Buddhism and Modern Psychology

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9/10 stars
based on  10 reviews
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Coursera online courses
Coursera's online classes are designed to help students achieve mastery over course material. Some of the best professors in the world - like neurobiology professor and author Peggy Mason from the University of Chicago, and computer science professor and Folding@Home director Vijay Pande - will supplement your knowledge through video lectures. They will also provide challenging assessments, interactive exercises during each lesson, and the opportunity to use a mobile app to keep up with yo...
Coursera's online classes are designed to help students achieve mastery over course material. Some of the best professors in the world - like neurobiology professor and author Peggy Mason from the University of Chicago, and computer science professor and Folding@Home director Vijay Pande - will supplement your knowledge through video lectures. They will also provide challenging assessments, interactive exercises during each lesson, and the opportunity to use a mobile app to keep up with your coursework. Coursera also partners with the US State Department to create “learning hubs” around the world. Students can get internet access, take courses, and participate in weekly in-person study groups to make learning even more collaborative. Begin your journey into the mysteries of the human brain by taking courses in neuroscience. Learn how to navigate the data infrastructures that multinational corporations use when you discover the world of data analysis. Follow one of Coursera’s “Skill Tracks”. Or try any one of its more than 560 available courses to help you achieve your academic and professional goals.

Provider Subject Specialization
Humanities
Sciences & Technology
4639 reviews

Course Description

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 attentio...

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?

Reviews 9/10 stars
10 Reviews for Buddhism and Modern Psychology

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Rankings are based on a provider's overall CourseTalk score, which takes into account both average rating and number of ratings. Stars round to the nearest half.

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Pavel Klammert profile image
Pavel Klammert profile image
7/10 starsCompleted
  • 11 reviews
  • 9 completed
4 years, 5 months ago
Loved the topic! But the quality isn't that great. Videos are slow, sometimes not clear. Topic and idea 9/10 Presentation 5/10 entertaining 4/10
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H . profile image
H . profile image
9/10 starsCompleted
  • 11 reviews
  • 10 completed
4 years, 5 months ago
Note: I only watched the lectures and didn't do any assignments or participate in the forums. I think that class is groundbreaking. I found the lectures very interesting and reflected and expanded many of my own thoughts in the common area between meditation and psychology. It was great to see someone start the conversation in a field that I believe should be researched much more extensively. Many of the ideas in the course are Robert Wright's own. You might feel that most of them are hand-wavy. You'll often hear "so it does make sense that..." But that's to be expected. In a sense, this class is like philosophy. Some of his ideas, you can be ready to accept, many you'll have to designate as contrived. The lecturer is quite engaged in the forums and loves to record office hours addressing many of the students' questions.
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Student

