A Quick Review of the Book: Buddha’s Brain

A Quick Review of the Book: Buddha’s Brain December 22, 2020

A reader recommended this book. Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom. I finished reading it yesterday, so thought I’d offer a quick review.

Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom. / Photo by Scott Stahlecker

As a freethinker, this is one of the better books I’ve read. It’s not too commercial and simplistic, stays clear of interjecting any “woo-woo” or Buddhist philosophical fluff, and offers great insight into the neuroscience of meditation.

Its pages also primarily focus on common human emotions such as happiness, love and wisdom. Its words seek to teach how to better understand and grow these qualities in everyday, practical terms. These are important qualities, however, I wish the writers would have gone into deeper depth in many other fascinating areas.

If I have any criticism to offer, it would be that the book is written in a topical style – similar to a blog – and just lightly lands on many topics before fluttering off to another. This is more of a personal preference, because I prefer a different style of writing when it comes to academic-style books. There were many times while reading in which I wanted the writers to dive deeper into the rabbit hole, and they merely didn’t get as far as I anticipated!

Nevertheless, the book offers many gems, which invite the reader to explore thought-provoking insights in their own good time. Which is nice too, because with meditation half the fun is in making these kinds discoveries on your own.

Here’s one of those gems:

“Consider how much time you spend thinking – even the subtlest way … about what others think about you. Be mindful of doing things to get admiration and praise. Try to focus instead on just doing the best you can. Think about virtue, benevolence, and wisdom: if you sincerely keep trying to come from these, that’s about all that you can do. And that’s a lot!” Page 219

This quote may read like a Hallmark card – but to the contrary; these kinds of thoughts offer wisdom which can take years of introspection to even “see” and even longer to start mastering in everyday life.

About Scott Stahlecker
Scott Stahlecker is a former minister and now writes for Thinkadelics about the joys and benefits of living as a freethinker. He is the author of several books, as well as the previous owner of several hospice agencies. You can read more about the author here.

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6 responses to “A Quick Review of the Book: Buddha’s Brain”

  1. I have this book; I bought it when I first started to meditate. It’s a great beginner book and I also like that it doesn’t get into woo-woo.

  2. My first meditation book was Sam Harris’ “Waking Up.” I liked it because it approached the subject with skepticism, while still explaining a lot of the benefits. Then I read a few other beginner books, and heavier ones by notable teachers. These earlier reads didn’t tell me too much though about what to expect. Some drifted a little too far into Buddhism for me too. “Buddha’s Brain” would have been a good one to start with.

  3. I went to a group meditation practice when I was starting out, and the session leader recommended Buddha’s Brain. This was a class for military–many with PTSD issues–and the focus was on the physical aspects of it; triggering the parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) system instead of the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) system. We discussed how a regular meditation practice could help rewire the brain to be less reactive and train the person to self-calm and reflect instead of reacting.

  4. When I first started meditating I noticed huge changes occurring in my brain. Those changes really haven’t stopped either. You have these breakthroughs and these lead to bigger breakthroughs in the future. The changes were so significant that I even started writing articles on what changes a person should expect during the first 6 months of meditation. I might revisit those. It’s quite amazing how changing our thoughts can literally change the way our brains function.

    In some respects, Christianity and prayer offer some of these benefits. Praying on the compassion of Christ is a bit like meditation on compassion, and this can produce wonderful results. But prayer cannot hold a candle to what meditation can do.

  5. I absolutely agree that Christianity and prayer offer some of the same benefits are meditation. I grew up saying the rosary, which is very meditative. Singing was also meditative, and singing in Latin meant a lot of vowels that required opening up your mouth and breathing deeply–which puts your body into parasympathetic mode.

    One yoga teacher would start shivasana (rest period) with the phrase, “You have nothing left to do, nothing left to explore. Just be.” That phrase worked as well as a mantra to cue us to release our thoughts and move into meditation.

  6. A few days back I was listening to classical Christmas music. Although I had to force myself to disregard some of the lyrics on the songs where people were singing, that kind of music is emotionally satisfying. As you say, it puts your body into a parasympathetic mode. What I find interesting about this effect, is that an atheist such as myself can be “enlightened” by this kind of music in the same way that a religious person might be. But it’s not because a “Holy Spirit” is working within my heart. It’s because of the natural effects of this kind of music on the brain, which in turn effects us on an emotional level.

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