The Secular Buddhist
A good observation from the book:
"It is striking, also, how much less successful the Buddhist tradition has been in outward expressions of charitable motivation than the Christian one, despite the deep confusion in the Christian tradition between love and selflessness. Of course, there are Buddhists doing extremely successful altruistic work, and “engaged Buddhism” is a growing movement.
But why did Buddhism need to be “engaged”, and why was it not engaged already? Why, for that matter, was it not Buddhist lands that first developed modern medicine, the welfare state, and universal education?
The answers to such big questions can only be offered in broad-brush terms, but here is one possible broad answer. It is not because Buddhists are “selfish” or engage in more individual practice, for this generally helps them to engage more in the conditions of love, not less.
Instead, it is because their practice has been much too caught up in idealisations of love and emotions directed towards those idealisations, and not sufficiently on applying that love in practice by engaging with conditions.
Here is an example of this. A traditional Tibetan practitioner visualises the figure of Tara every day. With much practice he positively glows with love for all that he meets.
On the other hand, a Christian missionary doctor does a little desultory prayer every morning, but actually spends most of his time and energy on running a clinic which improves the health of thousands of Africans.
It is the Buddhist here who is more loving, but the Christian whose love is more effective. The Buddhist has a better understanding of the Middle Way, yet the Christian practises it more by addressing conditions more fully.
These figures are of course just representatives. There are vigorous practical Buddhists doing medical or social work and there are idealising contemplative Christians. Yet broadly I would argue that these two figures are more representative of their respective traditions than otherwise.
What has gone wrong for the Buddhist is not selfishness, but a situation in which feelings of love have become an end in themselves, rather than being part of a wider project to address conditions.
This may, in the end, be because what the Buddhist seeks is not to address conditions, but to achieve enlightenment, a condition which is understood primarily as a transformation of mental states rather than outward conditions."
The Free Will Illusion
“Free will as we ordinarily understand it is an illusion generated by our cognitive architecture.”
Joshua Greene & Jonathan Cohen – Cognitive Neuroscience