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Buddhism is not a religion at all––at the same time, it’s the true essence of all religions, which is still compatible with science or even a “mind science” itself.

Do these ideas sound familiar? They’re part of a constellation of claims that scholar Evan Thompson calls “Buddhist exceptionalism,” the idea that Buddhism stands apart from all other religions as uniquely rational.  

Evan is a professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia as well as a longtime fellow at the Mind and Life Institute, which examines the intersection of science and contemplative wisdom. However, in his new book—provocatively titled Why I’m Not a Buddhist (Yale University Press, January 2020)—Evan argues that Buddhism and science are not uniquely compatible, despite what many have claimed, and challenges the popular modernist belief that science can validate Buddhism’s soteriological and ontological goals.

Here, Evan talks with Tricycle’s Editor and Publisher James Shaheen to discuss the problems with Buddhist modernism, his own spiritual and philosophical journey, and why he is, in fact, not a Buddhist. 

Tricycle Talks is a podcast series featuring leading voices in the contemporary Buddhist world. You can listen to more Tricycle Talks on Spotify, iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and iHeartRadio.


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