Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Dalai Lama, smarty-pants

I finished reading "The Universe in a Single Atom" on my recent cruise.  The book opens with a quote from an ancient Buddhist scripture:  "In each atom of the realms of the universe, there exist vast oceans of world systems."  It is a perfect verse for this particular book.  The Dalai Lama is fascinated by science--particularly physics and neurobiology--and he obviously has an interest in spirituality.  He seeks an arrangement in which scientific inquiry and spiritual inquiry (such as disciplined meditation) can work together to explore the nature of consciousness and to better the state of humanity.  The DL begins with some autobiography, setting up his fascination with the issues he wishes to discuss.  Three chapters analogize scientific discoveries and theories with Buddhist doctrines--"Emptiness, Relativity, and Quantum Physics," "The Big Bang and the Buddhist Beginningless Universe,"   and "Evolution, Karma, and the World of Sentience--and three more chapters explore the nature of consciousness.  There is a thought-provoking chapter on the ethics of new genetic research, and a concluding chapter calling for scientific and spiritual modes of inquiry to work together.  The Dalai Lama rejects pure scientific materialism as unsatisfactory to explain the phenomena of consciousness and sentience, but he accepts an appreciates the discoveries of science, and is perfectly willing to jettison Buddhist beliefs that have been disproven via the scientific method (e.g., the old Tibetan theory on the origins of life).  He also believes that scientists should understand that some of their work gives rise to ethical concerns that must be addressed (e.g., cloning).  The Dalai Lama's writing is accessible to laypeople with little scientific knowledge (like me), yet one gets a feel that this is a first-rate mind at work.  Check it out.

1 comment:

Bruce said...

What is the Tibetan doctrine on the origins of life?