Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic

About the Author: B. Alan Wallace

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  • Hardcover
  • 292 pages
  • Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic
  • B. Alan Wallace
  • English
  • 10 April 2017
  • 9780231158343

Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic 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 Nothing 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 BehaviorWallace Embarks On A Two Part Mission To Restore Human Nature And To Transcend It He Begins By Explaining The Value Of Skepticism In Buddhism And Science And The Difficulty Of Merging Their Experiential Methods Of Inquiry Yet Wallace Also Proves That Buddhist Views On Human Nature And The Possibility Of Free Will Liberate Us From The Metaphysical Constraints Of Scientific Materialism He Then Explores The Radical Empiricism Inspired By William James And Applies It To Indian Buddhist Philosophy S Four Schools And The Great Perfection School Of Tibetan BuddhismSince Buddhism Begins With The Assertion That Ignorance Lies At The Root Of All Suffering And That 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 The Maintenance Of Exceptional Mental Health, Mindfulness, And Introspection Wallace Discusses These Topics In Detail, Identifying Similarities And Differences Between Scientific And Buddhist Understanding, And He Concludes With An Explanation Of Shamatha And Vipashyana And Their Potential For Realizing The Full Nature, Origins, And Potential Of Consciousness

10 thoughts on “Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic

  1. Suzanne says:

    Check this out of the library, if you re interested, but don t buy it I purchased the e book on the basis of a sample, and feel that it was a wasted 15 I can t even sell it to a used book dealer or give it away.On the basis of the title and the sample, I expected an ultimately agnostic work that would be skeptical of both science and the supernatural that would explore what we know and what we don t know and that would admit that there is much that we don t know and cannot know.The title is deceptive he is not a Buddhist skeptic He is a Tibetan Buddhist who is skeptical of science, and an out dated science at that Part I is an excellent refutation of the materialist dogma that the mind is nothing than the brain, including neuropsychology and other psychological schools of the late 19th through mid 20th centuries As Thomas Kuhn argued years ago, the paradigm within which we work determines the questions we will ask, the methods which we will employ to explore those questions, the data which we will accept as legitimate and even be able to collect, and therefore, the answers that we will find and the interpretations we will put on them.Then we come to Part II, in which Wallace replaces skepticism with true belief in his dogmas, even while calling on scientists to become skeptical of theirs He does not seem to appreciate that the arguments he employed in the first part also apply to his own paradigmatic views He replaces the scientists demand for objective evidence with a demand that scientists accept subjective evidence He seems to think that, if enough people claim something is true, that makes it true I rather lost it when he claimed that, because of karma and rebirth, people are born with birthmarks that indicate their manner of death in a previous life, for instance, a mark that shows where a bullet entered and an even large mark where it exited What is his evidence for this The people claim to remember their previous life and death I was left to wonder if those marks accumulate or represent only the most recent death I also wonder whether he would say that we bear any signs of non human incarnations He also doesn t seem to be at all aware of post modern thought, of social construction theory, of constructivism and personal construct theory, of qualitative research It s as if he stopped reading Western thought when he left college I m not surprised to see that his undergraduate degree is in physics and the philosophy of science and his graduate degree in religious studies His lack of social science knowledge is rather glaring.

