Wright’s book has no poetry or paradox anywhere in it. Since the poetic-comic side of Buddhism is one of its most appealing features, this leaves the book a little short on charm. Yet, if you never feel that Wright is telling you something profound or beautiful, you also never feel that he is telling you something untrue. Direct and unambiguous, tracing his own history in meditation practice, he makes Buddhist ideas and their history clear. Perhaps he makes the ideas too clear ... The dwindling down of Buddhism into another life-style choice will doubtless irritate many, and Wright will likely be sneered at for reducing Buddhism to another bourgeois amenity, like yoga or green juice. Yet what Wright is doing seems an honorable, even a sublime, achievement. Basically, he says that meditation has made him somewhat less irritable. Being somewhat less irritable is not the kind of achievement that people usually look to religion for, but it may be as good an achievement as we ought to expect.
...while he does not make a fully convincing case for some of his more grandiose claims about truth and freedom, his argument contains many interesting and illuminating points ... Wright’s enthusiasm for meditation is understandable. But his claims that meditation can help avert global catastrophes stemming from ethnic, religious, national and ideological conflict are less persuasive ... Perhaps the most basic problem with his argument is what it lacks: a vision of how to live a good and meaningful life. Quieting the raging clamor of perception, sensation and emotion may be a necessary condition for living a good life, but is it also sufficient? In short, once we’ve achieved some degree of tranquility through meditation or otherwise, how are we to live? By neglecting this question, Wright fails to consider the seductions of a dangerously permissive relativism and narcissism.
To produce his demonstrations and to support the idea that Buddhism is 'true,' Wright relies on science, especially on evolutionary psychology, cognitive science and neuroscience. This is a sensible approach, and in relation to Buddhism it is almost mainstream ... Wright’s book is provocative, informative and, in many respects, deeply rewarding ... I found myself not just agreeing but applauding the author, on a number of passages. A case in point is his unflinching embrace of the notion of feeling, which he understands as the mental experiences of physiological states, states imbued with a valence ranging from positive and pleasant to negative and unpleasant ... Wright is not as persuasive when he attempts to establish the truth of Buddhism by considering the circumstances in which feelings arise.
The ‘true’ in Wright's title doesn't refer to the traditional kinds of scriptural truths we think of when we think of religions and truth. Wright is explicitly not interested in the traditional aspects of Buddhism as a religion. The book, for example, makes no claims about reincarnation or Tibetan rainbow bodies or the like. Instead, Wright wants to focus on Buddhism's diagnosis of the human condition. The part that is relevant to the here and now … Wright does an excellent job of unpacking this reality for his readers, demonstrating again and again how contemplative practice can lead to understanding and how understanding can lead to an important kind of freedom.
Through mindfulness, Wright says, one can achieve clarity of vision, breaking out of tribalistic notions of thinking to begin helping others and the world. But this is not easy to accomplish, and Wright’s stories about his meditation experiences include his failures, anxieties, and faults. Wright’s joyful and insightful book is both entertaining and informative, equally accessible to general audiences and more experienced practitioners.
The author aims to make some fundamentally bizarre-sounding doctrines of Buddhism accessible to skeptical and secular readers by offering scientific support for its assertions in simple language and an engaging style. He keeps explicitly religious references and exotic Asian-language terminology to a minimum; no prior familiarity with Buddhist teachings is required. Wright lightens the trek through some challenging philosophical concepts with well-chosen anecdotes and a self-deprecating humor as he discusses the pinnacles and setbacks of his own meditative experiences. While critical readers may take issue with the logic underlying some of his contentions, the author presents a well-organized, freshly conceived introduction to core concepts of Buddhist thought. A cogent and approachable argument for a personal meditation practice based on secular Buddhist principles.