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Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom Paperback – November 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A wonderfully comprehensive book. The authors have made it easy to understand how our minds function and how to make changes so that we can live happier, fuller lives."
—Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness



"This is simply the best book I have read on why and how we can shape our brains to be peaceful and happy. This is a book that will literally change your brain and your life."
—Jennifer Louden, author of The Woman’s Comfort Book and The Life Organizer



"Buddha’s Brain is a significant contribution to understanding the interface between science and meditation in the path of transformation. Illuminating."
—Joseph Goldstein, author of A Heart Full of Peace and One Dharma



"Buddha’s Brain is compelling, easy to read, and quite educational. The book skillfully answers the central question of each of our lives—how to be happy—by presenting the core precepts of Buddhism integrated with a primer on how our brains function. This book will be helpful to anyone wanting to understand time-tested ways of skillful living backed up by up-to-date science."
—Frederic Luskin, PhD, author of Forgive for Good and director of Stanford Forgiveness Projects



"I wish I had a science teacher like Rick Hanson when I went to school. Buddha’s Brain is at once fun, fascinating, and profound. It not only shows us effective ways to develop real happiness in our lives, but also explains physiologically how and why they work. As he instructs us to do with positive experiences, take in all the good information this book offers and savor it."
—James Baraz, author of Awakening Joy and cofounder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center



"With the mind of a scientist, the perspective of a psychologist, and the wise heart of a parent and devoted meditator, Rick Hanson has created a guide for all of us who want to learn about and apply the scintillating new research that embraces neurology, psychology, and authentic spiritual inquiry. Up-to-date discoveries combined with state-of-the-art practices make this book an engaging read. Buddha’s Brain is at the top of my list!"
—Richard A. Heckler, PhD, assistant professor at John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, CA



"An illuminating guide to the emerging confluence of cutting-edge neuropsychology and ancient Buddhist wisdom filled with practical suggestions on how to gradually rewire your brain for greater happiness. Lucid, good-humored, and easily accessible."
—John J. Prendergast, PhD, adjunct associate professor of psychology at California Institute of Integral Studies and senior editor of The Sacred Mirror and Listening from the Heart of Silence



"Buddha’s Brain will show you how mental practices, informed by the contemplative traditions, can increase your capacity for experiencing happiness and peace. This book provides a scientific understanding of these methods, and clear guidance for practices that cultivate a wise and free heart."
—Tara Brach, PhD author of Radical Acceptance



"This book enables us to understand the whys and hows of our human operating system so we can make more informed actions that allow us to live our lives more fully, compassionately, and with greater well-being and kindness towards others and ourselves. What I find exciting about Buddha’s Brain is Rick Hanson’s ability to clearly delineate the root causes of suffering and explain pertinent ways we can actually change these causes and effect lasting change on all levels of our mind, body, and interpersonal relationships. His informative, relaxed, and easy-to-read style of writing made me want to pick up this book again and again and dive ever more deeply into the complexities of our human engineering. Buddha’s Brain is now on my recommendation list for all my students and teachers-in-training."
—Richard C. Miller, PhD, founding president of Integrative Restoration Institute

"Numerous writings in recent years have exacerbated the traditional rift between science and religion; however, there has been a refreshing parallel movement in the opposite direction. Neuroscientists have become increasingly interested in using first-person introspective inquiries of the mind to complement their third-person, Western scientific investigations of the brain. Buddhist contemplative practices are particularly amenable to such collaboration, inviting efforts to find neurobiological explanations for Buddhist philosophy. Stripped of religious baggage, Buddha’s Brain clearly describes how modern concepts of evolutionary and cognitive neurobiology support core Buddhist teachings and practice. This book should have great appeal for those seeking a secular spiritual path, while also raising many testable hypotheses for interested neuroscientists."
—Jerome Engel, Jr., MD, PhD, Jonathan Sinay Distinguished Professor of Neurology, Neurobiology, and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles

"Buddha’s Brain makes a significant contribution to the current dynamic dialogue among neuroscience, psychology, and Buddhist disciplines of mind training. Drawing on the wisdom born of their own meditation practice and their scientific backgrounds, the authors point again and again to the possibilities of the deep transformation of our minds and lives."
—Christina Feldman, author of Compassion and The Buddhist Path to Simplicity

"Recent developments in psychology and the neurosciences have led to clear and powerful insights about how our brains work and how these neurological functions shape our experience of the world. These insights are profoundly congruent with the wisdom that has been developed over thousands of years in the contemplative traditions. The authors of Buddha’s Brain have given us a concise and practical guide to how these two currents of knowledge can be used to transform our capacity to engage both ourselves and others with wisdom, compassion, and mindfulness."
—Robert D. Truog, MD, professor at Harvard Medical School, executive director of the Institute for Professionalism and Ethical Practice, and senior associate in critical care medicine at Children’s Hospital, Boston

"A clear introduction to some basic principles of neuroscience and dharma."
—Roger Walsh, MD, PhD, professor at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Essential Spirituality

"Buddha’s Brain brilliantly reveals the teachings of the Buddha in the light of modern neuroscience. This is a practical guide to changing your reality. This is your brain on Dharma!"
—Wes "Scoop" Nisker, author of Essential Crazy Wisdom and editor of Inquiring Mind



"Solidly grounded in the latest neuroscientific research, and supported by a deep understanding of contemplative practice, this book is accessible, compelling, and profound—a crystallization of practical wisdom!"
—Philip David Zelazo, PhD, Nancy M. and John E. Lindahl Professor at the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota

From the Publisher

In Buddha's Brain, a clinical psychologist and a senior neurologist explain how the brain benefits from contemplative practice and show readers how to develop greater happiness, love, and wisdom by drawing from breakthroughs in modern neuroscience.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 251 pages
  • Publisher: New Harbinger Publications; 1st edition (November 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572246952
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572246959
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (521 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, a Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and a New York Times best-selling author. His books include Hardwiring Happiness (in 14 languages), Buddha's Brain (in 25 languages), Just One Thing (in 14 languages), and Mother Nurture. He edits the Wise Brain Bulletin and has several audio programs. A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA and founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, he's been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide.

