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Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment (Hardcover)
On Our Shelves Now
New York Times Bestseller
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 designed to make happiness hard to sustain.
But if we know our minds are rigged for anxiety, depression, anger, and greed, what do we do? Wright locates the answer in Buddhism, which figured out thousands of years ago what scientists are only discovering now. Buddhism holds that human suffering is a result of not seeing the world clearly—and proposes that seeing the world more clearly, through meditation, will make us better, happier people.
In Why Buddhism is True, Wright leads readers on a journey through psychology, philosophy, and a great many silent retreats to show how and why meditation can serve as the foundation for a spiritual life in a secular age. At once excitingly ambitious and wittily accessible, this is the first book to combine evolutionary psychology with cutting-edge neuroscience to defend the radical claims at the heart of Buddhist philosophy. With bracing honesty and fierce wisdom, it will persuade you not just that Buddhism is true—which is to say, a way out of our delusion—but that it can ultimately save us from ourselves, as individuals and as a species.
About the Author
Robert Wright is the New York Times bestselling author of The Evolution of God (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), Nonzero, The Moral Animal, Three Scientists and their Gods (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Why Buddhism Is True. He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the widely respected Bloggingheads.tv and MeaningofLife.tv. He has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Time, Slate, and The New Republic. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and at Princeton University, where he also created the popular online course “Buddhism and Modern Psychology.” He is currently Visiting Professor of Science and Religion at Union Theological Seminary in New York.
“A sublime achievement.”
—Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
“Provocative, informative and... deeply rewarding.... I found myself not just agreeing [with] but applauding the author.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“This is exactly the book that so many of us are looking for. Writing with his characteristic wit, brilliance, and tenderhearted skepticism, Robert Wright tells us everything we need to know about the science, practice, and power of Buddhism.”
—Susan Cain, bestselling author of Quiet
“I have been waiting all my life for a readable, lucid explanation of Buddhism by a tough-minded, skeptical intellect. Here it is. This is a scientific and spiritual voyage unlike any I have taken before.”
—Martin Seligman, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and bestselling author of Authentic Happiness
“A fantastically rational introduction to meditation…. It constantly made me smile a little, and occasionally chuckle…. A wry, self-deprecating, and brutally empirical guide to the avoidance of suffering.”
—Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine
“[A] superb, level-headed new book.”
—Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian
“Robert Wright brings his sharp wit and love of analysis to good purpose, making a compelling case for the nuts and bolts of how meditation actually works. This book will be useful for all of us, from experienced meditators to hardened skeptics who are wondering what all the fuss is about.”
—Sharon Salzberg, cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society and bestselling author of Real Happiness
“Wright’s mix of conceptual ambition and humbly witty confiding makes for a one-of-a-kind endeavor—instead of a formulaic how-to book, a fascinating why-not-give-it-a-try book.”
“What happens when someone steeped in evolutionary psychology takes a cool look at Buddhism? If that person is, like Robert Wright, a gifted writer, the answer is this surprising, enjoyable, challenging, and potentially life-changing book.”
—Peter Singer, professor of philosophy at Princeton University and author of Ethics in the Real World
“Delightfully personal, yet broadly important.”
“Rendered in a down-to-earth and highly readable style, with witty quips and self-effacing humility that give the book its distinctive appeal and persuasive power.”
“[Why Buddhism is True] will become the go-to explication of Buddhism for modern western seekers, just as The Moral Animal remains the go-to explication of evolutionary psychology.”
“Cool, rational, and dryly cynical, Robert Wright is an unlikely guide to the Dharma and ‘not-self.’ But in this extraordinary book, he makes a powerful case for a Buddhist way of life and a Buddhist view of the mind. With great clarity and wit, he brings together personal anecdotes with insights from evolutionary theory and cognitive science to defend an ancient yet radical world-view. This is a truly transformative work.”
—Paul Bloom, professor of psychology at Yale University and author of Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion
“[Written] with such intelligence and grace.”
“What a terrific book. The combination of evolutionary psychology, philosophy, astute readings of Buddhist tradition, and personal meditative experience is absolutely unique and clarifying.”
—Jonathan Gold, professor of religion at Princeton University and author of Paving the Great Way: Vasubandhu's Unifying Buddhist Philosophy
“Joyful and insightful... both entertaining and informative.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A light, accessible guide for anyone interested in the practical benefits of meditation.”
“A well-organized, freshly conceived introduction to core concepts of Buddhist thought.... Wright lightens the trek through some challenging philosophical concepts with well-chosen anecdotes and a self-deprecating humor.”
“[Wright’s] argument contains many interesting and illuminating points.”
—The Washington Post
“Amusing and straight-forward.... Anyone... can safely dip their toes in the water here.”
“Regardless of their own religious or spiritual roots, many open-minded readers who accompany [Wright] on this journey will find themselves agreeing with him.”