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Summary

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 discovering only 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 listeners 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.

©2017 Robert Wright. All rights reserved. (P)2017 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

Critic reviews

"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 best-selling author of Authentic Happiness)
"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, best-selling author of Quiet)
"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 best-selling author of Real Happiness)

What members say

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One of the best books on secular Buddhism and it's relationship to natural selection and neuroscience

I would recommend this book to anyone interested how we are programmed towards dissatisfaction and suffering in this world and how Buddhism's solutions to this dilemma are backed up by modern science. An amazing, well written and read masterpiece.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Thoughtful, thorough and inspiring...

À scientific exploration of secular Buddhism that leaves one in no doubt as to its validity. At times intellectually challenging, especially when endeavouring to unravel some of Buddhism's more paradoxical elements. But well worth persevering.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant Overview

Buddhism, given its very nature, can appear enigmatic and paradoxical. The writer explores the nature of the belief system, as well as his own gradual enlightenment over the course of many retreats.

This is a well-read and insightful book. Wright doesn't shy away from the philosophy, nor does he try to give a one-size-fits all approach. Though he clearly advocates what he sees to be the merits of mindfulness meditation, he leaves the choices with the reader, encouraging them to discover (or not) themselves.

I've read a lot of fluff in the subject, and this one is both accessible and substantial.

Recommended.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Good narrator, easy to follow

I really enjoyed this book, following the authors introduction and experience of meditation and sharing some of the science behind it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Wow!

What an amazing book! Every chapter was truly eye opening. I learnt so much. So many explanations and correlations. Will listen again and get my hands on a hard copy too👍👍

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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much better than title suggested

I nearly gave this a miss, expecting dry examples of lab studies that show benefits gained from meditation. luckily a friend recommended the book to me, and I am so pleased that he did. The author does a fantastic job of positioning natural selection as the boogyman who controls our lives, bringing to light research in psychology and evolutionary science. He then shows how Buddhism was ahead of the curve, identifying the same issues way before western science caught up... but also working on the solution - meditation.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A handbook for open-ness

Having sat on Roberts original course with Princeton University online I was very excited to see the publication of his book. I wasn't disappointed with insights, and arguments beautifully made Robert has created a brilliant work as a handbook to support one in the development of their practise of mindfulness.

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Fantastic book, it will enlighten you!

I got so much out of this book. It synthesised so many ideas that I had wondered about through my own secular meditation practice and brought deeper meaning to them for me. I'm not a Buddhist, but I am spiritual, and this book was able to

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Loved this

I'm a regular mediator but had little understanding of Buddhism. I thought the author did an excellent job of putting across complex ideas with clarity, humility and humour.


I can't recommend this book highly enough.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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the case for everyone to benefit from meditation

the case for everyone to benefit from meditation to improve the lives of all of us put in a very clear and readable account. a must read for anyone who cares about there own and others wellbeing

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Rugger Burke
  • 12-09-17

More than a beginner's guide...

Would you consider the audio edition of Why Buddhism Is True to be better than the print version?

Having purchased and read/listened to both, consider them equal. One caveat: is not a beginner's guide to Buddhism. Therefore, would suggest others choose the medium best suited for taking in information. In either instance, however, the text flows easily as if having a conversation with a knowledgeable friend about a topic of mutual interest.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Why Buddhism Is True?

Wright's explanation of subjects typically glossed over by most books on Buddhism such as emptiness and non-self stood out for their clarity. Most books on Buddhism cover the basics of the branches of Buddhism, an explanation of the four noble truths, and the virtues of the eight-fold path. Instead of a general overview, Wright writes about some of the more seemingly esoteric areas of secular Buddhism. He does this well integrating both personal experience as well as helpful examples. He then pulls the threads together to demonstrate the importance of understanding these topics and why they are relevant to how we relate to our selves and the world around us.

Have you listened to any of Fred Sanders’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Yes. Sanders strikes a good tone in conveying the material, though sometimes the emphasis of a line or two may have been different than the author's internal voice while writing.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

If you will give two hours of time for your entertainment, why not meditate an hour a day to claim your life?

Any additional comments?

