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Robert Wright's new book 
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Post Robert Wright's new book
I know this may be of interest to a few BT forum members. (DWill, Dexter?) Robert Wright has just published a new book, Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. I will definitely be buying this one.

https://www.amazon.com/Why-Buddhism-Tru ... HwqjLjBT9w


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Sat Aug 12, 2017 9:28 am
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Post Re: Robert Wright's new book
Thanks geo, for posting this. I also will definitely be buying this one.



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Sun Aug 13, 2017 7:02 pm
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Post Re: Robert Wright's new book
Interesting coincidence here. There's a bookstore in northwest DC called Politics and Prose (one of the best independents.) I was thinking of spending a couple of days in DC (being now retired), and a few minutes after seeing geo's post I checked the store's schedule of nightly authors who come to talk about their books. Robert Wright is there this Tuesday. I really think I'll go down. I regret I didn't see his Coursera course on Buddhism all the way through. It had nothing to do with his quality as an instructor--he's very fine. No doubt now that I'll buy his book!

The title is probably meant to attract attention. What, a religion being claimed as true by a noted intellectual?



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Post Re: Robert Wright's new book
I'd go see Robert Wright for sure. Check back here and let us know what happened, DWill.

I never finished the Coursera course either, but I look forward to reading the book.


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Mon Aug 14, 2017 9:53 am
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Post Re: Robert Wright's new book
Robert Wright spoke for about 30 min., the standard amount of time for speakers at Politics and Prose. There were a lot of questions afterwards from the crowd (and it was a crowd in the small space within the bookstore). I wanted to ask him one, but as it was getting dark and I was on a bike, I had to leave after buying a copy of the book.

He was funny and engaging. He mentioned that he lived in Washington in the 80s, about a mile from the bookstore. (I had known that Wright was the writer of the editorial column "TRB" in the New Republic.) If you had told him back then that in 30 years so many people would gather to hear about a book on Buddhist meditation, he would have called you crazy. He asked the audience if they would mind if he took a picture of them for his wife, "who sometimes doubts my importance."

He said that he gravitates toward grandiose titles for this books, with "Why Buddhism is True" being maybe his most "obnoxious." The main point he discussed was the ability of mindfulness meditation to help us become more detached from certain emotions that trigger cognitive distortions. These emotions and drives have been given to us by natural selection, for very good reasons. They also have considerable drawbacks in an interconnected world in which our inability to see outside of our individual selves leads to small- and large-scale conflicts. The practice of meditation offers a practical tool that deity-based religions don't tend to feature. He noted that Buddhism, as practiced in most of the world, is itself based in deities. It's the philosophy extracted from Buddhism about which he has written the book.

One audience member objected to the Buddhist belief that life is suffering. Wright replied that there is support for the Sanskrit word often translated as "suffering" being closer in meaning to "dissatisfaction." The problem posed by Buddhism is that we can never remain satisfied for long. This inability is firmly in line with natural selection, Wright says. What if we had sex once and were so fulfilled by it that we were were "good" for the rest of our days? NS pushes us toward more and more and again and again. Meditation helps us slow down this speeding train by nurturing a more sustained sense of satisfaction. "We are not built for enduring satisfaction," says RW.

It's a paradox for me that this type of Buddhism is so centered in the individual self but aims ultimately for "not-self." I'll read more about that when I get to his book. It's tempting to start it, but I've promised myself to be more disciplined in my reading, finishing what I start before moving on!

By the way, P and P posts the videos of all their author talks on their YouTube website. It will probably take a week or so for Wright's to appear. You can link to it from the main bookstore website.



Last edited by DWill on Thu Aug 17, 2017 7:22 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Robert Wright's new book
Excellent summary, DWill. I really like the idea of using mediation to help us detach from emotions that can so easily distort our thinking. As such, these non-supernatural aspects of Buddhism discussed by Wright seem to correlate nicely with our understanding of "critical thinking" (which I know has become a bland, generic and misused term), but can be seen in the same context. To understand a little how the brain works and to understand that we are "designed" by natural selection to think in ways that don't always serve us well—both as individuals and as part of the human species. When we study critical thinking, though, we are doing so on a purely intellectual level. Perhaps meditation can help us bring that understanding to a deeper, more emotional level.

I will look for Wright's talk on the bookstore's website. Thanks for that.


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Post Re: Robert Wright's new book
I like that he doesn't assert that only by meditating can we become better people. But if we're in the market for self-help, especially in regard to how we relate to and think about others, he highly recommends trying. A topic that came up is our closely held political beliefs, an area that contains some of our cherished certainties. Should an aim of our meditating (or simply of our conscious directing) be to be willing to let these go? I think Wright's answer was yes, to some degree, anyway. In this era of Trumpism, with personal passions running so high on both sides, that is food for thought.



Thu Aug 17, 2017 5:11 pm
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