Now I'm getting the chance to read books I didn't have time for before. Think of me whenever you see the slogan "So many books, so little time!" Now I've got the time. Cheers, Fred.
The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality
- Book Type:
Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama (the fourteenth Dalai Lama) is both the temporal and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. He received the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent attempts to have Tibet returned to the Tibetan people. This book was a national bestseller. (For his books I’ve read, click on his name.)
The paperback’s back cover has a good summary: “Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, Niels Bohr, Einstein. Their insights shook our perception of who we are and where we stand in the world, and in their wake have left an uneasy coexistence: science vs. religion, faith vs. empirical inquiry. Which is the keeper of the truth? Which is the true path to understanding reality?
“After forty years of study with some of the greatest scientific minds, as well as a lifetime of meditative, spiritual, and philosophical study, the Dalai Lama presents a brilliant analysis of why all avenues of inquiry – scientific as well as spiritual – must be pursued in order to arrive at a complete picture of the truth. Through an examination of Darwinism and karma, quantum mechanics and philosophical insight into the nature of reality, neurobiology and the study of consciousness, the Dalai Lama draws significant parallels between contemplation and scientific examinations of the world around us.
“This breathtaking personal examination is a tribute to the Dalai Lama’s teachers – both of science and of spirituality. The legacy of this book is a vision of the world in which our different approaches to understanding ourselves, our universe, and one another can be brought together in the service of humanity.”
I rate the above summary as far better than most back-cover summaries – there is no hype in the above. In addition, we have, thanks to Amazon.com, two brief but important portions of this book available to read online at this book’s website:
One of the two portions I refer to is his brief, but very revealing, 5-pp Prologue. Happily, all five pages are available online by using the option Click to LOOK INSIDE. Just click on the Table of Contents and then simply scroll down to read his Prologue. It is very personal and tells of his love of learning about the science of the world. I have always thought very highly of the Dalai Lama because he realized at a very young age that the world of science is both very exciting and it is accessible to those like him who recognize that important truths are not limited to the spiritual world but also exist in the physical world of science. Both truths are needed for anyone who is wise enough to pursue both these worlds – physical and transcendent.
The second of the two portions is his 5-pp Conclusion: Science, Spirituality, and Humanity. It is also brief and wise. Although readily available online, I provide you a quote to make you want to also read his Conclusion: “Throughout this book, I hope I have made the case that one can take science seriously and accept the validity of its empirical findings without subscribing to scientific materialism. I have argued for the need for and possibility of a worldview grounded in science, yet one that does not deny the richness of human nature and the validity of knowing other than the scientific. I say this because I believe strongly that there is an intimate connection between one’s conceptual understanding of the world, one’s vision of human existence and its potential, and the ethical values that guide one’s behavior. How we view ourselves and the world around us cannot help but affect our attitudes and our relations with our fellow beings and the world we live in. This is in essence a question of ethics.”
As with many of his books I’ve read, his wisdom about how people should treat each other and the world around us is inspiring. Although Tibetan Buddhism has contributed very little to the world of science, it offers much sound advice of how to live and how greater understanding of both our spiritual and our physical worlds contributes enormously to our worldview and lifestyle. For the most part, this book was a great pleasure to read. Only in one aspect did I find it a bit lacking: when speaking of the insights that have led to the scientific advances of the rest of the world – first the Western world and, in the last 2-3 centuries, much of the non-Western world – the Dalai Lama has to greatly stretch the simple philosophy of Buddhism’s physical world to view their simple philosophy as not being in discord with the development of science and scientific methods of experimental results and observations. To do so with little grasp of the vital importance of mathematics – the language of physical science – requires a great flexibility for their simple physical philosophy. But I admire his effort to do so, for it seems to be a vital part of the Dalai Lama's recognition that there is not any real discord between the truths of science and those of spirituality. So I do not let his stretching reduce my appreciation of this book, which I give a five-star rating.