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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Buddhism and Modern Psychology by Princeton University

3,382 ratings
966 reviews

About the Course

The Dalai Lama has said that Buddhism and science are deeply compatible and has encouraged Western scholars to critically examine both the meditative practice and Buddhist ideas about the human mind. A number of scientists and philosophers have taken up this challenge. There have been brain scans of meditators and philosophical examinations of Buddhist doctrines. There have even been discussions of Darwin and the Buddha: Do early Buddhist descriptions of the mind, and of the human condition, make particular sense in light of evolutionary psychology? This course will examine how Buddhism is faring under this scrutiny. Are neuroscientists starting to understand how meditation “works”? Would such an understanding validate meditation—or might physical explanations of meditation undermine the spiritual significance attributed to it? And how are some of the basic Buddhist claims about the human mind holding up? We’ll pay special attention to some highly counterintuitive doctrines: that the self doesn’t exist, and that much of perceived reality is in some sense illusory. Do these claims, radical as they sound, make a certain kind of sense in light of modern psychology? And what are the implications of all this for how we should live our lives? Can meditation make us not just happier, but better people? All the features of this course are available for free. It does not offer a certificate upon completion....

Top reviews


Nov 16, 2015

I have been practicing meditation for two years already.In so far I have attended all Deepak Chopra meditation experiences which I found very helpful but not as helpful this course provided me so far.


Mar 03, 2016

Engaging content and excellent pace. While the level is introductory (I'd have liked a bit more depth), I would expect this from a lower-division/breadth course—and even more so from a MOOC like this.

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1 - 25 of 948 Reviews for Buddhism and Modern Psychology


Feb 21, 2019

¿Y si la mente al recibir un alimento "sano de verdad..." se desarrollara hacia insospechados límites?.

¿Y si en verdad lo hiciere...?.

Meditar, autoobservarse y observarlo todo sin prejuicios, seguramente nos acerca desde nuestra mayor calma, a ser más protagonistas en la construcción de un mundo mejor.

By Iromi P

Dec 23, 2018

This is a great effort which should be appreciated. Just because at a time like this, some are curious to know about the Buddhism, & with the psychological background, which adds more value for this.

By Rach B

Jul 20, 2016

I loved this course so much. It gave me personal clarity. I also find Prof. Wright's examples amusing, as he connects Buddhism and modern psychology to the mundane things in life, like donuts. :)

By Marie W

Jan 22, 2019

Highly, highly recommended to people suffering from a psychiatric illness and/or PTSD.

By Jaime A C F

Jul 03, 2019

Professor Robert Wright did a remarkable job linking the main concepts of Buddhist tradition with many valuable concepts and ideas that have been provided by scientific research, evolutionary psychologists, experienced meditators, and other experts. The course offers a wonderful opportunity for western students to get closer to the world of Buddhist philosophy, from a point of view that is compatible with western thought, science, and philosophy. I totally recommend it.

By Chloé V

Mar 03, 2016

Engaging content and excellent pace. While the level is introductory (I'd have liked a bit more depth), I would expect this from a lower-division/breadth course—and even more so from a MOOC like this.

By Vit C

Nov 16, 2015

I have been practicing meditation for two years already.In so far I have attended all Deepak Chopra meditation experiences which I found very helpful but not as helpful this course provided me so far.

By Yann M

Dec 31, 2018

Amazing course. Would recommend to everyone. This is what MOOCs are meant to be!

By Luca S

Jul 07, 2019

Great teacher and awesome course, every module is very interesting

By Richard H

Aug 22, 2016

Thank you for the course. I don't like the absolute assumption that mankind evolved from a non human life form. Natural selection and how it is discussed in this course is allright to do, but not to make scholarly assumptions as to how mankind came to be. The professor can clearly describe natural selection processes without the assumption that human evolution from supposed beings in a very scant fossil record is a proven fact. That is the only part of the course that I did not like. The constant assumption that evolution is correct takes a lot away from this course. My concern is that this assumption is taken because there seems to be no particular Creator in the Buddhist relgious tradition. That does not mean that evolution should be given additional weight. I do not consider it a hard science such as mathematics, physics, even climate change science is far more concrete than supposed human evolutionary origins. Professors should focus upon clearly explaining that evolution is a theory. Buddhism and Pschology are more concerned with the present and consciousness and what IS...not upon weak theories like evolution. I was disappointed with the Professors consistent referrral to Natural Selection as though there is no human control over what we are doing, no moral standard the religion helps to set us apart from the animal evolutionary view of humanity. It simply is not fact, not hard science. However, what we can observe and see is hard science, including the effects of Meditation upon our brains and this is a very positive part of the course and for Buddhism.

By Teresa S Y T

Jul 31, 2016

An absolute gem! Professor really presents the right breadth and depth required whether you are new to Buddhism, experienced Buddhist practitioner or someone who just want to know the Buddhism and its correspondence with Modern psychology (or someone who just want to analyse and review validity either/or/both Buddhism and Modern psychology for themselves). Professional also makes exceptional effort to interview some of the most important names in Modern psychology and Buddhism researches to interpret scriptures and shares their empirical experiences.

