Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2011-11-04
  • Publisher: Columbia Univ Pr
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Renowned Buddhist philosopher B. Alan Wallace reasserts the power of shamatha and vipashyana, traditional Buddhist meditations, to clarify the mind's role in the natural world. Raising profound questions about human nature, free will, and experience versus dogma, Wallace challenges the claim that consciousness is no more than an emergent property of the brain with little relation to universal events. Rather, he maintains that the observer is essential to measuring quantum systems and that mental phenomena (however conceived) influence brain function and behavior. Wallace embarks on a two-part mission: to restore and then transcend human nature. Part I explains the value of skepticism in Buddhism and science and the difficulty of merging their experiential methods of inquiry. Yet Wallace emphasizes that Buddhist views on human nature and the possibility of free will free us from the metaphysical constraints of scientific materialism. He then explores the radical empiricism inspired by William James and applies it to the four schools of Indian Buddhist philosophy and the Great Perfection school of Buddhism. Since Buddhism begins with the assertion that ignorance lies at the root of all suffering and the path to freedom is reached through knowledge, Buddhist practice can be viewed as a progression from agnosticism (not knowing) to gnosticism (knowing), acquired through exceptional mental health, mindfulness, and introspection. Wallace discusses these topics in detail, identifying similarities and differences between scientific and Buddhist understanding, and concludes with an explanation of shamatha and vipashyana and their potential for fathoming the nature, origins, and potentials of consciousness.

Author Biography

Arthur. Zajonc, professor of physics, and author of catching the light: the Entwind of Light and Mind

Table of Contents

Prologue: Skepticism in Buddhism and Sciencep. vii
Restoring Our Human Nature
Toward a Revolution in the Mind Sciencesp. 3
Buddhism and Science: Confrontation and Collaborationp. 15
Buddhism and the Mind Sciencesp. 34
A Three-Dimensional Science of Mindp. 60
Restoring Meaning to the Universep. 72
What Makes Us Human? Scientific and Buddhist Viewsp. 86
Achieving Free Willp. 108
Transcending Our Human Nature
Buddhist Radical Empiricismp. 125
From Agnosticism to Gnosticismp. 144
A Buddhist Model of Optimal Mental Healthp. 158
Mindfulness in the Mind Sciences and in Buddhismp. 173
Shamatha and Vipashyana in the Indian Buddhist Traditionp. 194
Shamatha and Vipashyana in the Dzogchen Traditionp. 213
Epilogue: The Many Worlds of Buddhism and Sciencep. 231
Notesp. 241
Selected Bibliographyp. 271
Indexp. 275
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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