9/10 starsCompleted
4 years, 6 months ago
Although, I am a Christian by faith, I found the Buddhism and Modern Psychology course interesting, challenging and soul searching. Dr Wright is an excellent tutor, and makes his video lectures interesting with the aid of his two canine assistants. As a martial arts practitioner, I have experienced Zen Buddhism and meditation techniques. This course dwells more on the philosophical aspect of self and not self. And the relationship between Buddhism and Psychology. Now days, there is a growing trend for psychologist to use Buddhists concepts to help treat their patients. I would have like for this course to also cover meditative aspects, to help those interested in the subject of becoming one with oneself.
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Rich Dorfman profile image
Rich Dorfman profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
4 years, 6 months ago
Dr Wright combines expertise in evolutionary psychology with passion for philosophy and meditation to provide keen insight into theory and practice of "Western Buddhism." I appreciated historical perspective of Sanskrit and Pali canon and stimulating analysis of sutra, delivered with humor and compassion. Ably assisted by his two canines, themselves well advanced in the dharma, Dr Wright directly addressed student questions and engaged the class in lively discussion across online forums, facebook & twitter.
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
4 years, 6 months ago
This was my fifth Coursera course, so I'm very familiar with the mode of instruction. Prof. Wright delivered the lectures in a very understated, conversational tone and included interviews with experts on various topics. He did something I've never seen before; he had office hours where he would address questions or comments from the discussion fora. That added a very nice element to the course. All in all, this was a wonderful course. It was a great introduction to the intersection between Buddhism and evolutionary psychology. I enjoyed everything about the course--the lectures, the readings, the content, the delivery, and especially the office hours. Prof. Wright is an amazing teacher. I hope he offers the course again soon. Thank you!
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
4 years, 6 months ago
I did not know much about the teachings of the Buddha. Although I have meditated 20+ years, using a different path and approach. So I wanted to know more about the teachings of the Buddha. I believe that I came into the course with some foundation about meditative practices and that was a great help to me regarding understanding the concepts or "not-self", "emptiness", etc. I found the lectures about modern psychology and evolutionary psychology the most helpful. Prof. Wright's comprehensive knowledge of the field really helped me. He was able to bring to the discussion the relevant points and debate to the class. Prior to this course I had attempted my own study of the subjects Buddhism and some psychology and was overwhelmed by the task... determining what is important, what is relevant... should I read this book or that book etc.? Thank you Prof. Wright for making sense out of it all. I liked the forums, although some posters did ... I did not know much about the teachings of the Buddha. Although I have meditated 20+ years, using a different path and approach. So I wanted to know more about the teachings of the Buddha. I believe that I came into the course with some foundation about meditative practices and that was a great help to me regarding understanding the concepts or "not-self", "emptiness", etc. I found the lectures about modern psychology and evolutionary psychology the most helpful. Prof. Wright's comprehensive knowledge of the field really helped me. He was able to bring to the discussion the relevant points and debate to the class. Prior to this course I had attempted my own study of the subjects Buddhism and some psychology and was overwhelmed by the task... determining what is important, what is relevant... should I read this book or that book etc.? Thank you Prof. Wright for making sense out of it all. I liked the forums, although some posters did not contribute to the discussion in a positive way. They would go off topic or post comments that showed frustration or lack of insight. Or their posts would be belligerent. Some posters asked sincere questions about the more difficult concepts and that was helpful to read.
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
4 years, 6 months ago
I am an 80 yr old mostly retired physician. As such I was trained in psychology and evolution. However, evolutionary psychology was very new to me. I have meditated some over the years and have studied Buddhism. I was familiar with the Sanskrit & Pali terms. Thus I appreciated the difficulty of Prof Wright's task of explaining anatta doctrine etc. to a general and invisible audience. I feel Prof Wright's linking of evolutionary psychology was fascinating. I also appreciated the human touch of including his dogs Milo & Frazer. Considering the format of online courses, I doubt it could have been done much better. He responded well to feedback. The bibliography was good and the speakers also have an ample list of publications for continued study of the subjects presented. I bought a number of their books and am still reading them. This course compared very well to others I have taken. There was nothing I disliked about the course
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
4 years, 6 months ago
I think that this was an excellent course appealing to both beginners and advanced Buddhist students. I learned a lot from the course and the teacher's style was excellent. I especially enjoyed Frazer and Milo. I think he went out of his way with extra office hours to help the student. The exercises were thoughtful. I really did not understand Buddhism before I took this course and now I understand self and non self. I hope he teacher again
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Robert Veitch profile image
Robert Veitch profile image
8/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
4 years, 6 months ago
The course as presented by Professor Wright was delightful, light, informative. He brought in good outside commentators from both the world of Buddhism and Psychology. And these people contributed important information to the course. In the end, I would say the basic premise that Buddhism and Modern Psychology are two sides of the same coin, was not proven. The relationships were superficial at best. To me it seemed as if the two subjects were 'chalk and cheese." Fundamentally they address different aspects of the human experience and trying to meld them simply doesn't work. Strangely, because one of the major objects of practicing Buddhism is to abandon craving and clinging, Professor Wright chose to cling to the course once it was essentially complete by having multiple follow up "office hours" which really contributed little other than showcasing his cute dogs. For me this "clinging" to the contact lessened the impact of the cours... The course as presented by Professor Wright was delightful, light, informative. He brought in good outside commentators from both the world of Buddhism and Psychology. And these people contributed important information to the course. In the end, I would say the basic premise that Buddhism and Modern Psychology are two sides of the same coin, was not proven. The relationships were superficial at best. To me it seemed as if the two subjects were 'chalk and cheese." Fundamentally they address different aspects of the human experience and trying to meld them simply doesn't work. Strangely, because one of the major objects of practicing Buddhism is to abandon craving and clinging, Professor Wright chose to cling to the course once it was essentially complete by having multiple follow up "office hours" which really contributed little other than showcasing his cute dogs. For me this "clinging" to the contact lessened the impact of the course. Of course I could have chosen not to watch them, so the dukkha is of my own making. Technically the program was well done; though the inserts from Professor Wright's Blogging Heads show are not of the highest technical quality. The content of these inserts was valuable and thus the blurry images and facial shots that looked like something from a police line-up could be tolerated. Overall, I give the course an eight. Without the endless/pointless office hours I would have given it a nine.
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soesilo wijono profile image
soesilo wijono profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 19 reviews
  • 19 completed
4 years, 6 months ago
An excellent course by a very enthusiastic Princeton's professor! Students come from diverse religion backgrounds, all over the worlds. Professionals, students, meditation practitioners, monks, etc. Very engaging discussion forum, excellent videos and office hours. Very very enlightening.
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