Book Review: Waking up

Title: Waking Up – A Guide To Spirituality Without Religion
Author: Sam Harris, philosopher and neuroscientist
Year: 2014
Length: 256 pages
Topics: Spirituality, faith, neuroscience, consciousness, Buddhism, religion, cults, mindfulness, transcendence, illusion of the self, compassion, gratitude
Narrative style: first-person

This book was interesting on many levels. Just from a neuroscience perspective, Sam Harris investigates hypotheses behind the nature of consciousness, discussing for example “split-brain” experiments, patients with global amnesia, and other mind-body problems. He then explains the Buddhist concept of the illusion of the self and how fully realizing this is at the basis of transcendence, something unattainable through science or religion. The instructions provided for meditation and self-examination are simple and may be enlightening to newcomers. He also discusses what makes a good spiritual teacher and practice, warning readers to not fall for “spirituality” dogmas that are eerily comparable to some religious ones. Overall, though I found the religion bashing unnecessary at times, I enjoyed this rational attempt at conciliation of spirituality and science. I especially liked his reasoning behind why compassion and gratitude are the ultimate desired state of mind. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like an overview of the modern science behind consciousness and the solution provided by Eastern philosophies. The book is witty and provides contemplative wisdom that will spark your curiosity – Handsun

This review was written by Handsun Xiao, a first year medical resident at McGill University.

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