  2. Steve Greenleaf says:

    B Alan Wallace is among the foremost practitioner teachers of Buddhism today He reports while brought up in a Christian household, and even though I found great meaning in the teachings of Jesus, some of the church s doctrines made no sense to me Kindle Locations 71 72 He grew up in California, Scotland, and Switzerland He started as an undergrad at UC San Diego and then he transferred to G ttingen in West Germany, moving from an ecology major at UCSD to a primary interest in philosophy and religion at Gottingen, where he studied the Tibetan language and Tibetan Buddhism Then, instead of finishing his degree great message for the parents, no doubt , in 1971 I m just transitioning from high school to college , he heads to Tibet For the next 13 years he studied and meditated in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition in India and Europe, and he came to serve as a translator for the Dalai Lama After this phase of his life, he returned to academia to complete a degree at Amherst College in physics and philosophy of science After another meditation retreat, he entered graduate studies in religion at Stanford University He completed his doctorate, focusing his studies on the interface between Buddhism and Western science and philosophy B Alan Wallace website Since then he has taught, written a number of books for both academic and popular audiences, and he continues to teach meditation Having read several of his works and now in the midst of listening to podcasts of his meditation retreats, I find him one of the most intriguing, no nonsense, and persuasive teachers of Buddhism active today This book, his most recent academic book 2011 , addresses topics important to him One of the attractive aspects of Buddhism to me and to many others, especially those of us coming from Western traditions, is its radical empiricism and willingness to undergo scrutiny Wallace scrutinizes the Buddhist tradition, but the main target of his skepticism is Western materialism Wallace is especially critical of academic psychology for its abandonment of the legacy of William James, who valued and promoted introspection as important source of data about the mind Indeed, James is obviously in intellectual hero to Wallace, as well as a great many others including me Instead of following the lead of James, psychology turned to Watson s behaviorism no mind, just observable behavior , which was wedded to the ideas of 19th century physics Wallace is uniquely qualified to challenge the citadel of materialism from his background in physics and philosophy of science combined with his experience in Buddhism While critical of Western materialism we re just stuff consciousness a mere by product of brain activity , Wallace unabashedly asserts the traditional Buddhist view, which includes an emphasis on mind and consciousness as than just brain activity and where the paranormal not magic exists Wallace makes these assertions as one who has been on the other side of reality from the majority of Western scientists and philosophers who adhere to the simple materialist paradigm Wallace also notes the importance of ethical behavior in Buddhism and its effect on our perception of the world This, too, contrasts markedly with the value free attitude of Western science Wallace discusses phenomena like the placebo effect , which Western science shunts aside without addressing the implications that physically inert substances can effect with body when combined with the non physical world of information even false information Many in the West know to reject Descartes s dualism of mind and body, but they attempt to go around it by going all body, no mind But mind as in the form of information is a part of our reality In addition to criticizing the materialists, Wallace also criticizes those who sell mindfulness as simply the practice of observing what passes through the mind This is not Buddhism Buddhist mindfulness involves mindfulness of right conduct, effort, and livelihood, among other things It s not just whatever , but an attempt to monitor the contents of the mind All of this simply touches the surface of all that Wallace addresses and argues His appreciation of the history and enterprise of Western science, Western philosophy and psychology, and traditional Buddhism make him a formidable author Yet, for all of the depth of his analysis and argument, the book is well written and argued so that it s easy to follow In short, he s an outstanding teacher whom I can t recommend highly enough this comes from listening to his podcasts as well If you want to come into the deep end of the pool, you not find many guides as worthwhile as Wallace.

  3. okei says:

    The rise to prominence in the 19th century of belief in scientific materialism, while resolving the Cartesian mind body problem by seeing all as body matter , in doing so suspended the possibility for an introspective approach to psychology to develop following its foundation as a scientific discipline in 1875, independently by Wilhelm Wundt in Germany and William James in America We are still in the grip of dogmatic materialism.Alan Wallace would like to see a rejection of dogma, either dualistic or monistic, and a return to empiricism, that is a willingness to put cherished assumptions, including those of Buddhism and science, to the test of experience Belief and even reason are subordinate to direct perception a book to be continued one day, but I found the above jotted down

  4. Ariadne Deborah Fassel says:

    Clear writing, excellent explanations of often difficult topics A great help to my understanding I must go in search of of his writings.

  5. David Roberts says:

    I ve been struggling to write this review because I don t want to be caught in the irony of dogmatically rejecting a book because I thought it too dogmatic I started reading the book in the summer, stopped because I found it too prescriptive, but then finished it off because I m trying to clear my Currently Reading bookshelf for the New Year.So I thought I d try this approach You will REALLY like this book if 1 having the word Manifesto in the title of this book doesn t remind you of the Unabomber2 you think that all of Science has somehow organized itself to decry ANY form of spirituality I am a scientist and found this idea quite far fetched 3 you don t feel any responsibility for making decisions along you own spiritual path and are looking for someone to tell you EXACTLY what is right and wrong4 your favorite colors are black and white5 scratch that You think there are only two colors black and white6 you have incurable insomniaAlan Wallace is obviously a very bright guy, but the habit of discrediting other parts of his own religion just seems hollow to me Isn t that how we all got into this mess in the first place I rate less than 1% of books a 2, but this just got on my nerves, I guess.