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

5,294 ratings
1,807 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 15, 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 2, 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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By Irina R

Jan 9, 2018

A complete novice in the topic, I really apreciated the course. It allowed me to emmerge into the subject of Buddhist philosophy; it also opened the door to the evolutionary psychology. I have an impression to get a lot out of the course. Especially in terms of "what to learn next". My curiosity is on its highest now ;) - I think it is the best a student can get.

A university lecturer myself, I appreciated the way Robert delivered his lectures. Very animated, well paced and supported by a good portion of "side discussions", interviews and references to the literature, the course was mostly seamless and easy to follow. The analytical approach that Robert practices in the course also speaks a lot to me: every concept is explained and put into the context, providing the logical links to the other concepts discussed.

The lecture on the week 6 was the hardest for me: it seems like my lack of background in the subject became critical by that time. Or, probably, following the course during a trail running is not the best approach :). Any way, compared to the previous lectures (for example, the modular mind concept was very well debated), the concepts of "Morality" and "Naturalistic Buddhism" seemed fuzzy to me.

For example, from the course, I cannot get clearly a definition of moral truth. What is "moral" according to the Buddhist teaching or according to the evolutionary theory any way? I seemed to miss the point on how the "ethics" comes to play. I also did not grasp: What are the characteristics of Naturalistic Buddhism? (any differences with secular Buddhism or other schools? Sure, one can learn it on wikipedia. But to ensure the seamless lecture flow, this could be a good introduciton). Bottom line: the topic requires probably more structured and profound analysis.

Besides all said, I tried to catch up with the support materials and was mostly interested by video interviews - the darwindharma web site is most helpful. Having not much time to sit in the forum, I appreciated a lot the Office hours as they provided a sort of digest of the students' feedback.

Now I have the "Moral Animal" sitting on my bedside table. Time to read :) If you read this review considering to take the course - DO IT!

------ Irina Rychkova,

Associate Professor in Information Science,

University Paris 1, Pantheon-Sorbonne, France.

By Andressa K M T

Oct 16, 2020

it requires persistence because some lectures can be tiring, especially depending on how your day was, but as i find the subject very interesting for me was not hard to focus again on what professor wright was saying. but other lectures are very easy to follow and the same apply to the interviews: excepting one that i didn't even finished, the majority were sufficiently interesting to go through and a few really interesting, like the ones with goldstein, paul bloom and bhikkhu bodhi. all of the interviewees were people whose work were resource material. we can download all the video lectures and the interviews (these in mp3 format). i also liked a lot the suggested resources, like a link of bhikkhu bodhi lectures (which we can also download), the first two sermons Buddha gave after attaining nirvana and the main book to the course, the foundations of buddhism by rupert gethin (in the first week we had to read a few chapters and this can take up some time), it is introductory and it appies just to my level of knowledge of Buddhism. professor wright is not a specialist neither is Buddhism nor Psychology and doesn't pretend to be. nevertheless he takes up the work and really makes the effort to offer a good quality course. also, the course is not that serious, is just a way of getting to know a bit about a particular tradition of Buddhism which is thought to have similarities to modern psychology, particularly evolutionary psychology. there are forums of discussion, but i didn't participated in them and recorded office hours, of the early years of the course, as an additional resource.

By Hasan E

Aug 18, 2019

Some reference to existentialism could be helpful, I believe, in relation to Buddhist idea of breaking the bondage of Samsara (existentialist ideas on creating meaning for life, assuming responsibility for it, and rebelling against the status quo, would perhaps go hand-in-hand with Buddhist doctrine of the cessation for suffering. Besides, dependent arising and karma could have been tackled a bit more - the flow of consciousness from one life to the other without the necessity for a 'self' to be. That line of reasoning as a third alternative to Deistic religions and materialism, perhaps, is the brightest allure of Buddhist, and not Hinduist, doctrine of rebirth.

I loved Prof. Wright's personal and fun way of engaging with students (specifically during office hour videos). However, presentation in videos could sometimes easily get distracting (30 minutes of directly facing you and listening to you, sir, is a bit hard to sustain attention - enrichment with video materials or short clips could further the active interest of students imho).

I am so happy to have been part of this journey with you.

By Daniel N d S

Jan 24, 2019

This course makes a sincere effort to bring together Psychology and Buddhism. Although it can be very informative on Buddhist views and ideas, in particular kind of dissecting them individually, it also can be misleading when tries to interpret the Dharma without a deeper understanding of Non Duality. For example, based on the teachings of great Buddhist masters, I strongly disagree that Emptiness is a form of removing "essences" from phenomena rather than clearly "seeing" the lucidity of reality and the creative aspect of the mind that build and transforms that "essences" - and even get attached to its creations. There is so much more to explore, for example, the idea that real Emptiness experience cannot be explained by concepts and words, which are just pointers to a Deeper Truth. To be fair I think this may be beyond the field of Modern Psychology.