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The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality [Paperback]

Dalai Lama
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 12 2006
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 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 philosophic 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 contemplative and scientific examinations of reality.

This breathtakingly personal examination is a tribute to the Dalai Lama’s teachers—both of science and 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.

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From Publishers Weekly

As the Dalai Lama observes in this wise and humble book, dialogue between scientists and those interested in spirituality is important because science is not neutral; it can be used for good or ill, and we must approach scientific inquiry with compassion and empathy. Similarly, a spirituality that ignores science can quickly become a rigid fundamentalism. Sometimes the Dalai Lama discovers similarities between the two fields. For example, Einstein's idea that time is relative dovetails neatly with Buddhist philosophical understandings of time. Still, His Holiness does not accept all scientific thinking as holy writ: though he is intrigued by scientific stories of origins, like the Big Bang theory, Buddhism holds that the universe is "infinite and beginningless." The penultimate chapter brings ethical considerations to bear on technological advancements in genetics. The Dalai Lama gently suggests that although parents who select certain genetic traits for their children may intend to give their children a leg up, they may in fact simply be capitulating to a social pressure that favors, say, boys over girls or tall people over short. He also cautions that we do not know the long-term consequences of genetically modifying our crops. In fact, it is disappointing that the Dalai Lama devotes only 18 pages to these urgent and complex topics. Perhaps this prolific author has a sequel in the works.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Fascinated by science since boyhood, the Dalai Lama, unlike fundamentalists who resist scientific realities, has become convinced that a dialogue between religion and science will advance the wisdom of both disciplines and greatly benefit humankind. He explains why in illuminating explications of how Buddhism and science are both predicated on focused observation, reasoning, and the ability to abandon outmoded ideas in the ongoing search for reality. He compares quantum physics with Buddhist philosophy and reveals how the theory of evolution echoes the Buddhist understanding that all of life is interconnected and in flux, and he writes with deep feeling about the pressing ethical questions raised by advancements in biotechnology. For all the provocative and detailed reasoning found in this soulful and mind-expanding book, what emerges most powerfully is the Dalai Lama's belief that science must embrace Buddhism's mission and work toward increasing compassion and alleviating suffering. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written, well intentioned - poorly argued Nov. 9 2010
Though so well-written and polished that it's impossible these are the words of H.H. himself, I have no reason to suspect the spirit and intention behind the words isn't truly his own. This is a great read, and I think that the Dalai Lama had only the best of intentions in producing this work.

It starts out very endearingly, relating his early life and introduction to science through Heinrich Harrer and eventually many eminent scientists, after he fled Tibet in 1959. These encounters are presented in a very charming and humorous way and the Dalai Lama's humility shines as he makes every effort to take his background in Buddhist philosophy and somehow use it to grasp genetics, cosmology, quantum physics, neuroscience and more. If only every non-scientist took such an active interest!

The problem though, for me, is that this lack of real scientific training becomes evident as the Dalai Lama begins to present his own arguments. There are frequent calls for rational inquiry, comparison of disparate claims mediated by valid evidence, etc., but when it comes down to it he seems incapable of following these principles. As an example, the thorny issue of human cloning comes up, and H.H. mentions his own profound disgust when first becoming aware of the implications - and then goes on to recommend our 'innate sense of disgust' as valid criteria for deciding what's right and wrong, as these extremely complex issues begin to pile up around us. This might even be a good criteria in this particular situation - but then, there are a lot of people who think they feel an 'innate disgust' at Islam, or Christianity, and that doesn't prove it's 'wrong.
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By Big Bill TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I recently read " A Universe from Nothing " by Prof L. Krauss. I recommend it highly , it is cutting edge quantum physics in
laymans terms , and is very interesting and entertaining to read. "The Universe in a Single atom " is from 2005 , but the ideas
discussed by the Dalai Lama are somewhat older. The blending of ancient thoughts with modern quantum physics is
mind boggling. Any book that the Dalai Lama produces is worthy of a look , he is a knowledgeable fellow , but this book is a gem in
two different disciplines . Very heavy stuff, highly recommended , and on the Amazon used market it is inexpensive.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dalai Lama on Particle Physics Aug. 4 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Dalai Lama reveals how, in his travels and discussions with scientists, he has discovered that base science is putting proof to things Buddhists have believed for centuries. The interconnectedness of nature, the value of empirical proof, and the incomprehensible vastness of the universe are presented from the context of the Buddhist philosophy. Inspiring and engaging proof that science and spirituality need not be mutually exclusive, nor need they be necessarily in opposition of one another; rather, they can operate in parallel to reveal the whole truth of our human existence.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Dalai Lama clearly has a long-standing and genuine interest in science. He has access to the best minds in science, and hosts an annual conference on science. To his credit, he is humble about his limited understanding, and does not claim to have divine knowledge about what is true science. While he faithfully records what the scientists tell him in the book, it seems that he does not always understand them.

On page 12 he presents a concise summary of his philosophy of science, tied together with dubious logic. Unfortunately it ignores what the scientists told him. As it nicely sums up what is wrong in this otherwise worthwhile book, this review will examine it in detail, rather than evaluate the entire book.

“I have noticed that many people hold an assumption that the scientific view of the world should be the basis for all knowledge and all that is knowable. This is scientific materialism.”

The scientific view of the world is that it is comprehensible. We can explain what we observe by conjecturing rules, and testing to ensure they work. As our knowledge and investigative tools improve, we can observe new things that were unimaginable before. So science is the basis for all that is observable, remembering that there is always much more to be discovered. Ideas are an integral part of the reality that science investigates. Science itself is driven by our creativity, inventing new ideas to explain how the world works. “Scientific Materialism” is misleading if it means that scientific method is excluded from studying our mental processes or philosophy.

“This view upholds a belief in an objective world, independent of the contingency of its observers.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tibetan Book of the Dead April 7 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"The Tibetan book of the Dead"
This is only "full length" copy on the market today. Well written and researched and absolutely astounding in what is revealed. A must have for the spiritual Seeker. John O.
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