James Henry Austin

Year of birth : 1875
Parents : Francis Marion Austin and Ave Rhea Austin
Education : Harvard Medical School


" Emotions are not 'bad.' At the roots of our emotions are primal energies which can be put to fruitful use. Indeed... the energies of enlightenment arises from the very same natural origins as those which give rise to our everyday passions and emotions."

" Experimental ideas are very often born by chance as a result of fortuitous observations. "

" Attention is malleable. We can intensify it, shift it either voluntarily or involuntarily. We can soften it, diffuse it. "

Books by the Master

" Zen & the Brain - Toward an Understanding of Meditation & Consciousness "..." 
Zen-Brain Reflections - Reviewing Recent Developments in Meditation and States of Consciousness "..." Selfless Insight - Zen and the Meditative Transformations of Consciousness"..." Meditating Selflessly - Practical Neural Zen "... " Zen-brain Horizons - Toward a Living Zen "..." Chase, Chance & Creativity - The Lucky Art of Novelty "..." Memories of a Nobody: Stories to Read When You Have Absolutely Nothing Else to Do "..." On the Varieties of Attention: A BIT of Selfless Insight "..." 
Developments in Meditation and States of Consciousness: Zen-Brain Reflections " 


James Henry Austin attended Brown University, graduated from Harvard Medical School (1948), and did his medical intern-ship at Boston City Hospital, where his first year of residency was in neurology. Austin's five decades of brain research include the areas of neurology, neuropathology, neurochemistry, neuropharmacology and contemplative neuroscience.

His first sabbatical was spent at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. During the second sabbatical at Kyoto University Medical School in 1974, he began Zen meditative training with Kobori-Roshi, an English-speaking Rinzai Zen master. As a Zen practitioner, he has since become keenly interested in the ways that neuroscience research can help clarify the meditative transformations of consciousness.

After eight years of regular Zen meditation, Austin experienced the taste of what Zen practice calls kensho. The chief characteristic of this experience was a loss of the sense of "self" which is so central to human identity, plus a feeling that "Just This" is the way all things really are in the World. While he was on a sabbatical in England, he was waiting for a subway train when he suddenly entered a state of enlightenment unlike anything he had ever experienced.

Austin writes that when his former subjective self was no longer there to form biased interpretations this experience conveyed the impression of "objective reality." As a neurologist, he interpreted this experience not as proof of a reality beyond the comprehension of our senses but as arising from the brain itself. This and other experiences and research led him to write Zen and the Brain.