Author, Robert Wright, joins the show to talk about how Buddhism can serve as a foundation for a spiritual life in a secular age.
Robert Wright is the author of the new book “Why Buddhism Is True” which explains Buddhism compassionately and brilliantly to non-believers and rationalists. I tried to draw him into mysticism and he was very nice about it. He is a terrific writer with a great sense of humor. The new book is one of the very few spiritual books to be on the N.Y. Times bestseller list. Wright who currently is at the Union Theological Center has also taught at Princeton.
Why Buddhism is True (Opening) – In Why Buddhism is True Robert examines the philosophical truths about life and the human condition that Buddhism has to offer. Robert discusses the message of the book and talks about the connection he sees between the value systems of Christianity and Buddhism.
Empathy and Emptiness (8:00) – One of the values Buddhism has to offer is the empathy which can be cultivated through mindfulness practice. Robert talks about how this empathy evolves into the concepts of emptiness and not-self.
“One of the central illusions in Buddhism is the illusion about the self that believes that there is much more inside, in the way of a solid kind of CEO in-charge self, than there is.” – Robert Wright
For a more on separating our awareness from identity, check out Awareness Without Identity by Joseph Goldstein.
Ego and Soul (14:50) – Robert discusses the distinction between the ideas of ego and soul.
“Was the Buddha really saying that the self-doesn’t exist? Or was really suggesting that you would be a happier and better person if you look at a lot of contents in your mind and say, ‘You know, I don’t want to identify with that.” – Robert Wright
Ram Dass offers more wisdom on the difference between soul and ego in Unbearable Compassion.
Natural Selection (26:20) – Danny and Robert talk about the intersection of natural selection and the ego.
“I think we need some kind of revolution in consciousness. Whereby more and more people become aware that some of the natural workings of the mind are unfortunate and that if you want a truly clearer view of the world you have to transcend some of the kinds of cognitive biases that are built into us, and I think that is a lot of what meditation is about.” – Robert Wright
Ethics of Emptiness (36:00) – Robert further explores the connection between morality and emptiness.
“The connection between emptiness and morality is in the not-self because you are letting go of the selfish impulses. Emptiness is partly about how self-serving feelings subtly shade your perceptions of certain people. If you saw true emptiness, you wouldn’t see these people in these self-serving biased ways.” – Robert Wright
To better understand how a love and empathy can be cultivated through emptiness, listen to Emptiness and the Power of Love from Jack Kornfield.