Why Buddhism Is True by Robert Wright (Summary)

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We are all living in a dream.

Or you can also say that we are all hallucinating inside a matrix and thinking that we are living in reality.

Don’t believe this idea?

Well, it’s time to take the red pill now. It’s going to taste bitter, but it will free you from a life of bondage. It will show you a way to end all your suffering.

In this video, we will learn about Buddhist philosophy and meditation. And understand how to finally destroy all our illusions.

Alrighty, so without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Lesson #1: Thanks to natural selection, our senses do a great job keeping us in delusion.

If you believe that The Matrix was just a movie and has no connection with reality, maybe you should think again.

We are deep into the matrix in our real lives.

We are living inside illusions.

The illusion is that the next best thing will provide us with immense gratification.

We are always thirsty for pleasure.

We keep pursuing different objects of pleasure, like a PlayStation, a movie, people, etc. However, the illusion never gets away.

No matter how much we gratify our senses, we are always left wanting more.

The reason we get fooled is that we focus more on gratifying our senses than seeing the future consequences of our actions.

People eat junk, hoping it will satisfy them. But all satisfaction is momentary.

People who eat a lot of sugary stuff like chocolate do so because it seems good in the present moment.

They think about how it tastes when they put it in their mouth.

They don’t consider the negative effects of eating sugar in the future.

But have you ever thought why this is so?

Why are we all like this?

It’s because we are designed by nature to be this way through natural selection.

It’s in our biology to do certain things, like eating, surviving, etc., so that we can finally reproduce and pass on our genes to the next generation.

Natural selection doesn’t “want” us to be happy.

Pleasure is designed by natural selection to evaporate so that the ensuing dissatisfaction will get us to pursue more pleasure.

Buddha knew this. And that’s why he said that life is suffering.

If you believe that life is meant to be enjoyed and everything happens for good, you should think twice.

Yes, this is a mainstream idea that we often hear.

But reality is cruel.

Natural selection is cruel.

Nature is cruel.

Technically, nature designed us as gene-spreading machines and installed a lot of illusions in our heads so that we don’t question reality.

A lot of people will start feeling bad about the situation after hearing this truth.

This is also an illusion.

Why are we feeling bad after hearing the truth? Shouldn’t we be feeling good about it?

Isn’t it illogical to feel bad after hearing the truth?

Most people don’t want logic; they want good feelings. Thus, they keep living in illusions.

In fact, the more we run away from unpleasant feelings, the more sad we feel.

To become happy and liberate ourselves from unpleasant feelings, we must become comfortable facing them.

Almost all of our actions produce unhappiness.

Buddha wanted you to grow your self-awareness.

If we somehow become conscious of the parts of our minds that create suffering, we can find a way to deal with them.

Lesson #2: Neither the world inside you nor the world outside you is anything like it seems.

We perceive the outside world with our eyes.

And we conceive the inside world through our minds.

Reality is always different from what we think. Or you can also say that we never see the full picture of reality.

When we were children, we perceived the world as Disneyland, but as we grew up, we realized that it’s a big mess and we needed to figure things out.

Our feelings are also not real. One moment, life feels good, and another moment, it feels bad.

We can’t be 100 percent certain about what we see and feel.

Different people can see the same thing differently based on what they have inside their minds.

A lot of people ask why we need things like meditation or Buddhist philosophy when we can work on the basis of our common sense.

They ask such questions because they don’t understand how flawed human beings are at being practical.

We put too much trust in our thoughts and beliefs.

We are highly biased.

Buddha knew how biased a human mind can get. That’s why Buddhism keeps reminding you that you are living in delusion most of the time because of your senses.

The world you see outside changes when the content of your mind changes.

How can we be so sure about reality when we don’t even understand the content or the functioning of our minds?

Bring some skepticism into your life.

All these ideas will sound illogical to you if you don’t have heightened self-awareness.

That’s why you need meditation or mindfulness in your life.

Meditation can help us see the delusions that exist both in the inside world and the outside world.

Lesson #3: Meditation is frustrating in the beginning, but don’t give up on it too early.

Yes, you can hire a psychologist. But even then, nobody can have access to your mind the way you can.

That’s why meditation is very important if you want to access your mind and learn how it works.

Talking about its functioning, the default mode for the mind is to keep producing noise and wander in different directions.

Most of the time, you are either worrying about your memories or thinking about the things you plan to do in the future.

So technically, you aren’t always in the present moment.

You are distracted most of the time.

Meditation helps you break this default mode. It brings you awareness and makes you see that you are wasting a lot of mental energy running in different directions.

We all understand at the subconscious level that self-awareness will only help us become more mindful and thus conserve our mental energy for critical affairs in life.

But as soon as we start meditation, we feel frustrated for not being able to control our own minds.

Our whole lives, we try to control situations, and when we see the mess that exists in our heads, it’s only natural to feel frustrated.

It’s painful to bear the chaos of our own minds.

