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Buddhism and Modern Psychology , Princeton University

3,003 ratings
851 reviews

About this 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 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.


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.

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835 Reviews

By Arianna Degove

Feb 18, 2019

Thank you Prof. Wright for creating this course! It has brought a whole new in-depth understanding on Buddhism and Psychology.

By john lee

Feb 17, 2019

From this course, a book is born! Buddhism is True, in the sense that the secular practice is validated by Evolutionary Psychological scientific experiment and research. Thus, one can take step to ameliorate ones pain, suffering, and dissatisfaction of life. Nirvana can be achieved with the right view and effort.


Feb 14, 2019

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

¿Y si en verdad lo hiciere...?.

By Elizabeth Garza

Feb 13, 2019

excelente curso

By Susanne Watts

Feb 10, 2019

A very informative and intriguing course that draws clear parallels between evolutionary psychology and the concepts behind Buddhism. Robert Wright's lectures offer thought provoking ideas and combine them with vivid, everyday examples to aid understanding of each concept on the deepest levels. . His personal experience, knowledge and enjoyment of the topic at hand are evident in each lecture and he is a joy to learn from. I also enjoyed hearing from the other experts he interviewed throughout the course in this very interesting field of study.

Thank you for a great course!

By Teresa Celinda Waterman

Feb 10, 2019

I love this course! It is so interesting. I feel like I want to learn more about this subject. Thanks Professor Robert Right! You make complex ideas easy to understand in a fun way.

By Erik Larson

Feb 09, 2019

Outstanding. Life changing information condensed into a few short lectures.

By Harry Lowson

Feb 09, 2019

A must-take for anyone who wants to know how Buddhism holds up against the scrutiny of modern science.

By Nancy Elizabeth Herrera Núñez

Feb 07, 2019

It has simply changed my life. Thank you!

By Jordan Whyatt

Feb 07, 2019

This course was full of great open ideas as well as well substantiated theory. Superbly led and thought provoking, much appreciated.