Wright commented in the book that one his teachers commented that writing the book may impede his progress toward enlightenment. Hopefully, this is not so. Instead, the book served as a reason for him to explore further and record his discoveries along the way, Regardless, he left firm footing for others following a similar path.

Thus, it's easy to recommend this book for someone with a basic to intermediate understanding of Buddhism looking for further reading on topics beyond the basic tenants of Buddhism or a meditation guide who prefers a contemporary, secular point of view. While this sounds like a relatively small group, perhaps so. But maybe this book will continue to expand its number.

23 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • George
  • 10-08-17

Clear Explanation of How the Mind Works

Most books on Buddhism teach you how to drive; this book is like having Click and Clack lift the hood of the car and explain very clearly why the engine works. I think it may be one of the most helpful books I've ever read. The clarity with which emotions are explained is amazing. The author convinced me of the effectiveness of mindfulness. He is always careful to say where the science is uncertain or where the Buddhism is not grounded in science. I think I can now read other Buddhism texts, like the Suttas, with a framework for understanding that I did not have before. The author has a conversational, self-depreciating, and personal style of writing that I like. Narration is good.

74 of 80 people found this review helpful

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  • Acarya
  • 19-08-17

Worth some of your time...

Worth some of your time...
The author makes a number of important observations. However, there is also quite a bit of filler to work through.
For example, there are numerous personal anecdotes many of which are rather banal.
So, I think your time would be better spent with essential Buddhist texts. Plus, it seems to me that the more analytical parts of the book are at least partly based on speculation; precisely what the Buddha advised us not to spend time on.
As you can see, the author's argument and presentation left me with mixed feelings.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • feeble
  • 09-09-17

So hard to listen to.

Fred Sanders makes it hard to listen to this book. He sounds like a computer program. You could get the same mundane tone from a text-to-speech app. Because of this, I found it hard to concentrate on the books material. Truthfully, this should be reread by another narrator and republished. I am not joking.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Roger
  • 18-09-17

Weak on Science; Okay on Philosophy

I really wanted to like this book but it was not a book I would recommend to people who are looking for a book on Buddhism and Science. I agree with many of the authors' conclusions but is was not compelling and little of what was said was new or interesting. If you are considering a book on the subject of Science and Buddhism, then please consider "The Science of Enlightenment" by Shinzen Young. Shinzen is far more accomplished as a meditator and he is truly gifted in terms of articulation. I also found "Buddha's Brain" by Rick Hanson to be far more interesting in terms of Neuroscience and the benefits of Insight Meditation. The reader was really bland and did not do the book any favors.

33 of 39 people found this review helpful

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  • Dave Ferguson
  • 03-10-17

Presentation Matters

I'm sure professor Wright is interesting in class or he wouldn't be teaching. The approach is thorough, the theories well researched, but the reader is devoid of emotion. I prefer to have the author read his own work for non-fiction titles because it's not just the words that matter. This is meaningful content and a valuable tool when you are able to use it in life.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • B. Margerum
  • 22-09-17

Best book on Buddhism and Mediation ever written

Would you listen to Why Buddhism Is True again? Why?

I have already listened to it 3 times. Even though the explanations are clear and logical, the book is filled with rich information and paradoxes that you can't just listen to it once and get the full meaning. Just an outstanding book! Kudos to Robert Wright!

What was one of the most memorable moments of Why Buddhism Is True?

Understanding essence and how you need to look at it from a more universal view, i.e. as Einstein did for his Theory of Relativity

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Fyodor
  • 15-08-17

Very clear and helpful

A great argument. Very clear and well structured. The best kind of introduction to Buddhism in a modern context. This helped me a lot to sort out some of the Buddhist concepts which seemed confusing or vague as they're commonly presented. (Something I was expecting for Sam Harris' book on spirituality)

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Gustavo Carneiro
  • 04-05-18

Not quite what I expected, but good

The author doesn't spend as much time actually scientifically defending Buddhism as he spends explaining the basics of it, but he does it pretty well. Recommend it to people that aren't familiar with the Buddhist concepts

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Tom
  • 07-10-17

Speaks to psychology, not spirtual or relgious

A must read for all adults. Nothing in this book will conflict with your religious beliefs or change how you feel about your faith.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful