it works, what helps it work the right way; exercises to calm and still myself. It was like a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) course without the therapists. :) If I weren't reading a Kindle copy it'd be dog-eared an ...more
AJ LeBlanc
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cbr-v, health, non-fiction
When I’m not being judgmental, cold, cynical, sarcastic, fatalistic, angry, or hopeless, I try to be a better person. Have a positive attitude, practice active kindness, find beauty and good in the world and all that crap.

My therapist recommended Buddha’s Brain to me after I tried to explain that I sort of understood that my brain was telling me things that weren’t necessarily true. I understand on a logical level that my brain is trying to keep me alive and to fear change, even though in the lo
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help
“Your brain preferentially scans for, registers, stores, recalls, and reacts to unpleasant experiences, it’s like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. Consequently, even when positive experiences outnumber negative ones, the pile of negative implicit memories naturally grows faster. Then the background feeling of what it feels like to be you can become undeservedly glum and pessimistic. Sure, negative experiences do have benefits: loss opens the heart, remorse provides a ...more
Mar 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Buddha's Brain is a surprisingly quick, "easy" read, using neuroscience to explain why meditation and mindful awareness work to improve your contentment and get over bad experiences. For anyone who has ever dismissed meditation as hippie new age nonsense, or for those of us who just like to know why things work, this book presents the brain as a well-oiled machine: do this or that, and your brain is made to react in a certain way. In a way, it's inspirational; if you're having trouble "getting s ...more
Jeanine Marie Swenson
Aug 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of the most difficult things in medicine is to present an incredibly complex subject in readable but simple and understandable language to reach every level of reader. Drs. Hanson and and Mendius do this beautifully and skillfully, to make this nonfictional work blending mind & body both broadly accessible and interesting. I really enjoyed and learned from this uniquely preventative and helpful guide to neuroscience with a gentle, spiritual twist.

Recently, you may have read the shocking stat
Nov 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: ei-fiktio
I have very mixed feelings about this book.

On a positive note, I really like the theme. Buddha's Brain combines the teachings of Buddhism with neuroscience in a way that I'm really interested in. For me, just following the teachings without justification has never been enough. It was nice to finally hear some explanations for certain practices.

The book works as a great toolbox that offers plenty of small exercises for daily life. Buddha's Brain is a quick read, but in this case, reading doesn't
Sep 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Where this book may be of benefit is when it focuses on how one mental process can excite or inhibit another mental process. Kind of a book of Buddhist tips with brain anatomy lessons thrown in for scientific authenticity. For instance, if your mind is chattering away, do a body scan or bring a visual image to the forefront since it's difficult to be both visual and verbal at the same time.

Yet sometimes all that detail about the brain structure seemed extraneous and sometimes distracting to the
Jan 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: asian, non-fiction
This is a very interesting subject for me. This book is serious science, not fluffy new-age nonsense. It is very satisfying for me to learn exactly HOW something happens. I appreciated all the details of the nuts and bolts of neurology,always a fascinating subject. Most importantly the information within this gem is very encouraging. I can set my own self free from worry and depression that has haunted all my life. What little I have learned from other meditation resources so far does indeed wor ...more
May 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
The ideas are worthwhile, but I found the writing-- especially the pacing-- disengaging. I would find my mind wandering away with no clear idea what I had just read. Obviously, I was not managing my Buddha brain while reading. The ideas are good and clear, but it just wasn't inspiring reading for me. Might give it another chance one of these days. I read about seventy-percent of it, so I'm in no real hurry to get back to it, sticking to my philosophy that there is no reason I should finish a boo ...more
Arunothia Marappan
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Loved learning from this book ❤️ I appreciate the part where the author explains how we become what we think, our brain is being wired by every thought that's going through it! Also, I really found the chapter "Relaxing the Self" very useful. Some highlights from it -

(1) In many ways, the self is like someone running behind a parade that is already well under way, continually calling out, "See what I created!".
(2) "I seem to be a verb" - Buckminster Fuller
(3) Desires often form an 'I' before 'I
Ashley Seymour
Sep 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you want to know the science behind why you are such an anxious, worrying ape- read this book. I dug it. And have already successfully used some of the techniques to chill out.
Teo 2050


Hanson R & Mendius R (2009) (06:58) Buddha's Brain - The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

Foreword by Daniel J. Siegel, MD
Preface by Jack Kornfield, Ph.D.

