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Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama

4.4 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0553801712
ISBN-10: 0553801716
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them? A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama forcefully puts to rest the misconception that the realms of science and spirituality are at odds. In this extraordinary book, Daniel Goleman presents dialogues between the Dalai Lama and a small group of eminent psychologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers that probe the challenging questions: Can the worlds of science and philosophy work together to recognize destructive emotions such as hatred, craving, and delusion? If so, can they transform those feelings for the ultimate improvement of humanity? As the Dalai Lama explains, "With the ever-growing impact of science on our lives, religion and spirituality have a greater role to play in reminding us of our humanity."

The book's subject marks the eighth round in a series of ongoing meetings of the Mind Life Institute. The varied perspectives of science, philosophy, and Eastern and Western thought beautifully illustrate the symbiosis among the views, which are readily accessible despite their complexity. Among the book's many strengths is its organization, which allows readers to enjoy the entire five-day seminar or choose sections that are most relevant to their interests, such as "Cultivating Emotional Balance," "The Neuroscience of Emotion," "Encouraging Compassion," or "The Scientific Study of Consciousness." But the real joy is in gaining an insider's view of these extraordinary minds at work, especially that of the Dalai Lama, whose curiosity, Socratic questioning, and humor ultimately serve as the linchpin for the book's soaring intellectual discussion. --Silvana Tropea

From Publishers Weekly

In May 2001, in a laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, a Tibetan Buddhist monk donned a cap studded with hundreds of sensors that were connected to a state-of-the-art EEG, a brain-scanning device capable of recording changes in his brain with speed and precision. When the monk began meditating in a way that was designed to generate compassion, the sensors registered a dramatic shift to a state of great joy. "The very act of concern for others' well-being, it seems, creates a greater state of well-being within oneself," writes bestselling author Goleman (Emotional Intelligence) in his extraordinary new work. Goleman offers this breakthrough as an appetizer to a feast. Readers will discover that it is just one of a myriad of creative and positive results that are continuing to flow from the Mind and Life dialogue that took place over five days in March 2000 between a group of leading Western scientists and philosophers and the Dalai Lama in his private quarters in Dharamsala, India. This eighth Mind and Life meeting is the seventh to be recorded in book form; Goleman's account is the most detailed and user-friendly to date. The timely theme of the dialogue was suggested by the Dalai Lama to Goleman, who took on the role of organizer and brought together some world-class researchers and thinkers, including psychologist Paul Ekman, philosopher Owen Flanagan, the late Francisco Varela and Buddhist photographer Matthieu Riccard. In a sense, the many extraordinary insights and findings that arise from the presentations and subsequent discussions are embodied by the Dalai Lama himself as he appears here. Far from the cuddly teddy bear the popular media sometimes makes him out to be, he emerges as a brilliant and exacting interrogator, a natural scientist, as well as a leader committed to finding a practical means to help society. Yet he also personally embodies the possibility of overcoming destructive emotions, of becoming resilient, compassionate and happy no matter what life brings. Covering the nature of destructive emotions, the neuroscience of emotion, the scientific study of consciousness and more, this essential volume offers a fascinating account of what can emerge when two profound systems for studying the mind and emotions, Western science and Buddhism, join forces. Goleman travels beyond the edge of the known, and the report he sends back is encouraging.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553801716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553801712
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #198,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is a remarkable culmination of what the Dalai Lama and Dan Goleman have long sought: That is, a genuine meeting of East and West. This is a chronicle of the most recent scene in the unfolding drama between great yogic, "inner" scientists and western-trained scientific counterparts. The dance between the two sides began of course some time ago, but now it's getting really interesting. They've learned to tango so well it's getting hard to tell the dancers apart! Each side now speaks the other's language, and has mastered the other's methodology to an astonishing degree. Westerners meditate with the best of the yogis and speak Tibetan, a mind like that of the Dalai Lama, who figured out that the world must be round, even though his teachers said it was flat - all are willing to challenge their own assumptions, share their findings, yet not neglecting the contributions of Plato, or Aristotle, Kant, Einstein, William James, and earlier pioneers. The focus here is in examining those emotions that cause us so much trouble as individuals, and which collectively lead us to even greater madness, or war. The dialogue works because each participant, an "expert" in his or her field - is more concerned with finding the common truth - which frees us, rather than be proven "right". This is very good news.
Goleman reports on a five-day conference which we find is actually the fruition of the life-works of those taking part. In some ways the book has it over being there, as the narration sketches in how individuals in their own lives were motivated to make the often quite amazing leaps to get to where they got.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a sort of "narrative transcript" of a recent conference that took place in Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama's home in exile. The conference takes the form of a series of presentations and dialogues between the Dalai Lama and some of the top Western researchers in the science of the mind. The writer, a participant in the conference, acts primarily as an editor of the material, presenting the "transcripts" in a prose style and interspersing them with biographical sketches of the key players. The approach is simple, but it works very nicely. The book will give you some insight into how Buddhism views emotions and how modern science studies them. Whether your approach to the nature of mind is "left-brained" or "right-brained", this book has a lot to offer. It is a fascinating primer on the latest science of the mind. As well, it is an excellent discourse on how the East-West dialogue, which has been a hallmark of the Dalai Lama's work for years, can impact education, social programs and our ability to get hold of our own destructive emotions. I am a lifelong armchair scientist, as well as an avid reader of religious history and philosophy. I always appreciate a well-presented book that seeks to harmonize these different approaches to understanding reality. Definitely recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been practicing meditation for over thirty years and teaching for twenty eight years. My experience has made me much more familiar with the art of meditation than with the science of it. I found this book to be an extraordinary contribution, helping elucidate the tremendous importance of ancient meditative tools to modern life.
In a world where fear and grasping and anger and a sense of isolation from others seems to be predominating,this book, starting right with the title, Destructive Emotions, moved me, interested me, and made me think.
Having been at a similar conference with the Dalai Lama some years ago,I know how hard it is to capture the magic of this kind of encounter: the amazing openness of the Dalai Lama's mind; the pioneering sense of adventure on the part of scientists and educators as they explore meditation in the labs and translate its essence for a far-reaching audience; the depth of compassion that underlies this dialogue from all sides. I think Daniel has done a remarkable job. Because of the effort that has gone into it, I think this book could be of value whether you have meditated for decades or have not yet begun.
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Format: Hardcover
How does a person overcome destructive emotions? This is the real and important question this book attempts to discuss on a religous, scientific, and philosophical basis. Goleman's account is surprisingly easy to read, and likewise the concepts are readily understandable. However, I was ultimately disappointed in the book. Here is why...
Regarding destructive emotions, there is very little in the book, which refers to 'root causes' of those emotions. Rather there is an emphasis on controlling emotions. This approach attempts to deal with symptoms via practices intended to annihilate desire/craving (the dharma practice) The apparent contradiction is this -- parental love, pleasure seeking, and self-defense are all part of our emotional make up. Therefore, some emotions are good and some are bad. (few would disagree with this.) However, the dharma practice is a means of decreasing emotional desire in its entirety.
If a distinction is to be made between the 'good' emotions and the 'bad' emotions then a value judgment is required. So, the question which never gets answered in the book is 'Within the Buddhist tradition what is the framework for making moral distinctions?' Ok, with that said, the most interesting part of the book is when Owen Flanagan (Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Human Interaction Laboratory at the University of California at San Francisco Medical School) discusses the differences between virtue ethics, utilitarian ethics, and Kantian ethics - in an attempt to show that some sort of value judgment needs to be made between emotions. (pages 63-68) Unfortunately, much of his discussion is never adequately responded to by anyone in attendance, including the Dalai Lama.
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