I must admin, the first 2 weeks was a little tedious for me as those are concepts that I am quite familiar with and that on a practical level, it was introducing fundamental Buddhism concepts, its scholastic interpretations and the importance of experiential aspect of meditation, all of those I was both familiar with (on an experiential level) and contains an academic depth that was not exactly required by me.

But from week 3 onwards that's where things get SUPER interesting and fascinating. Professor start debunking different interpretations of the "No-self" notion taught by Buddhism's 2nd sermon. This is an aspect of Buddhism that I always had difficulty accepting its mainstream interpretation and voila - the 3 parts lecture really clears all the mist for good. Office hour provides further doubt clearing and discussions forums are active and bustling with students with all arrays of discussions!

A completely random sidenote: This course provides a bonus perks for dog lover from week 2 office hours onwards... :D

By William G

Nov 03, 2018

I found this course fascinating. The course is developed by Robert Wright who published the book "Why Buddhism is True." Really made a strong case, within the context of evolutionary psychology and modern neuroscience, of the "truth" behind Buddhist practices and their philosophy about the world. This course strips away the spiritual aspects in a non-denigrating fashion, focuses on the core concepts, examines their accuracy in context of Western evolutionary understanding of the natural world and how the human brain was designed to function via natural selection.

Many of the claims made by Buddhist spiritual practitioners about how they've come to experience existence is generally at odds with how neurotypical people experience the world. However, if you're open to the assertion that meditative practices may change the way the brain operates and interested in how natural selection may have wired us in a way that both obscures our perceptions of reality and lead us to feel unsatisfied, even the most staunch secularist may come to appreciate how the Buddhist prescription may bring a type of Enlightenment congruent with the natural world.

By Pramod A

May 17, 2016

Language fails in describing the Buddha's teaching of concepts such as Non-Self and the experience of deep meditation common to long-time meditators. This is even harder when you consider many learners are from the Western tradition represented by logic, rationale, science, and monotheism. Yet Professor Wright has done a brilliant job of getting the learner to understand what the Buddha taught, using language, metaphors, office hours and interviews with many scientists, scholars and monks to do so very well.

More than the cerebral understanding of the content of any book I have read on Buddhism, I can honestly say I now have a far clearer understanding of the profoundness of the Buddha's teaching and why he insisted we all have to find our own way. I will even go so far as to say I now don't really see my much vaunted mind as my true self. In that sense, this is truly mind-blowing! For that, my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Professor Wright and to his interview guests.

By Mismak Z

Mar 10, 2017

One of my ALL-TIME favourite courses on Coursera. I reaped so much joy of this course. As a baby meditator, I was first captured by the interest to see the parallels between mindfulness meditation and evolutionary psychology, and I'm very happy to have seen the latest scientific findings that corroborate some of the teachings of the Buddha. Mr. Robert Wright - the professor - is smart, authentic and fun. His lectures are well-crafted and well-sequenced. I especially enjoyed going through most of the supplemental course materials which included book readings and video interviews. These were thoughtfully selected to back up Prof. Wright's hypothesis and suppositions, and the interviews were conducted by himself with various scholars both in the scientific and Buddhist realms. I totally enjoyed the office hour videos which were useful and fun. I'm saving all of the course materials- that's how good it was. Thank you, Mr. Wright. May you be happy, peaceful and liberated! :-)

By David J

Aug 13, 2016

I have just completed this course. This is my first attempt to understand Buddhism and have approached this with all the biases inherent in having lived my whole life as a Westerner who has spent very little time trying to understand mysticism or meditation. The abstract concepts of Buddhist thought stretched my mind greatly and at times I had to stop the video just to reflect on some concept so abstract I had to play segments of the video lecture over and over again. Dr Wright seems to labor greatly on getting his explanations as plain and straightforward as he could. He held my attention without gimmicks and if I didn't get the point the first time, the video playback format made it possible for me to go over one point or another as I needed. If you come with all the usual Western bias and baggage toward Eastern (in this case Buddhist) concept and thought and would like to learn. This is the place to start. You won't be disappointed.

By Kristoffer H

May 31, 2017

This is a good course on the intersection of Buddhist ideas and modern science (specifically evolutionary psychology and cognitive sciences). Professor Wright has managed to make a very cohesive course; the topics that are covered flow and progress in a very nice way, the back-and-forth between religious and scientific ideas goes smoothly, and the course doesn’t try to cover too many topics given its length. Wright manages to bring up philosophical ideas and theories associated with scientific discoveries in a thought-provoking way — he doesn’t tell you what to think as much as he guides you through different ideas and counter-ideas. This is helped by the weekly office hours, were Wright reflects on the past week and brings up points brought up by students. I’ve appreciated Wright’s obvious humble and reflective attitude towards the subject.


