Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment (Paperback)
From one of America’s most brilliant writers, a New York Times bestselling journey through psychology, philosophy, and lots of meditation to show how Buddhism holds the key to moral clarity and enduring happiness.
At the heart of Buddhism is a simple claim: The reason we suffer—and the reason we make other people suffer—is that we don’t see the world clearly. At the heart of Buddhist meditative practice is a radical promise: We can learn to see the world, including ourselves, more clearly and so gain a deep and morally valid happiness.
In this “sublime” (The New Yorker), pathbreaking book, Robert Wright shows how taking this promise seriously can change your life—how it can loosen the grip of anxiety, regret, and hatred, and how it can deepen your appreciation of beauty and of other people. He also shows why this transformation works, drawing on the latest in neuroscience and psychology, and armed with an acute understanding of human evolution.
This book is the culmination of a personal journey that began with Wright’s landmark book on evolutionary psychology, The Moral Animal, and deepened as he immersed himself in meditative practice and conversed with some of the world’s most skilled meditators. The result is a story that is “provocative, informative and...deeply rewarding” (The New York Times Book Review), and as entertaining as it is illuminating. Written with the wit, clarity, and grace for which Wright is famous, Why Buddhism Is True lays the foundation for a spiritual life in a secular age and shows how, in a time of technological distraction and social division, we can save ourselves from ourselves, both 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
“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.”
“Beautifully written and persuasively argued, Why Buddhism is True is the most accessible book on some of Buddhism’s extraordinary, even radical, claims.... Powerful, eloquent, spiritual and scientific... A creative and compelling exploration of the Buddha’s mind.”
—The Tribune (India)
“[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.”