• How to Use This Book

01. The Self-Transforming Brain
• Your Brain—Basic Facts
• An Unprecedented Opportunity
• Figure 1: The Intersection of the Three Disciplines
• The Awakening Brain
• The Causes of Suffering
• Virtue, Mindfulness, and Wisdom
• • Regul
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Anyone who starts out in contemplative meditation can attest to the often immediate rewards of increased awareness and insight but also to the challenges involved in achieving lasting states of greater virtue, mindfulness and wisdom. Understanding how the physical brain works with the higher spiritual and contemplative states of consciousness can only increase awareness and development. This book is one of the better attempts at looking at how neuroscience is only confirming what the contemplati ...more
Michael Greenwell
This book is a compelling marriage of practical elements of mindfulness and character development from Buddhism with a light neurological overview that allayed my preconceived skepticism of the practices described. I did find myself wondering why some elements were thoroughly referenced and other points simply stated, I understand that it is a book written for the popular press, but while I accept the results of mindfulness and meditative practices both intuitively and practically I don't think ...more
Jan 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Read this book slowly, perhaps a chapter a day. I read it all in a couple of days, and that was a mistake because it got tedious and repetitive. If you're familiar with meditation practices, you'll be familiar with most of the practices presented. The neuroscience parts also aren't very detailed or deep, and the studies cited seem to be there just to help justify the benefits of meditative practice and not necessarily provide insight into the inner workings of the brain, which was a bit disappoi ...more
Marcus Solberg
Aug 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book about what goes on in our brains in regards to happiness, love, and wisdom. The message is that if you can change your brain you will change your life - and you can! The book drawn upon buddhism and mindfulness practices, to which the authors applies cutting edge neuroscience in order to explain different processes and how you can take advantage of them. Neuroplasticity (the fact that our brains change according to how we use them) means that we can form practices (such as ...more
Michael Harris
Excellent, scientifically sound self-help. If you want to know why neuroscientists can't stop talking about Buddhism and meditation, 10% Happier by Dan Harris is a fun introduction, but Buddha's Brain serves as a foundation for actual practice, especially if – like me – you need to know why something works to feel comfortable diving in. Hanson is a vivid writer, and each chapter is chocked full of subtle practices to boost mindfulness, compassion, and a sense of peace.

Albert Einstein: "The reli
Amy Griffin
Jan 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book captured my interest because I thought it would be a nice synthesis between neuroscience and mindfulness/meditation practices. Instead, I found the discussion of neuroscience to be extremely over simplistic and the discussion of mindfulness and Buddhist principles to be confusing and even contradictory. The analogies that the author uses to illustrate concepts sometimes didn't make sense. The book also has a pop psychology feel to it bordering on cheesy. I think it is a good introducti ...more
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So interesting! Lays out the biological basis of several states of mental health, both positive and negative. Also great advice for small things that you can do during the day to “bias” your brain toward more positive experiences. It does NOT claim that mental illness isn’t “real” or that it can be “fixed” through positive thought. But what is DOES explain is how you are physiologically prone to certain ways of thinking, and how to positively influence those patterns.
Iryna Paprotska
It was for sure worth it :)

This is one of those books that can help to grow and steady yourself :)
I will definitely take some time off after this book with personal development literature and let it sink.
There are so many small tips, even if known, put togather, this is a great mix of information on how brain works and how one can make it work with mindfulness and meditation practice and nutrition
Kevin Moore
May 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
Was looking for an somewhat academic book on the neurology and psychology behind meditation and Buddhist philosophy. While this book does present some neuroscience in the beginning (in rather tedious textbook fashion), most of this book is your standard self-help, positive thinking type book.
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Rick Hanson, PhD is a psychologist, Senior Fellow of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, and New York Times best-selling author. His books have been published in 29 languages and include Neurodharma, Resilient, Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha’s Brain, Just One Thing, and Mother Nurture - with 900,000 copies in English alone. His free weekly newsletter has 150,000 subscribers and his online pro ...more

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