Apr 05, 2018

I was inspired to take Robert Wright's course Buddhism and Modern Psychology after reading the book he researched and wrote while teaching this course, with the provocative title Why Buddhism is True. I've read Wright's previous books The Moral Animal, NonZero and The Evolution of God. Wright's academic interests lie at the intersection between Darwinian evolutionary psychology, religion and moral philosophy. This course and his latest book offer convincing arguments for why scientific evidence supports both the Buddhist diagnosis of the "human predicament" and its prescriptions for coping with, if not exactly overcoming, the inevitable dissatisfaction and displeasure that we all experience. I highly recommend the course to anyone interested in this particular perspective and especially to the religious skeptics and empiricists out there.

By Joanne Q

Dec 17, 2016

The content of the course is accessible for those newer to the study of Buddhism or psychology, at the same time offering new and intriguing ideas and resources for folks like myself who have some experience in both studies. Dr. Wright does a brilliant job of guiding the student through the materials using interview videos with experts from across disciplines. If any changes were to be made to this course, I would suggest incorporating other kinds of videos and adding a reference list of all the research referenced during the course (providing the research would be especially awesome - the Science of Happiness course does a brilliant job of this). Many thanks for the opportunity to learn from and dialogue with Dr. Wright and all his accomplished and interesting guests.

By Dorothy H

Feb 04, 2016

This might be the best course I've ever taken anywhere! My opinion is based on deep personal interest in meditation and psychology so might be biased, but I also actually designed my own degree of Buddhism and Psychology decades ago and have taken a great many courses and have quite a bit of experience in both subjects. I have been meditating for almost 40 years and now meditate once every four hours. Hearing someone lecture so eloquently while incorporating the input of actual meditators and his own meditation experience as well as rigorous academic and scientific discussion was an absolute delight. Also, the professor is downright charming in his office hours segments. I would give this course 10 stars if I could!

By Sean M

Nov 15, 2016

Outstanding course. I had been meditating for a year prior to taking this course and was just beginning to see the long-term benefits of the practice. I am not a spiritual person. My interest in religion goes only as far as it's impact on culture and society. I have been pursuing Buddhist philosophy and practice to the extent that it has shown substantive scientific benefits. I was really getting interested in the intersecting links between Buddhist thought and practice and the underlying science behind the results when this course came along. It was everything I hoped it would be. The material was relevant and thought - provoking and Professor Wright did an amazing job with its presentation.

By Yair D

Dec 13, 2016

Very interesting topic and material (I especially liked the results presented from Psychology research)! The teaching is very good with good pacing and clear presentation of the material (I also liked Prof. Wright's somewhat dry sense of humor, personally).

The load is a bit demanding for a working person if you insist on doing all the extra reading and viewing the extra material (which I did anyway, because it was interesting and I am stubborn :) ) but it's only 6 weeks so you can pull through it, or just stay with the core.

I got out of this course with many interesting ideas to think about, and with 2 books I from which I read some chapters that I would very much like to go on and read completely.

By Kevin B

Dec 17, 2016

I got a lot out of this course. While the curriculum was by necessity very condensed, I thought that Dr. Wright did an impressive job of organizing the progression of concepts and including key information. The interviews he conducted with guest speakers in each of the lectures were helpful, and relevant to the topics being discussed. I also appreciated the supplementary reading materials included with each week's lesson. Most of all, I enjoyed Dr. Wright, who has a very relaxed, common sensical approach to what he's discussing. I would recommend this class to anyone who has interest in the topic and also to anyone who wants to learn from a very knowledgeable and effective teacher.

By Alberto G C

Jan 11, 2016

Very delightful course as it is more than well taught and full of interesting data, opinions and experiments. The videos are very helpful and provide us of a large names to look for and read about. The resources are pretty enough and interesting. Office hours have been a discover: great questions from students and "being at home chatting with Robert" feeling all around.

I appreciate so much Robert´s enthusiasm and above all, his natural and funny way to explain course concepts with his dogs or with his attachments to dark chocolate or powdered sugar doughnuts.

Many thanks to Robert and to all the technical stuff for providing us this course with all the work they had done.

By Nighat M

Jul 07, 2017

This is a wonderful course, both in terms of well-organized content, office hours and reference materials and in terms of insights it provides into a Buddhist way of life. I also enjoy the interviews Prof Wright conducts on Meaningoflife.tve.

I have benefited tremendously from regularly listening to the lectures and the reading materials assigned for this course, and have recommended it to several friends. Prof Wright is a great teacher, and I love his elegant, understated sense of humor.

I haven't been active on the discussion forum or FB. Nor have I been able to submit the first assignment yet, but this does not mean I am not following the course diligently.

By Mariam A

Oct 17, 2017

Excellent course! I had the chance of taking it around the same time Prof. Wright's book, Why Buddhism is True, hit the shelves, so I enjoyed reading several interviews about the book and the subject of this course in mainstream Buddhist online magazines and publications. It was really interesting to put it all in perspective and read the critiques' opinion pieces too. The course itself is very well organized, the structure is clear, with many references, good examples, even anecdotes. Dr Wright's teaching style is lighthearted and enjoyable, yet very clear and on point. If you have an interest in evolutionary psychology and Buddhism, don't miss this course.