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Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without…
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Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion (2014)

by Sam Harris

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Sam Harris, a most rational spiritualist, offers this concise guide to striving for meaning and happiness. The appeal is neither to theology nor to the conventional sources of happiness alone: hedonic pleasure, family, wealth, contribution to others. In this he follows the Buddhist insight that while these these may bring temporary happiness, they are transitory, and that there is more enduring serenity and bliss to be found beyond these through greater clarity about human life and the workings of our minds.

The book is in part memoir of Harris’ own spiritual journey. He credits early drug experiences with offering him the perspective that there is more joy to be found in life than he had previously understood. He subsequently spent many years with Buddhist teachers in Asia. Harris came away with a Buddhist meditation practice that he regards as among the most important of spiritual tools.

To me, the first chapter on spirituality is a useful encapsulation of the problem of happiness and Buddhist perspectives on it. Harris then attempts to integrate his Buddhist practice and his experiences with his knowledge of Western science, especially neuroscience, and philosophy. I find this part of his thinking less useful. He offers tools for beginning a meditation practice, and a structure for thinking about spirituality without appeal to faith. Overall, he has performed a valuable service.

Harris became a voice of the New Atheism after The End of Faith. Perhaps he owes his readership this book, a way back to spirituality.
  stellarexplorer | Dec 28, 2018 |
Hmm. Something's off. It took me a while to figure it out but this reminds me of when I was into Ayn Rand and then transitioned to existentialism, humanistic psychology and Nietzsche (many eons ago). So, if you're into "Waking Up," head on over and read Jay Garfield's "The Fundamental Wisdom of The Middle Way" - an immortal translation of Nagarjuna's classic text. Your mind will first thank you and then deconstruct you AND your entire world. Sam Harris seems to be caught in an incurable view of anatta (no self). This is extraordinarily dangerous (especially to scientific types) since emptiness of self SHOULD always be accompanied by emptiness of phenomena as Nagarjuna makes clear (via Garfield and others). If you practice emptiness of self and think this means that the brain and its processes are "all that's really going on," that's an incurable view (with Dennett and company waiting to drag you down even further). ( )
1 vote anandrajan | Apr 10, 2018 |
Very good book. I particularly enjoyed the refined descriptions of what it is to be in the meditative state and how to achieve it. Sam has a particular interest in the selflessness of consciousness. He is obviously an adept student of meditation but also a grounded scientist and this refreshingly evident in his thesis. ( )
  jvgravy | Mar 14, 2018 |
Recommended by Stu Maynard
  MelZiarno | Oct 11, 2017 |
Very intriguing reading - found myself wanting to underling many passages in the book. Harris' main thesis is that self-transcendence what spirituality is all about, and that it can be achieved through meditation and/or through pharmacology. Not sure that I follow his arguments well or at all sometimes, but I do think he's worth keeping an eye on and re-reading over time. I'm probably not ready for this book yet. ( )
  tgraettinger | Jul 10, 2017 |
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"For the millions of Americans who want spirituality without religion, Sam Harris's new book is a guide to meditation as a rational spiritual practice informed by neuroscience and psychology. Waking Up is for the 30 percent of Americans who follow no religion, but who suspect that Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi, and the other saints and sages of history could not have all been epileptics, schizophrenics, or frauds. Throughout the book, Harris argues that there are important truths to be found in the experiences of such contemplatives--and, therefore, that there is more to understanding reality than science and secular culture generally allow. Waking Up is part seeker's memoir and part exploration of the scientific underpinnings of spirituality. No other book marries contemplative wisdom and modern science in this way" --… (more)

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