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Publisher's Summary

Suppose neuroscientists map the billions of neural circuits in the human brain....are we any closer to cracking the great existential mysteries - like meaning, purpose or happiness? Scientists, contemplatives and religious thinkers are now exploring the connections between neuroscience and contemplative practice, and creating a new science of mindfulness.

First, neuroscientist Richard Davidson is a leading expert on the science of mindfulness. He's teamed up with the Dalai Lama to put Buddhist monks in brain scanners, and he's developing a new scientific model for studying emotion. Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard has been called "the happiest man in the world". He shares a few thoughts on finding resilience in a crazy world.

Then, psychologist Justin Barett thinks most children have a natural aptitude for religious belief. He says it's not surprising that so many people believe in spirits or supernatural beings.

Next, Karen Armstrong is one of the world's best-known writers on religion, but her own spiritual path hasn't been easy. She tells us why she joined a convent and then left - and how she later came to appreciate religious texts.

And then: could the Internet feel happy or depressed? That's a distinct possibility, says renowned neuroscientist Christof Koch. He talks about computer consciousness, God, and the frontiers of brain science.

Finally, Susan Blackmore is a British psychologist who's written books on consciousness, memes and Zen Buddhism. She says her daily practice of meditation has revealed truths that have eluded the scientific study of consciousness. [Broadcast Date: August 23, 2013]

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