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Book Review: “Beyond the Self” by Matthieu Ricard & Wolf Singer

Before we can talk about the subject matter of this book, we need to talk about the authors. Regular clients of mine are likely to recognize the name Matthieu Ricard from conversations during sessions with me. If not, just know that I'm a fan of his work! (Which is not to say that I've read all of it... yet.) Ricard is a Molecular Biologist-turned-Monk, which leaves him in a unique position to discuss the integration of science and spirituality. He has written other books with different experts in their respective fields, such as The Quantum and the Lotus in which he and quantum physicist Trinh Xuan Thuan discuss the overlap of Buddhism and quantum physics. (Another favorite of mine!)


Beyond the Self: Conversations Between Buddhism and Neuroscience takes on the same format, but the subject is... you guessed it... neuroscience. Which brings us to our next author, Wolf Singer.


Singer's career as a neuroscientist has been incedibly successful. He is Emeritus Director of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, as well as Founding Director of two other institutes (Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, Ernst Strüngmann Institute for Neuroscience) and the Ernst Strüngmann Forum.


The book, written in a dialogue format, covers discussions between the two over the span of 8 years. The two contemplate many topics and compare where their ideas and opinions might differ or align. (The results of which might surprise you!) Questions discussed in the book include but are not limited to:


What is the Self?

What is consciousness?

Do we really have free will?

Does our justice system actually value justice, or revenge?

How can meditation help the brain?

How does our brain's neuroplasticity affect our behavior throughout our life?


The subject matter, no matter how interesting, was outshined by the friendship and mutual respect of the two authors. Their humility and willingness to admit when they didn't have an answer, or to change their perspective in light of new information was very heartening. These are indeed discussions, not arguments.


That being said, I did not enjoy this book as much as I did The Quantum & The Lotus. However, I think that's just because this one didn't melt my brain quite as much. 😂


Overall, 9 stars out of 10. Definitely would recommend!



You can learn more about Ricard at matthieuricard.org


You can learn more about Singer at

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