Intro books for someone with science/philosophy background

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dharmafootsteps
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Intro books for someone with science/philosophy background

Post by dharmafootsteps » Sat Sep 22, 2018 7:57 am

I have a friend with an interest in learning more about Buddhism, but who hasn't read anything yet. She has a neuroscience background and is well educated in Western philosophy.

I'm trying to figure out what would be a good first read(s) for her. It's tricky to know what to start with. Her background is similar to my own, but I'm pretty sure that the books that have been most important to me e.g. 'Crystal and the Way of Light' would have sounded too 'out there' when I was first starting. I personally had a long slow process over many years, stumbling around different sources, gradually having my skeptical mind opened. It would be nice if by being pointed in a good direction that process could be shortened for her.

She's an open minded person, but I know for me, anything that sounded too mystical, and heavy on realms, mind treasures, bodhisattvas, dakinis, siddhis, rainbow bodies etc. without extensive explanation would have been off putting.

The first things that come to mind are 'Joy of Living' by Mingyur Rinpoche, or 'Open Heart, Open Mind' by Tsoknyi Rinpoche, but I'm interested to know if anyone has any other suggestions.

I imagine something written by a westerner who comes from a similar background, and assumes no prior knowledge, but is true to the tradition, could be an easy starting point.

humble.student
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Re: Intro books for someone with science/philosophy background

Post by humble.student » Sat Sep 22, 2018 8:07 am

I have the same sort of background as you, and sometimes wonder about this. I was recommended just today this book, which came out recently: https://global.oup.com/academic/product ... 0198732662

For Tibetan Buddhism, either of John Powers' introductions could do the trick.

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Lingpupa
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Re: Intro books for someone with science/philosophy background

Post by Lingpupa » Sat Sep 22, 2018 8:49 am

John Powers, yes, excellent, well said.
All the best
Alex Wilding
Stupa in the Snow blog at http://chagchen.org/

dharmafootsteps
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Re: Intro books for someone with science/philosophy background

Post by dharmafootsteps » Sat Sep 22, 2018 8:55 am

humble.student wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 8:07 am
I have the same sort of background as you, and sometimes wonder about this. I was recommended just today this book, which came out recently: https://global.oup.com/academic/product ... 0198732662

For Tibetan Buddhism, either of John Powers' introductions could do the trick.
Thank you, those look like good suggestions! I think in this case a John Powers book could be a good second book, after something that further peaks her interest.

Perhaps for full disclosure I should say that the reason she's interested in reading about Buddhism is that we're dating, and she knows my interest in the subject. So it's slightly different in that she didn't develop a desire to read about it on her own. Just now it's really just some combination of a degree of trust in my judgement, intellectual curiosity and open mindedness. Due to that I wasn't thinking of giving her something quite as thorough/academic as those books. I think something that appeals a little more on the emotional level, and gets across the 'why' of Buddhist practice, more than the details of its philosophical schools, history, lineages etc. Although perhaps that's not the best approach, it was just my intuition.

Actually, I just thought, a Matthieu Ricard book could potentially be a good shout for what I was considering.

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PSM
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Re: Intro books for someone with science/philosophy background

Post by PSM » Sat Sep 22, 2018 9:26 am

Alan Wallace has at least two books which might be suitable - Choosing Reality and Embracing Mind.
"The only virtue which cannot be faked is courage" - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
"Not practicing dharma is painful" - Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche
"We don't want to feel the weirdness of life." - James Low

rai
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Re: Intro books for someone with science/philosophy background

Post by rai » Sat Sep 22, 2018 9:27 am

Waking up by Sam Harris

Dvs
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Re: Intro books for someone with science/philosophy background

Post by Dvs » Sat Sep 22, 2018 12:32 pm

Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body





https://www.amazon.com/Altered-Traits-S ... 0399184384

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Queequeg
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Re: Intro books for someone with science/philosophy background

Post by Queequeg » Sat Sep 22, 2018 12:35 pm

Dhammapada.

Any hint of metaphysical will cause a well trained science-ist to recoil. The Dhammapada doesn't touch those nerves.

Edit - woops. Tibetan forum.

Good luck!
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

I think each human being has things to find out in his own life that are inescapable. They’ll find them out the easy way or the hard way, or whatever.
-Jerry Garcia

Bristollad
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Re: Intro books for someone with science/philosophy background

Post by Bristollad » Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:43 pm

I found these transcripts of Lama Yeshe valuable:
Image

available from https://www.lamayeshe.com/

Also this video from Ringu Tulku Rinpoche: What is Dharma Practice is clear and beautiful.


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Matt J
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Re: Intro books for someone with science/philosophy background

Post by Matt J » Sat Sep 22, 2018 4:33 pm

I suggest The Monk and the Philosopher: A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning of Life by Ricard and Revel. Ricard presents Buddhism pretty in-depth to his father, who is a philosophy professor. It tackles a lot of questions scientific-minded Westerners have about Buddhism. Ricard had another conversation with a neuroscientist, but I haven't read it.

https://www.amazon.com/Monk-Philosopher ... 0805211039

I've found that atheistic types appreciate Sam Harris' Waking Up and Stephen Batchelor's Buddhism Without Beliefs.
"The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation. All the qualities of your natural mind -- peace, openness, relaxation, and clarity -- are present in your mind just as it is. You don't have to do anything different. You don't have to shift or change your awareness. All you have to do while observing your mind is to recognize the qualities it already has."
--- Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

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Monlam Tharchin
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Re: Intro books for someone with science/philosophy background

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Sat Sep 22, 2018 5:14 pm

The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet, by Matthieu Ricard and Trinh Xuan Thuan

This is a very interesting book because I think it targets a specific audience like your friend. An astrophysicist and a Tibetan Buddhist monk talk about the Big Bang, quantum mechanics, cause/effect... Some high-level philosophy that I think would make a positive impression on a scientifically minded person.

May your friend discover the joy of the Dharma :smile:
Amitābha Buddha!
OM MA NI PE ME HUNG
TAYATA OM BEKANDZE BEKANDZE MAHA BEKANDZE RADZA SAMUDGATE SOHA

Pure Land Buddhism resources
* Teachings of Hōnen
* Jōdo-shū North America Buddhist Missions
* Free Pure Land books
* Taming the Monkey Mind
* Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith
* Pure Land Teachings of Master Chu-Hung

PeterC
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Re: Intro books for someone with science/philosophy background

Post by PeterC » Sat Sep 22, 2018 7:45 pm

Consider starting with Theravedan material if you’re worried about how the Mahayana will be received. The “science meets Dharma” genre is mostly a melange of half-baked science and watered-down Dharma, and can quite easily turn off someone with a serious scientific background. Much of it is nonsense. You may be better off going straight to the Dharma and letting your friend figure out what to do with it.

dharmafootsteps
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Re: Intro books for someone with science/philosophy background

Post by dharmafootsteps » Mon Sep 24, 2018 2:56 pm

Thank you all. Some really excellent looking suggestions here. I think some of these will be very interesting for me as well as her.

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Karma Dorje
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Re: Intro books for someone with science/philosophy background

Post by Karma Dorje » Mon Sep 24, 2018 6:02 pm

I second the books by Matthieu Ricard and B. Alan Wallace as they both have unassailable academic credentials from a hard science background. This book by Wallace might pique her interest:

Hidden Dimensions: The Unification of Physics and Consciousness

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/02311 ... l_vppi_i14
"Although my view is higher than the sky, My respect for the cause and effect of actions is as fine as grains of flour."
-Padmasambhava

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