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
more 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 behavior.
Wallace 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 Buddhism.
Since 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.
Subjects: Religion, Health Sciences
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