- Series: MIT Press
- Paperback: 872 pages
- Publisher: The MIT Press; Reprint edition (July 2, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0262511096
- ISBN-13: 978-0262511094
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.5 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 51 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Zen and the Brain: Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness Reprint Edition
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Currently, to many scientists reductionism means fractionization rather than synthesis. In the last several decades, neuroscientists have increasingly fractionated the brain, but the mind-brain dichotomy remains to be resolved. James H. Austin's book Zen and the Brain attempts such a synthesis. Although he has not reduced this dichotomy to a unity, he has courageously started us on the road.(Kenneth M. Heilman M.D., The James E. Rooks Jr. Professor of Neurology, University of Florida College of Medicine)
Thanks to the unprecedented developments of the Neurosciences in recent years, we now possess (and in most cases enjoy) an enormous amount of new information about the nervious system and the human brain. However the progress of science would be sterile without an effort of synthesis aimed at putting together the results of previous work in order to understand the crucial element of the puzzle: the nature of consciousness. This is what Austin has done in his remarkable book and we should be all grateful to him for this demanding achievement.(Francois Boller, M.D., Professor of Neurology, Director, INSERM Unit 324, Centre Paul Broca)
This is a book written with passion and seriousness.(Psychoanalytic Books)
In this monumental work, the author marshals the evidence fromneuroscience to help clarify which brain mechanisms underlie the subjectivestates of Zen, and employs Zen to 'illuminate' how the brain 'works' invarious states of consciousness. By 'monumental' I refer not merely to thesize but to the breadth and depth of coverage of the book.(George Adelman, Editor of The Encyclopedia of Neuroscience)
... remarkable in its synthesis of the mystical point of view with the scientific.(Bodhi Tree Book Review)
About the Author
James H. Austin, a clinical neurologist, researcher, and Zen practitioner for more than three decades, is Professor Emeritus of Neurology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Courtesy Professor of Neurology at the University of Florida College of Medicine. He is the author of Zen and the Brain, Chase, Chance, and Creativity, Zen-Brain Reflections, Selfless Insight,Meditating Selflessly,and Zen-Brain Horizons, all published by the MIT Press. For more information, please visit www.zenandthebrain.com.
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As for the weakness, it’s that the book was written in the late 1990’s. Ordinarily, I would say that wouldn’t matter much, but concerning our understanding of the brain, it might as well have been the Stone Age—hyperbole duly noted. One doesn’t put together a book of almost 1000 pages overnight, and so much of the references for “Zen and the Brain” are actually from papers from the 1980’s and earlier. The fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine didn’t even come out until the early 1990’s, but—of course—it took a while for the studies featuring this powerful technology to reach publication.
The book is arranged into a whopping 158 chapters divided amongst 8 parts. Some of the chapters are pure neuroscience, and there are detailed descriptions of the brain and the functions of its various parts. Other chapters are designed to give one an insight into the practice of Zen and aren’t technical at all. The author has a reasonably engaging writing style when he’s not conveying the minutiae of brain science. He tells stories of his experience as a practitioner of Zen, and passes on the wisdom of past Zen masters.
I have an unconventional recommendation for this book, which I got so much out of. I recommend you first check out the book “Zen-Brain Horizons” put out by the same author and press (MIT Press) in 2014. While I haven’t yet read that book, it seems to hold three advantages. First, it’s only one-third as long and seems to cover similar material. Obviously, it goes into far less detail. (But you may find that a plus.) Second, the 2014 book is reasonably priced. “Zen and the Brain” is one of the most expensive books I’ve bought in recent years. I’m not saying I regret paying as much as I did, because it was a useful book, but cheaper would be better. Finally, the 2014 has the benefit of access to a lot of great research from the past couple decades. If you read the 2014 book and think you need more detail about the brain, then—by all means—get this book.
Most recent customer reviews
Not light reading. Take it slow.
It changed me. I love it. I buy it for fellow seekers.Read more