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Sleeping, Dreaming, and Dying: An Exploration of Consciousness Paperback – May 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


"...engrossing and highly readable..." -- Bookwatch, June 1997

Sleeping, Dreaming, And Dying is an exploration of Consciousness with the Dalai Lama edited and narrated by Francisco Varela. Sleeping, Dreaming, And Dying is the account of an historic dialogue between leading Western scientists and one of the foremost representatives of Buddhism today, the Dalai Lama of Tibet. Revolving around the three key moments of consciousness of sleep, dreams, and death. Sleeping, Dreaming, And Dying is engrossing and highly readable, whether the topic is lucid dreaming, near death experiences, or the very structure of consciousness itself, this unique exchange between the Dali Lama and philosopher Charles Taylor, psychoanalyst Joyce McDougall, psychologist Jayne Gackenbach, cultural ecologist Joan Halifax, and neuroscientist Jerome Engle will delight any reader with an interest in Buddhism, psychology, ;neuroscience, the alternative worlds of dream, and the afterlife. -- Midwest Book Review

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Tibetan

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications; Later Printing edition (May 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0861711238
  • ISBN-13: 978-0861711239
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #184,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 4, 1997
Format: Paperback
This book presents notes from a summit of several top thinkers in the fields of psychoanalysis, neurophysiology, Buddhism, Western philosophy and others. Completely unlike a collection of essays; you're presented with the rich, dynamic and fascinating syntheses of the theories from each of these fields. The dialog format emphasizes the creativity and intelligence of participants. Worth reading no matter which philosphy you endorse -- all the better if you have some interest in each! This book has that rare quality of really making you work your brain muscle AND being a book you can't wait to come home to after work. Don't skip a page
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58 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Saul Boulschett on May 25, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Can you imagine a conversation about the essence of art taking place between, oh, say, Picasso and art therapists who treat mental patients, and some chemists who concoct formulaes for oil paints? Something like that is taking place here. The title alone is enough to pique your interest, but the content is less than secret-divulging. If you're not a neurologist,or a specialist in a related area,then much of the material presented by the neurologist will be for all practical purposes useless. If you're not familiar with the basic assumptions of esoteric buddhist psychology, then much of what HH Dalai Lama has to say will sound like so much dogma or articles of faith. I know next to nothing about brain sciences, but am academically acquainted with the buddhist conception of reality, so I found what the Dalai Lama had to say both interesting and amusing. Interesting, because he speaks as plainly as he can about things that are usually wrapped in some hairy buddhist language. Amusing, becuase the Dalai Lama would show utmost courtesy in listening to all the dry academic presentations, which even I found somewhat tedious, and then offer his views about the matter at hand by often beginning with what sounds like a gentle correction rather than a positing of difference of perspective only. I paraphrase from memory: "Well, your numbers and theories are all very nice, but no, it's actually like this." Some of the discussions on REM, and animal responses to dream states are interesting, but just merely interesting. Better on the Discovery channel. Much of the philosopher Charles Taylor's presentations concerning the Western/Christian conception of the Self is reliable but elementary. And dealing with the subject matter at hand, even an eminent philosopher can do only so much with Ratio alone.Read more ›
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be a little dry at times but nonetheless provides some useful explanations on the myths which have been with the human race since the ancient time: dream, sleep and death.
From a buddhist perspective it helps reinforces the belief (at least not disproved it) of buddhist that there is a higher level of consciousness not yet been measured via any scientific means. From a scientific standpoint, the book has summarised the recent developments in neuroscience and showed us that there is a possibility one day both religion and science will meet face to face and one would have to change the fundamental concepts one used to hold. It could be the scientific community or the religious groups. At least HH the Dalai Lama is very open to the ideas in the book while the scientists were at times pretty "close" and reluctant to take a different perspective which made some of them sounded a little bit defensive.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Swing King on March 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
I'm not sure why this book received all the bad reviews that it did (though I confess I have never given a Dalai Lama book less than a 5 start review-I love the guy!). The book is one of a plethora of transcripts of the Mind and Life Conferences held in India, this being the fourth conference in 1992. Sure the discussions are varied, and by no means is everyone simply in agreement with one another here. But the dialogue is engaging and thought provoking, and above all else, illuminating. At the conference we had philosophers, neuroscientists, psychologists, and many more; so of course we are going to get a huge spectrum of views.
The cultural ecologist, Jane Halifax (whom you all may know of), had a particularly fascinating section in here on near death experiences. All the Dalai Lama did was show some uncertainty as to the validity of these claims in light of the Buddhist view of a natural death and rebirth. So what if the Dalai Lama didn't agree with her, you don't have to have agreement to have a good book! Differentiating views provide all of us more food to chew on, and then decide which works for us. It's not a matter of who had it right, but rather, "Does it sound right to you?"
Enjoy the book!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kieran Fox on July 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
Don't get me wrong: the Mind and Life institute is doing good and necessary work, and some of their publications I thought were excellent (e.g., The Dalai Lama at MIT) and provide some real food for thought. This book is simply not in this class, however. As the reviewer above noted (Sagan Lazar), what we have here is people who speak completely different languages (literally and figuratively) lecturing each other with little or no real 'dialogue.' There are some occasional interesting diversions, but these are very much the exception rather than the rule.

The conversation on dreams, my own primary interest and field of research, is particularly disappointing. Almost the entire 'Western' section is devoted to the Freudian view! I was shocked that these speakers weren't embarrassed and ashamed to bring to the table a psychology as pauper, outmoded and frankly ridiculous as Freud's, especially when they were sharing that table with people well-acquainted with the vast, subtle Buddhist psychology. As if this were all the 'West' had to offer! The lucid dreaming section is better, but then the Tibetan Buddhist view on dreams doesn't really have anything to do with them... the Dalai Lama mostly rambles on about consciousness and self, then about 2 pages are devoted to 'dream yoga'; but even this section is mostly just platitudes and vague mentions of how diet affects dreaming. None of the very interesting and practical dream yoga advice you can find in other Tibetan works such as "Ancient Wisdom" by Gyatrul Rinpoche and translated by Alan Wallace (highly recommended).

Death: again the section is mildly interesting, but 'dialogue' is conspicuously absent.
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