Why Buddhism is True with Robert Wright

by Scott Barry Kaufman, August 13, 2017

This week we’re excited to have Robert Wright on The Psychology Podcast. Robert is the New York Times best-selling author of NonzeroThe Moral AnimalThe Evolution of God, and most recently Why Buddhism is True. He has also written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Time, Slate, and The New Republic, and has taught at The University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University, where he also created the online course Buddhism and Modern Psychology. Robert draws on his wide-ranging knowledge of science, religion, psychology, history and politics to figure out what makes humanity tick.

In this episode we cover:

  • How “taking the red pill” from The Matrix can be likened to the practice of mediation,
  • How and why “our brains evolved to delude us”,
  • If and how Buddhism gets you more in touch with “reality”, including the bottom-up processes of cognition,
  • Whether or not one can take parts of the practice too far,
  • How Buddhism can be beneficial for seeing beauty where you didn’t before,
  • Why our default state of consciousness isn’t necessarily good,
  • How this book might infer that evolutionary psychology is not a complete explanation for many human tendencies,
  • Why many feelings are illusions and how we know when they are,
  • Why it’s true that “the more we engage a ‘module’ the more power it has”,
  • Robert’s interpretation of what the Buddha really meant by the “non-self”, and how this does or does not conflict with one’s sense of identity.

In our conversation, Robert offers Buddhism as a solution for finding and sustaining happiness, exploring the interplay between Buddhist practices and evolutionary psychology in an unprecedented way. You may also find this episode interesting if you’re curious about whether it’s possible to see the world “accurately” or whether that’s even best for one’s well being. Enjoy!

Note to Psychology Podcast listeners: This happens to be the 100th episode of The Psychology Podcast. Thank you for your support! It’s been a fun journey so far, and we’re looking forward to the next 100 episodes!


3 Responses to “Why Buddhism is True with Robert Wright”

  1. Cherry says:

    Can’t find the download button. pls help:)

  2. Dannyzed says:

    Incredible many of good facts.
    Danny 🙂

  3. Nina says:

    I think it’s impor to understand that “emptiness” is not the lack of anything it is that all things we experience comes from us. Our past actions.
    This becomes more and more complex day to day because of the collective experience that we all experience together and separate.

    Beauty, truth and goodness is our natural state- but we create the seeds to experience otherwise ever second- (every finger snap) ~74,000 seeds are planted. According to Buddhist doctrine.
    This happens day in and day out and during sleep it’s our subtle subconscious it’s our direct behavior. Like creates like. A negative impulse creates a negative action. And vice versa. However karma doesn’t work like we think it does to some degree.
    Seeds are planted at different depths according to intention. If I react unkindly to a stranger vs someone I love those are 2 very different negitve karmas that I have just created planted and wil without doubt be experienced by my own mind again at some point. Remember seeds take time to grow. And the deeper they are planted the stronger they take hold.

    Mindfulness meditation and retreat are key. Finding a spiritual guide. And experimenting with your reality is essential to understanding your thoughts, words, deeds and purifying them through various Buddhist practices. But without mindfulness- shamata- moment to moment awareness practice in meditation we will have a very hard time experiencing what causes those issues to exist.

    I think this lecture danced around some fundamentals Buddhist concepts that are extremely complicated in society to understand. They take years to discover and students revive the same teachings from teachers often. I think this is a great way to get people to explore Buddhism I’m looking forward to reading a copy soon!

    Some foundational texts that are also helpful include Bodhisattvachayavitarya, or The Guide to the Bodhisattvas way of life, Pima chodren has published a translation as well as others.

    There are thousands of teachings and texts but you can start a meditation practice without any of those. Just be with yourself.

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