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Mind in the Balance: Meditation in Science, Buddhism, and Christianity (Columbia Series in Science and Religion) Hardcover – March 3, 2009

ISBN-13: 860-1402900855 ISBN-10: 0231147309 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Columbia Series in Science and Religion
  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; 1 edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231147309
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231147309
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,107,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Wallace is a master, guiding our inquiry into consciousness in exciting new directions.

(Shift 1900-01-00)

Thought-provoking and at times insightful, this volume raises many interesting philosophical issues and presents many useful references.

(Choice)

Anyone interested in understanding more about the mind and consciousness would enjoy reading this book.

(Marcia Howton Inquiring Mind 1900-01-00)

Review

Mind in the Balance addresses in a lucid, extremely well informed, and often quite original way what is now widely seen as the greatest lacuna in modern understanding: the actual nature of mind or consciousness. Its consistent advocacy of logical rigor, basis in a truly magisterial knowledge of Buddhist, Christian, and other contemplative practices, deep familiarity with contemporary scientific thinking, and imaginative and creative merging of all of these strands make this book a significant contribution to the field.

(Robert Mayer, University of Oxford)

Customer Reviews

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I think Mr. Wallace would agree fanaticism - any fanaticism - is at least counterproductive and at most, deadly.
Matthew J. Schimpf
And one of the greatest gifts this book gave me was a genuine and lasting motivation to explore my mind, and reach my inner depths of perfection.
Sarah Orbanic
Wallace for help with understanding the confluence of these traditions which I have been struggling to piece together by myself.
river run

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Matthew J. Schimpf on February 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Wallace does a Yeoman's job of condensing, polishing, explaining and reviewing ancient contemplative theories & practices; from both Buddhist and Christian perspectives and then uses modern science (quantum physics and neuroscience) to elucidate and flesh out the nature of the archaic but extremely relevant wisdom.

Between rigorously researched historical accounts and postulations of meditative principles, we are treated to exercises with which to practice and integrate those principles. This was quite a boon for me as my next step on the path is to learn and practice some form of meditation, and this book went a considerable distance in whetting my appetite.

The author articulates some very excellent, wise and cogent rationale as to why materialist/reductionist philosophy is just as stagnating, dogmatic and possibly harmful as the medieval R.C. Church and their insistence on the Ostrich maneuver. I think Mr. Wallace would agree fanaticism - any fanaticism - is at least counterproductive and at most, deadly. A Mind that is in balance will serve the world, its people and its master far more productively and joyfully than one in an impulsive, fanatical frenzy.

My only nit-picky complaints are: 1.) Alan, in most cases painted with a pretty broad brush, I wish he would have added some more detail; 2.) That said, the book could have been a bit longer - expanding on the exercises and maybe some more historical context; 3.) Alan is obviously a very practiced mediator and the language, analogies, metaphors and similes he used were to me; a bit too esoteric. I am at best a nascent practitioner, thus some of the concepts as explained were somewhat daunting.

Great work - 5 stars on the board, but I'm going with a real 4 ½ today.

UPDATE!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Brooklyn bookworm on June 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book deals a devastating blow to the cognitive sciences as practiced today. Wallace argues that cognitive scientists and neuroscientists hold materialism -- the view that consciousness can be explained on a physical level -- as dogma. These fields tend to dismiss what may be learned from direct contemplation of the mind. In a simple and brilliant stroke, Wallace shows materialism to be a faith-based view. Why? The physical basis of consciousness has not been established. Wallace quotes Christoph Koch, a leading neuroscientist at CalTech, who says that the relationship between consciousness and the physical brain remains a mystery.

Another deft move in the book is Wallace's revival of introspection as a means of understanding the mind. He revisits the early history of modern psychology when William James viewed introspection as a research method. Later, during the rise of behaviorism and the cognitive revolution, introspection was pooh-poohed as "unscientific." Behaviorists believed anything that could not be observed and measured empirically was not real. Wallace exposes this as nonsense. He suggests that meditation, being a direct experience of the mind, is akin to James' introspection, and has yielded profound insights into consciousness which can inform the cognitive sciences.

A third line of inquiry explores whether nature has an absolute reality outside of human perceptions, or instead, nature can only be understood through the language and tools we bring to bear on it (a Phenomenalist view). Wallace highlights the work of distinguished contemporary scholars and scientists who have arrived at the latter view. He ties this view back to the Buddhist teaching that the entire world emerges from the "substrate" and returns to it.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Orbanic on April 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book was exactly what I wanted and needed. I had always wanted to know the origins of meditation and contemplation. There are so many new age gurus teaching new age techniques, and what I wanted was the authentic techniques, that had been tried and tested. I wanted to get as close to the origins as possible, and that's exactly what this book offered me. Raised as a Christian I wanted to know how it all tied into Christianity, and Mind In The Balance so nicely brought it all together for me, and really helped create an even less dualistic view for me. I was also interested in what the latest research and studies science had on the subject, and this too was included in the book. I always thought that meditation was just about sitting on my cushion and not thinking about anything. Mind In The Balance opened my uneducated view, and offered many different types of meditation that I find exciting "exploration of the mind" as Alan Wallace calls it, is so much better then my previous attempts at spacing out. And one of the greatest gifts this book gave me was a genuine and lasting motivation to explore my mind, and reach my inner depths of perfection. Thank you!!!!
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Sheilah. Bockett on August 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
'Mind in the Balance' is difficult to review because the response depends on individual reasons for reading the book, which vary considerably - the differing reviews clearly demonstrate this. Meditation, after all, is a highly personal experience, yet Wallace has chosen to take an academic - even impersonal - approach to it. For me, that is a major drawback to this book.

While the author makes reference to a number of scientific studies in which meditation is shown to be beneficial, he gives no examples of specific practices in Christianity and Buddhism that we can evaluate or compare. As it is, we are given only a generic mindfulness meditation that is described in so many other books on the subject. Neither are we helped to understand the uniqueness of the meditation experience for individual practitioners, even within the same religion or belief.

Although not Christian as are other reviewers, I am nevertheless concerned that Wallace shows marked bias against Christianity in favour of his own Buddhist tradition. This is evident in the way he focuses on the negatives in early Christian dogma, but only the positives in evolved Buddhist teachings. For example, he refers to the focus on guilt in traditional Christianity, but makes no mention of early Gnosticism, which did not hold this belief. More importantly, he completely disregards present day traditions in Christianity such as the labyrinth-walking meditation movement led by the Rev Lauren Artress. (Sitting motionless is not considered by all traditions as prerequisite to the meditative state.) Such practices (as labyrinth walking) clearly resonate with Buddhism, especially in regard to mindfulness meditation, but are ignored by Wallace.
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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 (http://sbinstitute.com). He is also Chairman of the Thanypura Mind Centre (http://piamc.com) 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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Mind in the Balance: Meditation in Science, Buddhism, and Christianity (Columbia Series in Science and Religion)
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