Another reason people fail at meditation is because they don’t properly understand what meditation is for.

They think that it’s just another exercise or yoga technique. As a result, they learn various techniques and get confused.

The purpose of meditation is to make our minds less complicated, but look at the irony: we have made the meditation itself very complicated.

Meditation is very simple.

Just sit in a quiet place and try focusing on your breath.

It’s normal to get distracted during meditation.

But when you don’t give up, you train yourself to focus on one thing.

In the beginning, it’s recommended that you only focus on your breath. Don’t try to focus on anything else other than your breath to keep things simple.

Eventually, you have to train yourself to see your mind without getting carried away.

There is no point in thinking about why you got carried away.

The more you think during meditation, the harder it becomes.

It might be a completely new experience for many people. That’s because we don’t normally live our daily lives with a high level of self-awareness.

We are masters at getting carried away by our situations.

When you become good at meditation, you start experiencing life differently compared to other people. You feel a sense of bliss and ecstasy.

Lesson #4: Mindful meditation may or may not lead you to enlightenment, but it will definitely alter your perspective on life.

For most people, mediation is just an exercise to relieve stress.

We all live a very stressful life these days.

Everybody has some kind of problem to deal with.

Life is hard for everyone.

So people find some temporary relief through meditation.

But if you learn more about meditation, you will realize that meditation is more than just a technique.

It makes you more mindful of life.

You are able to see the beauty of life, and you also realize the matrix that we are all stuck in.

Obviously, it doesn’t happen immediately.

Don’t think that if you just perform meditation for a few weeks, you will become an enlightened being. That’s just a story.

The author doesn’t take any stand on this in the book. He is not sure whether enlightenment exists or not.

Whether it exists or not, that will always remain a mystery.

So instead of finding the answer to this mystery, we should simply focus on growing our awareness and developing the right perspective about life.

To escape the matrix, we should be able to see it vividly.

And we can’t just see it with our eyes.

To see the matrix, we must have a sharp mind—a mind that is not controlled by random thoughts or emotions.

Lesson #5: Realizing that the Self doesn’t exist can help you become selfless.

Becoming selfless is something that almost all religions preach.

Unfortunately, in the modern world, almost every other person is deeply selfish.

According to Buddhism, there is no Self. There is no soul within us. If you think there is, try finding it out; you will never find it.

We all just keep changing with time.

The physical and emotional self changes all the time.

It’s like if someone transfers your awareness to a different body, you can be a different person.

This doesn’t mean we are all robots.

We are basically made up of these five things:

  1. Body
  2. Feelings
  3. Perception
  4. Mental formations (a complex network of thoughts and emotions)
  5. Awareness or consciousness

Other than these five things, you won’t find anything else in a person.

In other words, these five things define a person.

This is why Buddhism denies the idea of having a separate soul, or Self within our bodies.

Buddhism doesn’t believe that there is anything special about our existence. Whatever exists in a person is never permanent. No person’s identity can be permanent in the deepest sense.

When we believe that we are special, this is when we develop narcissistic attitudes. And this prevents us from becoming selfless.

You might wonder why becoming selfless is such a big deal in Buddhism.

This is because when you are too trapped in your own head, it’s impossible to see life clearly. You will never become a happier and better person.

You will always be competing with other people for resources, and you will always find yourself chasing pleasure.

Selfish people never feel a deeper connection with fellow creatures or other human beings.

They are just never satisfied. They will never be enlightened. They will never get to experience the taste of ultimate bliss or ecstasy.

Almost all problems in the world happen because we are too attached to the idea of having a Self.

Buddhism says that this idea is nothing but imagination.

We wanted to feel special, so we created this imaginary idea that we are somehow different from other animals. And there is something deep behind our existence.

But in reality, there is no such self within us.

As soon as we say that there is a self within us, we produce selfish behaviors guided by our ego.

And with ego, there come all the evils of society, like hatred, pride, conceit, etc.

The author says that if fewer people believed in the idea of self, there would be fewer wars between the nations and fewer personal conflicts.

Simply put, we must not take ourselves very seriously if we wish to ever build a genuine connection with each other.

Just think that we exist. And that’s all. There is no deep meaning in our existence. Obviously, this will not make any sense to most people. Such conclusions are often reached after great self-enquiry and meditation.

Now, please don’t go crazy and start telling everybody that they don’t exist. It’s difficult to communicate if we don’t assign some kind of identity to every individual.

Language will always be a barrier when we talk about Self.

Even if the Self doesn’t exist, we will still use “I,” “We,” and “You” to have conversations.

Lesson #6: By ending attachment to your aggregates, you can attain Nirvana.

Think of Nirvana as enlightenment for now, for the sake of simplicity.

If you have trouble envisioning enlightenment, just think of it as a state of human consciousness when you are free from earthly suffering.

Aggregates are the elements that make physical and mental existence possible.

We already discussed them: Body, feelings, perception, mental formations, and finally, on top of everything, human consciousness.

