You haven't read Buddha's Brain (a bestseller in America)? Review - Buddha's Brain
The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom
by Rick Hanson
Some chapters are excellently researched and full of useful instructions for meditative practices, while are others are repetitive, contradictory, devoid of supporting research and dotted with apparent attempts to pass off personal speculation as scientific consensus. The chapters are summarized below, and are followed by a more detailed discussion of two problems that I see in the book: a tension between traditional Western and Buddhist values that sometimes spills over into outright contradiction and sloppy use of research after the initial section.
Buddha's Brain starts off with an introductory chapter that outlines the format and the purpose of the book, which is to inform the reader about scientific findings that support the idea that progressing along a "path of awakening" (9) can help them improve their brain and "become happier and more effective in daily life" (8). The rest of the book is divided into four parts: the causes of suffering, happiness, love, and wisdom.
Chapter thirteen advises us to relax 'the self', especially considering that the self is just an illusion. by discussing research into the neuronal constituents of 'the self' in a very illuminating manner, this chapter persuasively argues that what we think of as our self is really just a story pieced together by our brain to make sense of the great swath of experiences that our brains have remembered. Again, this chapter is very contradictory, but at least Hanson admits it (217). And, in further defense of Hanson on this point, it is very hard to discuss the idea that we have no 'self' using Western language without being contradictory ('I think that I have no self' does not make sense on any normal reading because in Western Parlance 'I' refers to the self).
The second major problem I have with this book is the haphazard way that research is used. The first section of the book, and a few other subsections, contain lots of relevant research. Unfortunately, though, most of the book contains claims that are not fully supported by the reference given or, more commonly, are not supported by research at all (in some cases this even occurs when relevant research has been conducted). Of the many authoritatively stated but unsupported claims, one example is on page 187, where Hanson claims that you can quieten your mind (the random thoughts that pop into your head) by using "the power of prefrontal intention". The claim is not explained, let alone supported by the results of any kind of test. In the same chapter Hanson presents the speculative theory of another researcher as if it were an uncontroversial fact – that "the brain will sometimes start to hallucinate imagery just to have new information to process" (179 – my emphasis added). Finally, an example of Hanson not citing research for his claims despite that research being readily available can be found in chapter four; Hanson claims that actively thinking about the good things that happened to you each day can help you become happier, but doesn't refer to research by positive psychologist Martin Seligman and his colleagues that provides fairly rigorous support for this claim. This sloppy application of research would normally be forgiven in a self-help book, but this particular book claims to be using the latest in science to inform practical methods for becoming happier, rather than relying on speculation and persuasive language.http://metapsychology.mentalhelp.net/po ... 443&cn=396