Dr. Hanson has been a trustee of Saybrook University, served on the board of Spirit Rock Meditation Center for nine years, and was President of the Board of FamilyWorks, a community agency. He began meditating in 1974, trained in several traditions, and leads a weekly meditation gathering in San Rafael, California. His work has been featured on the BBC, CBS, and NPR, and he offers the free Just One Thing newsletter with over 110,000 subscribers, plus the online Foundations of Well-Being program in positive neuroplasticity.

He enjoys rock-climbing and taking a break from emails. He and his wife have two adult children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

481 of 494 people found the following review helpful By NCReview.com on November 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
We have often been told that by altering our thoughts, deeds and words, we can create a happier, more fulfilled life. This book, at the intersection between psychology, neuroscience, and Buddhism, offers effective methods to show us how to live such a life by being fully present in the moment.

Hanson and Mendius, a neuropsychologist and a neurologist and both practicing Buddhists, show us just how the brain programs us to experience the world a certain way by combining information from the external world with information held in neural pathways within the brain. These pathways operate in the background of our awareness, influencing our conscious mental activity. Unless we consciously interrupt this process, we are destined to develop deeper neural networks and even stronger programming.

The argument that the brain has the ability to simulate the world is not new. What is interesting is how Hanson and Mendius link Buddhist teachings on the causes of suffering (painful situations cannot be avoided but our emotional responses to them can) to the deep programming in our brains caused by ancestral survival strategies. They suggest that this hardwiring helped us survive constant life-threatening situations but is based on erroneous beliefs that we are separate, that it is possible to stabilize an ever changing world, that we can avoid situations that create pain and pursue only those that give us pleasure. None of these beliefs are true or can be attained. Their inherent contradictions cause us to live with an underlying feeling of anxiety taking us away from our true ground of being and causing much physical and psychological ill-health.
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223 of 231 people found the following review helpful By Annie Spiegelman on December 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
"If I know one thing for sure, it's that you can do small things inside your mind that will lead to big changes in your brain and your experience of living. I've seen this happen again and again with people I've known as a psychologist and meditation teacher . . ."
- Rick Hanson

Buddha's Brain will not only explain 'why' you should take in the good but 'how' you can achieve a more positive outlook with some basic awareness skills. The authors, Neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson and neurologist, Richard Mendius are the Click and Clack (Car Talk) of the brain. These two brainiacs/meditation teachers will show you how to create positive feelings that have many emotional and health benefits such as a stronger immune system and a cardiovascular system that is less reactive to stress. You'll learn how to create a positive cycle of good feelings that you can then spread to others. Enough with all the negativity out there! Haven't we all had enough?

As a Type-A New Yorker, one of my favorite exercises in the book is 'Hush the Verbal Centers.' Here you use the power of prefrontal intention to politely (or impolitely) suggest that the verbal activity (voices in your head) shut the hell up. Tell them if they are quiet and well-behaved you will invite them to come yammer away later on after the job interview/tax return/golf putt/midterm exam. For us control freaks this is especially wonderful because now we can control our brains, as well as everything else. Who knew life could be so swell!?!

Last, Hanson's wife, acupuncturist Jan Hanson writes an appendix on nutritional neurochemistry recommending nutrients, supplements and dietary basics to support brain function.
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698 of 770 people found the following review helpful By Kristin on April 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a very good book in many ways, but it has one drawback that I think is very serious. Basically, the authors do not explain that the exercises they describe may lead to pain and frustration instead of increased well-being. They do point out, briefly, that if doing one of the exercises is uncomfortable, the reader should "feel free" to stop. This is not, however, nearly enough.

Let me explain.

The aim of the book is to guide people to increase the frequency and power of positive emotions in their lives--emotions like equanimity, compassion, gratitude and joy. (And, of course, to decrease the power of negative emotions like fear and hate.) There are a number of ways to do this, but the technique which the authors describe in the most detail is guided imagery. In guided imagery one imagines a situation that will trigger the desired emotion. Each time one creates these emotions, one strengthens their pathways in the brain/mind and thus makes oneself a happier/better person.

The problem is that when some people do this imagery they are unable to generate the intended feelings. Instead they feel disappointment and frustration at being unable to do what comes so easily (it seems) to other people. If the person has a history of failure at trying to improve her mood, and if the person has been told all her life to cheer up, look at the bright side, etc., than this can be quite painful, and, ultimately, psychologically harmful.

To see if these methods will work for you, try calling up some happy memory and see if it makes you feel happy. If it does, buy this book. There's a lot of good stuff here. If it doesn't, I recommend trying "The Mindful Way Through Depression".
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