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Siddhartha's Brain

Product no.: 978-0062403872
A groundbreaking exploration of the "science of enlightenment," told through the lens of the journey of Siddhartha (better known as Buddha), by Guardian science editor James Kingsland.

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Publisher's Synopsis
In a lush grove on the banks of the Neranjara in northern India—400 years before the birth of Christ, when the foundations of western science and philosophy were being laid by the great minds of Ancient Greece—a prince turned ascetic wanderer sat beneath a fig tree. His name was Siddhartha Gautama, and he was discovering the astonishing capabilities of the human brain and the secrets of mental wellness and spiritual "enlightenment," the foundation of Buddhism.

Framed by the historical journey and teachings of the Buddha, Siddhartha’s Brain shows how meditative and Buddhist practice anticipated the findings of modern neuroscience. Moving from the evolutionary history of the brain to the disorders and neuroses associated with our technology-driven world, James Kingsland explains why the ancient practice of mindfulness has been so beneficial and so important for human beings across time.

Far from a New Age fad, the principles of meditation have deep scientific support and have been proven to be effective in combating many contemporary psychiatric disorders. Siddhartha posited that "Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think." As we are increasingly driven to distraction by competing demands, our ability to focus and control our thoughts has never been more challenged—or more vital.

Siddhartha’s Brain offers a cutting-edge, big-picture assessment of meditation and mindfulness: how it works, what it does to our brains, and why meditative practice has never been more important.

"This book isn't exactly a light read, but anyone interested in learning about meditation, neuroscience and the history of Siddhartha, the wandering sage who became Buddha, will find it fascinating. 'Buddhists assert that we can minimize suffering and maximize well-being through regular meditation and adherence to a strict code of behavior and thought,' writes Kingsland, Guardian science journalist.

In Siddhartha's Brain, Kingsland weaves ancient spiritual wisdom with today's latest scientific research about mindful practices and their effects on mental health. Whether you’re a skeptic or a true believer, exploring Siddhartha’s brain offers compelling insights and invites further questions about the potential of the human mind."     ~Chicago Tribune

"Guardian science editor Kingsland presents a fascinating exploration of the studies of enlightenment—where the experience of meditative spiritual practice meets the rigors of scientific research. Kingsland suggests that the ubiquitous presence of psychiatric illnesses may be alternatively understood as an 'extreme manifestation of ordinary human condition,' and if this is the case, the practice of meditation should (in theory) alleviate afflictions caused by a mental apparatus gone haywire.

To fix the errant mental system, Buddhism prescribes meditation: one pays attention to the breath, practices non-judgmental awareness, and calmly observes the landscape of thoughts. Kingsland skillfully dives in and out of various subjects—the neurological relaxation response to meditation, the difference between pain and suffering, emotional regulation—and effectively paints a neurological picture of the mind without devaluing Buddhism's spiritual image of cognition."       ~Publishers Weekly

"We are all mentally ill, said the smiling monk in the wide-brimmed hat, as if this explained everything. My partner and I were staying a couple of nights as guests at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, near Hemel Hempstead in the Chiltern Hills of southern England. I was a science journalist with the Guardian newspaper and had traveled up by train from London the previous day to interview the abbot, a kindly Englishman in his fifties named Ajahn Amaro, who has been trained in the strict Thai Forest tradition of Buddhism. The three of us stood in bright morning sunshine on a path that led between neat flower beds from the painted wooden huts of the monastery’s retreat center to a field of rough grass, where men and women were pacing very slowly and deliberately, each absorbed in a private world of his or her own. Some were walking back and forth between trees, following tracks worn in the grass by thousands of tramping feet. Others were relentlessly circling a bell-shaped, granite stupa at the center of the field.

A two-week retreat for about thirty laypersons had begun the previous evening, and this morning the abbot—the monk in the sun hat—had sent them out into the grounds to practice walking meditation. His observation about our collective neurosis took me by surprise, following as it did from my own observation that the otherworldly activity in the field reminded me of a scene from a zombie movie I once saw. On reflection, it wasn’t the most enlightened comment to direct to a revered Buddhist teacher or ajahn during a meditation retreat, but I was tired and grouchy after being awakened at four thirty in the morning by the monastery’s great brass bell being struck somewhere outside in the darkness, summoning us from our dormitory to the meditation hall for an hour of chanting and contemplation.

I only later discovered that in Buddhist philosophy, a human being is not considered completely sane until he or she has become fully enlightened. Buddhists believe the mechanism of the human mind is faulty, like a clock running too fast or too slow. No matter how rational or mentally fit we believe ourselves to be, much of our lives is spent obsessing about our social and professional standing, about getting sick and growing old, yearning for more of this and less of that, chewing over our faults and those of other people. Buddhists believe that our minds create dukkha: the suffering or sense of 'unsatisfactoriness' that is part and parcel of ordinary human existence, the incessant itch of wanting more pleasure and more possessions, trying to hold on to some experiences while frantically trying to push others away. To observe that everybody is mentally ill was the monk’s way of summing up this shared psychological predicament."

Author Kingsland, James
Coauthor Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 352 pp.
Publisher William Morrow 2017
Browse these categories as well: Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation, Theravada Suttas, Western Buddhism, Self-Help and Relationships, Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology, Ancient Mystic and Modern Scientific Parallelism, Noteworthy Releases 2017

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