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The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality Paperback – September 12, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; Reprint edition (September 12, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767920813
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767920810
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was born in 1935 to a peasant family in northeastern Tibet and was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of his predecessor, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. The world's foremost Buddhist leader, he travels extensively, speaking eloquently in favor of ecumenical understanding, kindness and compassion, respect for the environment, and, above all, world peace.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

174 of 181 people found the following review helpful By Brad4d VINE VOICE on December 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
--I'd like to add another five-star vote for this gentle, insightful book. It's a gift for everyone.

--The Dalai Lama has been interested in science since childhood, and has collaborated with some of the best minds in science and psychology for many years. This book gives some perspectives on that collaboration. The author discusses evolution and consciousness, "karma" and causality, how we may improve reliability in knowledge, how we can manage unprovable concepts we believe to be true, how a refined Awareness can be used to help understand our mind and consciousness, a Buddhist perspective on genetic engineering, and above all else, the benefits of combining Wisdom and Compassion. The author notes that scientists, too, can and should add wisdom and compassion to their knowledge, and suggests they not just let their discoveries be managed by political leaders, lawyers, bureaucrats, financiers, or the media (gulp!). The author also warmly introduces us to his educational background and gives marvelous insights into classical Buddhist and Hindu views of issues that still intrigue Western philosophers and scientists. He also discusses why we may encounter a "dual nature" of truth -- for instance, we are innately comfortable with a classical explanation for everyday events even when we know that we encounter a profoundly non-classical reality at the atomic or psychological level. This book makes a superb addition to all the wonderful books on quantum science, cognitive science, and cosmology.

--In my opinion, BY FAR THE MOST VALUABLE GIFT OF THIS BOOK is the irreplaceably valuable perspective of a credibly Wise Human Being.
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131 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Patrick D. