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

5,287 ratings
1,804 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

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.

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.

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26 - 50 of 1,774 Reviews for Buddhism and Modern Psychology

By Lynn W

Oct 26, 2020

I thought this was a great introduction to both modern Buddhist thought and evolutionary psychology. Professor Wright is an excellent lecturer, and his office hours are informative as well as amusing.

By Robert Q

Jul 7, 2020

What a great course! Learning and practicing of Buddhism and Buddhist meditation helped me relieve some stress and let go of unnecessary clinging. Great learning experience from an awesome professor.

By Alfredo P

Feb 18, 2016

Very very introductory. This course explores the Buddhist theory of suffering and liberation by comparing it to evolutionary psychological theories.

It is not a deep course on Buddhism - it lacks any substantive discussion of differences between Buddhist schools, of the difficulty of reconstructing the "historical" Buddha (a problem as difficult as reconstructing the "historical Christ"), of the fact that Buddhism as popularized in the West is actually quite different from any of the Asian forms of Buddhism, etc.

Also, evolutionary psychology is controversial in its own right - one criticism of it is that it creates "just-so" stories about the origins of mental processes that are impossible to verify (or falsify). These objections are well known, but are not confronted in the course.

A scholarly much sounder and deeper course is the one on Tibetan Buddhism from University of Virginia. It suffers from truly appalling presentation (the video lectures are some of the most boring I have ever watched), but the diversity of angles from which Buddhism is examined, and the depth of content are really outstanding.

By Ksenia Y

Jan 27, 2020

For me, this course is incredibly useful because it helped me build the basic skills of understanding myself and the world around us.

By Javier E A

May 9, 2020

A really interesting course for those who are looking for a view of Buddhism and Science converging together.

Highly recommended.

By Lucia C

May 10, 2020

Very insightful and great intro to Buddhism and psychology. Liked the way the course was formed and the whole platform for it.

By Elena O

May 10, 2020

Excellent course. Deep insights are presented in a brilliant way by Prof Wright.

By Yann M

Dec 31, 2018

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

By Marta M P

May 9, 2020

Buddhism and Modern Psychology takes to an existential and inspiring adventure.

By Luca S

Jul 7, 2019

Great teacher and awesome course, every module is very interesting

By Angel A T N

May 10, 2020

I suggest giving a better order to the structure of the course

By Tarun g

May 9, 2020

Amazing videos and knowledge full

Budhdham sharnam Gachchami

By Jon L M

May 9, 2020

Excellent, quick course with a great professor!

By Himanshu S P

May 18, 2020


By Jasmin C

Oct 16, 2016

Interesting introduction to Buddhism and psychology. Dr. Wright does a good job providing examples of how modern science supports Buddhist thoughts and ideas. He also invites a wide range of fascinating speakers from Buddhist monks to psychologists to weigh in on the subject. The quiz questions and essay assignments were a bit too easy.

By Davide L

May 19, 2020

The course is well articulated, subject are interesting and the forefront of the research between eastern practices and western discoveries. It teaches me many things and make me reflect on important buddhist topics.

But what about the way of teaching? Sorry to say that it doesn't make use of the opportunities of the audiovideo media. It has been quite hard for me to reach the end of the course even though I think to be a motivated pupil.

By 王文照

Jan 16, 2017


By Teresa S Y T

Jul 30, 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 David J

Aug 12, 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 John Q

Sep 10, 2020

I’ve been a fan of Robert Wright for 3 years. I was a bit lost and going through a difficult time 2017 and I found Robert Wright’s “Why Buddhism is True” at a book store and it really helped me. I read parts of it in the book store and It was like a life preserver in a rough ocean. Much of this course eventually became what was published in that book. I went back and re-read the book twice in 2018.

This course also introduced me to Paul Bloom’s “How Pleasure Works,” Rob KUzban’s “Why Everyone Else is a Hypocrite”, Douglas Kendrick’s “The Rational Animal,” and Judson Brewer’s “The Craving Mind”.

Another great book by Robert Wright is “The Moral Animal”. I highly recommend that one. Read it 2 or 3 times if you get a chance. He also wrote another good one called “The Evolution of God”. And another good book he wrote was “Non Zero”.

He also has a podcast that I highly recommend.

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 4, 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 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 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 Fran

May 11, 2020

The best psychological view of Buddhism I've ever seen