Daily Archives: February 12, 2013

Buddha’s Brain


I have added Buddha’s Brain, (Hanson/Mendius – New Harbinger Publications, Inc, 2009) to the recommended reading list.  The following is my review.


Buddha’s Brain is authored by neuropsychologist Rick Hanson and neurologist Richard Mendius. Hanson is also a meditation teacher, and Mendius is also cofounder of Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom.   These fellows give a relatively easy to follow sum up of what developments in science have taught us about the function of the brain.  They also, through work with Buddhist contemplative practice masters tested for neurological and hormonal/chemical patterns created by decisions of the being, detail how the brain – and thus the body – is affected by thought.  

Buddha’s Brain provides great food for thought and correlation to those trained in Dianetics and Scientology.  The authors’ description of science’s 2009 understanding of the human brain is remarkably consistent with L. Ron Hubbard’s 1950 description of the reactive mind in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.   They describe the brain as being hardwired for avoiding danger, taking precedence over behavior/action patterns that seek pleasure or reward.   They describe how transcendent states attained through contemplative practice – their main frame of reference being Buddhism – erase reactive neuron channels and create new, more analytical, intelligent and rational ones.

Just as Scientology was somewhat vague in differentiating between the Thetan (spirit) and the mind and nearly mute on the subject of the brain, the authors of Buddha’s Brain are somewhat vague on differentiating between brain and mind, and never label that which is making the decisions that are creating a better functioning mind/brain.  To get hung up on such difficulties with constructs describing that which is invisible to the eye and physical measures would be to miss the forest for the trees.

Hard core Scientologists, if they could muster the curiosity or courage to read the book, would likely heavily tune out somewhere in the last 2/3rds of it.  That is because the material for the most part prescribes contemplative practice that the authors claim demonstrably reforms the brain/mind.  To react in such wise would be a mistake in my view.  To read it, for example, might lead to some insights into why running pleasure moments, as in Self Analysis by L. Ron Hubbard, is so therapeutic.  Could it be that Scientology processes do far more good than L. Ron Hubbard even knew given the relatively archaic state of science in his day?   One thing is for sure, those who are afraid to look will never know.