52 in 52 Book Summaries

Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom by Rick Hanson



Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom by Rick Hanson


The Essence

Considering traditional Buddhist philosophy and the latest findings in Neuroscience, Rick Hanson provides insight into the neural mechanisms that underlay the great contemplative practices of the Eastern tradition. The brains power of neuroplasticity gives solace to our mind’s capacities to change the connections in the brain using meditative exercises. Meditative practice cultivates happiness, resilience, and positivity and science has finally gathered empirical evidence to prove it.

Buddha’s Brain Journal Entry Notes:

This is my book summary of Buddha’s Brain. My notes are a reflection of the journal write up above. Written informally, the notes contain a mesh and mix of quotes and my own thoughts on the book. Sometimes, to my own fault, quotes are interlaced with my own words. Though rest assured, I am not attempting to take any credit for the main ideas below. The Journal write up includes important messages and crucial passages from the book.

• You are a human being like any other and just as deserving of happiness, love, and wisdom.

• Progressing along your path of awakening will make you more effective…Nurturing your own development is not selfish, it is a gift to other people.

• When you change your brain …you change your life.

• The bias of the brain tilts implicit memories in a negative direction, even when most of your experiences are actually positive.

• Unilateral Virtue: Guided by principle, live in your own innate goodness. When you are virtuous no matter what other people do, their behavior is not controlling you.

 The First and Second Dart:

1st “inescapable physical or mental discomfort” As long as you are, these darts will come.

2nd Our reactions; the ones we throw at ourselves. They often trigger more 2nd darts in association networks. ‘Chronic 2nd dart cascades’

• Most of our second-dart reactions occur when there is no first dart anywhere (No inherent pain in the WE ARE JUST ADDING SUFFERING condition)

• Kindness is its own reward. It is easy to be kind when others treat you well. The challenge is to preserve your loving-kindness when they treat you badly- to preserve goodwill in the face of ill will.

Wisdom: Come to understand what causes suffering and the path to its end. With such understanding, one must let go of things that hurt you and strengthen those that help.

Mindfulness: Skillfully use attention on your inner and outer world.

Virtue: Regulates your actions, words, and thoughts to create benefits rather than harm for yourself and others.

• Just because we have a sense of self does not mean that we are a self. The brain strings together heterogeneous moments of self-ing and subjectivity into an illusion of homogenous coherence and continuity. The self is truly a fictional character.

• How often do we place our convenience ahead if the life if another being, even an ant to a toilet? It’s not deliberately cruel, but it is self-centered.

• As you develop greater equanimity, your happiness becomes increasingly unconditional, not based on catching a good breeze instead of a bad one.

• Equanimity: The space around experience. A buffer between you, and the tones of feelings. With it, situations have only characteristics, not demands.

• Most fears are exaggerated: As you go through life, your brain acquires expectations based on your experiences, particularly negative ones. Due to negativity bias, most expectations of pain or loss are overstated.

• When you do fulfill a desire, the rewards are often not that great…Ultimately you have contributed to suffering.

• Intentions are a form of desire. Desire per se is not the root of suffering; craving is. They key is to have wholesome intentions without being attached to their results.

• The self is only one part of the person.

• Small positive actions every day will add up to large changes over time, as you gradually build new neural structures.

• Ill will tries to justify itself: only later do we see we have tricked ourselves.

• The mind is what the brain does.

• “If getting upset about something unpleasant is like being bitten by a snake, grasping for what is pleasant is like grabbing the snacks tail; sooner or later, it will bite you” –Ajahn Chah

If you liked what you saw. Here are 3 titles that I recommend based on what was discussed in Buddha’s Brain.

  1. Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment by Robert Wright
  2. The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh
  3. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Find the book on Amazon: Print | Audio

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