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Contemplative Science: Where Buddhism and Neuroscience Converge (Columbia Series in Science and Religion) Later Printing Used Edition

11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231138345
ISBN-10: 0231138342
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Editorial Reviews


Provocative, challenging, and engaging, Contemplative Science should be read by all serious students of the mind, scientists, contemplatives, and religious scholars alike. Alan Wallace has a breathtaking command of knowledge rooted in Buddhism but embracing the physical and cognitive sciences and most importantly informed by meditation practice. This book will help set the stage for a unique development in the twenty-first-century—a genuine collaboration between the contemplative traditions and Western science.

(Richard J. Davidson, William James and Vilas Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Contemplative Science is a must read for anyone interested in consciousness. Alan Wallace challenges neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, and Buddhists, with lucid, provocative scholarship.

(Paul Ekman, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of California, San Francisco, and author of Emotions Revealed)

[From] one of the most prominent voices in the discussions... Contemplative Science is a useful primer.

(Benjamin Bogin Buddhadharma 1900-01-00)

Wallace makes a strong case.

(George Scialabba Boston Globe)

A copy should go to every scientist - both physical and contemplative - in the land.

(David Fontana The Scientific and Medical Network 1900-01-00)


In Contemplative Science, Alan Wallace forcefully and properly challenges the materialistic presuppositions held by many scientists. He goes on to argue convincingly for the development of a contemplative science of consciousness based on a highly trained faculty of attention that can investigate the mind firsthand. Using his unique mastery of Buddhist philosophy and meditative practice, Wallace sketches for us the value of integrating contemplative methods with empirical research. I share his view of the unique importance of such an integration and recommend Contemplative Science as one of the first comprehensive presentations of that view.

(Arthur Zajonc, Andrew Mellon Professor of Physics, Amherst College, and the author of The Dalai Lama at MIT)|

Contemplative Science is an important addition to the growing body of scholarly literature on Buddhism, Western mind science, consciousness, and contemplation.

(Letitia Campbell, Emory University)

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Product Details

  • Series: Columbia Series in Science and Religion
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; Later Printing Used edition (October 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231138342
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231138345
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,132,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

B. Alan Wallace began his studies of Tibetan Buddhism, language, and culture in 1970 at the University of Göttingen and then continued his studies over the next fourteen years in India, Switzerland, and the United States. After graduating summa cum laude from Amherst College, where he studied physics and the philosophy of science, he went on to earn his Ph.D. in religious studies at Stanford University. He then taught for four years in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and is now the founder and president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies ( He is also Chairman of the Thanypura Mind Centre ( in Thailand, where he leads meditation retreats. He has edited, translated, authored, and contributed to more than forty books on Tibetan Buddhism, medicine, language, and culture, and the interface between science and Buddhism, including Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic: A Manifesto for the Mind Sciences and Contemplative Practice, Mind in the Balance: Meditation in Science, Buddhism, and Christianity, and Hidden Dimensions: The Unification of Physics and Consciousness.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

215 of 226 people found the following review helpful By MindCurious on March 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Readers be warned: the subtitle to this book,"Where Buddhism and Neuroscience Converge" is quite misleading--there are only a few very cursory references to anything about neuroscience. Based on the title and introduction, I purchased this assuming it might explain how scientific research on the brain illuminates the practice of meditation and the contemplative tradition (and vice-versa). It does not. For those interested in the connection between meditation and Western neuroscience, you'll find little here to satisfy you.

The book you want is Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, by Sharon Begley. The unfortunate title suggests little more than standard pop-psych self-help, but Ms. Begley's book provides a solid, readable account of neuroscience research from the last 10-15 years that relates specifically to the potential changes brought about in the brain through the practice of meditation, including recent studies on the brains of highly experienced meditators. I cannot recommend that book highly enough.
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141 of 150 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Richard G. Petty on March 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Unless you are involved in neuroscience, it is difficult to appreciate the magnitude of the seismic shifts that are occurring in our knowledge about the brain, and the extraordinary consequences for our understanding of what it means to be human. Or the important implications of the new brain sciences for such issues as education and legal responsibility.

There is a robust and growing literature on Buddhism, Western psychology and cognitive science, consciousness and the brain. And this book is a new installment that summarizes some of this work.

The author of this fine book is B. Alan Wallace who spent fourteen years as a Buddhist monk and was ordained by the Dalai Lama. He is also the founder and president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies. He has also translated a number of Tibetan Buddhist texts and is the author of several other books.

His central thesis is that although objective science has long said that religion, faith, belief and other subjective experiences are no more than epiphenomena of physical processes, that can and should change. He proposes that Western science and contemplative practices of Buddhism, and for that matter Christianity and Taoism, can be integrated to create a single discipline that he calls "Contemplative science." Alan contends that the development of this science is already underway and promises to illuminate both objective Western science and contemplative practices. It will in all likelihood bear many other fruits as well.

I am persuaded by what he has to say. I have never felt that we could or should relegate important human experiences to epiphenomena. Not only does it belittle meaningful experiences, it diminishes science.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jim G on October 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the fifth Alan Wallace book that I have purchased, the fourth that I have finished reading. This one is more detailed than the others. Alan presents justification for a science of meditation. Then he presents some observations by skilled Buddhist practitioners as seed areas for initial investigation using skilled meditation practitioners in this new proposed contemplative science.

Buddhists don't talk about their personal progress, so it is difficult for an interested observer to see details of their path. This book contains the clearest explanation and illustration of what it is like to be at various stages of the path towards enlightenment that I've seen anywhere.

I especially like the notes section which gives extensive references. It is surprising just how many of the references that Dr Wallace uses are to his own books and his original translations.

I would not recommend this book for those interested in an introduction to contemplation. It is an excellent reference work and ties together many thoughts that are only hinted at in introductory works.

Disclaimer: I am an interested observer of Buddhism and follow several different meditative practices. I attended a one week Samatha retreat presented by Alan Wallace several years ago.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent introduction for any Cognitive Scientist (Cognitivist) from any area (neurosciences, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, etc) to the way in which to build up Bridges of transdisciplinary research with a serious Buddhist perspective in mind. Both Buddhism and Western Scientific perspectives are presented as SERIOUS TRADITIONS of RESEARCH with RIGOROUS METHODOLOGICAL APPROACHES. This two different approaches, although different in mode and foundational motivations converge in the same goal: the enrichment of HUMAN UNDERSTANDING OF THE MIND PHENOMENA... both serve in the end to SERVE THE HUMAN BEING... THAT ONE WHICH IS THE DOER, AND THE BENEFACTOR OF ALL THE RESEARCH... THAT ONE WHICH IS THE ONLY BEGINNING AND END OF IT ALL
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. Jeffrey Goldsmith on June 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
dr wallace is a sophisticated scientist who is very experienced in talking about the details of buddhism. he understands the thousands of years of studying the mind from a buddhist perspectice and how to integrate it with modern science. he has the input of the dalai lama too, having been a translator for him for years. i encourage the serious reader to take a look.
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