Understanding how these aggregates work is essential if you are moving on the path to attaining Nirvana, or enlightenment.

In almost all people who are not like Buddha, the consciousness is not liberated.

It’s in deep suffering.

And the suffering in consciousness exists because it is too attached to the other four aggregates.

When we abandon the attachment to these aggregates, then the consciousness itself gets liberated and the suffering ends.

Let’s understand this with an example.

When someone disrespects you, you feel bad. Your feelings get hurt, don’t they?

This happens because, at the deepest level of our minds or consciousness, we believe that feelings are part of Self. So if our feelings are being hurt, we believe we are being hurt.

But Buddhism says that this attachment to our feelings is the cause of suffering.

We are not our feelings.

Our consciousness forms relationship with these aggregates because of lust. This is why we cling to our feelings and act illogically.

We protect our feelings or other aggregates as if they are our personal belongings.

In the same fashion, we cling to our perceptions as if they are a part of Self.

But remember, Buddhism says that there is no Self. We can’t find Self.

The aggregates are always changing, and just because we cling so much to them, our consciousness never gets liberated. Thus, the suffering of human consciousness continues.

The question is: If the five aggregates we discussed are the only thing that constitutes a person, what is left after a person is liberated?

Maybe the mode of consciousness changes after Nirvana.

For now, we can conclude that there is no permanent self within us. At our very best, we have consciousness that we can work on by slowly ending attachment to other aggregates.

Meditation is the process that helps progress on this path.

It’s very difficult to comment on whether Buddha was right or not. There is still a possibility that the Self exists.

There are also questions like, if we are not our bodies, emotions, feelings, and perceptions, then why do we feel pain if one of them gets damaged?

For example, if your leg is injured or you have a toothache, your consciousness can’t avoid suffering, regardless of how much meditation you do.

Such things are almost impossible to escape from.

This is why achieving something like Nirvana looks like a dream to many people.

I think it’s more about how we deal with our aggregates that determines how much we will suffer.

Maybe Nirvana is just an ideal Buddha created so that more and more people follow the journey of liberating human consciousness from suffering.

The other option is obviously to not do anything at all, let things be as they are, and keep suffering for your whole life. That doesn’t sound very exciting, right?

The fact is that we don’t understand ourselves. So we shouldn’t be surprised why we suffer so much throughout our lives.

And when you consider all these ideas, it’s actually very funny when you hear phrases like “You are your own boss.”

We all want to feel like we are the king and everything is under our control. But reality says something else.

Lesson #7: There are no good people or bad people.

Understanding this lesson will alter your perspective on how you see other people. And that’s not all; you’ll also realize how you self-deceive yourself every time you socialize.

The author talks about the bias we have toward other people. This is one of the illusions we hold.

Often, we label people as friends or foes based on how we judge their behavior.

Illusions exist because they are very convenient for us.

Reality is often confusing and complex to understand.

This is why, through self-illusion, we oversimplify reality.

For example, we believe that a good person can do no harm and a bad person can do no good.

In reality, this is false.

Just because we have decided to see a person in a good light, it doesn’t mean that person can never hurt other people.

People act differently around different people.

For instance, a person may act very kind and caring in front of their loved ones. But that same person can act arrogantly in front of a stranger in a different situation.

In our daily lives, we don’t consider this variable of how people can change their behaviors in front of different people.

We assume that they will always act a certain way. i.e., if they are good, they will show compassion to everybody, and if they are bad, they will lack empathy for everybody.

Remember, we all live inside the matrix, where reality is always changing. So you can never be too sure about what you believe.

Don’t believe me?

Just think about how we are more likely to remember events that reflect favorably on us than those that don’t. We remember positive experiences in greater detail than negative experiences.

We are all under the illusion that we know ourselves and that everything is under our control. But is it true? Not really.

We hardly know anything about ourselves. We never explored the inner dimension of our minds. How are we so sure about this? This is the illusion we are living in.

We are so clever that we put ourselves in a state of self-illusion so that we can feel like we are in control of our reality.

You should note here that being clever is nothing compared to being highly self-conscious.

Due to our egocentric biases and illusions, we might think that illusions are good and there is no need to put in so much work to achieve Nirvana or enlightenment.

But remember, these are only illusions.

Most people are not free from earthly suffering. They are pretending that they are enjoying their lives. They are just good at hiding it.

Most of our suffering is psychological. So we don’t see the suffering in their minds.

Conclusion

Buddhism challenges how we think about our minds. It destroys the illusion that our mind and perception is under our control. It reminds us that these illusion keep us in never-ending suffering. By practicing Buddhist meditation, we can grow our self-awareness and learn to control our impulses and actions. Or atleast be more mindful about our behaviors.

Shami Manohar


The Brain Behind Wizbuskout.com

I am Shami Manohar, the founder of WizBuskOut. My obsession with non-fiction books has fueled me with the energy to create this website. I read at least one book every week on topics such as business, critical thinking, mindset, psychology, and more.

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