Posts in Buddhism
What's the evidence for reincarnation?

I've believed in reincarnation longer than I can remember. It must have started in a previous life. I've never really examined my core belief. It's just been there, part of the furniture. But a new book has stung me into examining that comfy old sofa. Do I really need it? Is it time to chuck it out?

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Mental illness: shedding the stigma around India’s big secret

Yesterday, I was at a panel on mental health in India, at a conference in Goa organized by UCL. One of the speakers – Ratnaboli Ray, who runs a mental health NGO called Anjali in West Bengal – asked for anyone in the audience who’d ever had mental illness or been on psychiatric drugs to raise their hands. For a few seconds, no one did. And then about 10 of us did, in a room of around 100.

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A 10-day Vipassana retreat taught me the meaning of pain

Last Sunday I finished a 10-day Vipassana retreat, at a monastery in Sweden. This was my third attempt to do a monastic retreat - I’d done a runner from both previous efforts, from a Rusian monastery in Lent 2006 (the head monk kept trying to convert me to Orthodox Christianity) and from a Benedictine monastery on the Isle of Wight in January 2013 (I was bored). This time, I vowed not to do a runner.

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Review: The Happiness Industry by William Davies

Watch out folks. There is a murky world lurking behind the scenes, a sinister cabal of policy-makers, psychologists, CEOs, advertizers and life-coaches, watching you, measuring you, nudging you, monitoring your every smile, all to try and make you happy. We must resist. This, broadly, is the message of sociologist William Davies’ book, The Happiness Industry: How Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being.

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The rise and rise of contemplative studies

This weekend, I was at a conference in Boston called the International Symposium on Contemplative Studies. I know  - sounds pretty niche, maybe two monks, a chakra healer and a shaman with maracas?  Well, it was enormous - 1600 people, 300 presentations, including ones by some of the leading psychologists in the world, and the Dalai Lama.

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What's wrong with the Perennial Philosophy?

In my review of Sam Harris’ Waking Up two weeks ago, I wrote this sentence: "Spiritual experiences tell us something about the cosmos,...the experience of infinite loving-consciousness is a glimpse of the very ground of being, also sometimes called God, Brahman, Allah, the Logos, the Tao, the Buddha-realm."

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What's the point in life?

Dear Jules, I have been going through a really rough time lately and it is quite similar to your experience. I was quite a happy go lucky person through life until I had a bad terrifying trip on weed (my first time trying) I took way too much and freaked out and that traumatised me - having very anxious scary thoughts like what if I harm my self, what if I harm others - what is the meaning of life and whats the point of it all.

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Where next for well-being policy?

I went to the book-launch of a new book on well-being policy yesterday, which brought together some leading figures in this nascent movement - including David Halpern of the government’s ‘nudge unit’, Canadian economist John Helliwell, psychologist Maurren O'Hara, and Juliet Michaelson of the new economics foundation.

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Wisdom, critical thinking, well-being or faith?

Apologies for the lack of newsletters recently - I’ve been in the depths of a project to design and teach a course based on Philosophy for Life. This month, I started teaching it in three organizations - a mental health charity in London called Manor Gardens; Saracens rugby club; and Low Moss prison in Glasgow (via New College Lanarkshire, which runs learning courses there).

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When going to a New Age orgy, be careful who you take home

Last weekend I had a glimpse of the future. I spoke at a New Age festival in Holland, a country where just 39% of people belong to a religion. According to the British Social Attitudes Survey released this week, that’s where we’re heading too. Thirty years ago, 68% of Brits said they belonged to a religion. Now it’s just 52%, of which less than half are Anglican. We are about to become a post-religious society. So what does that look like?

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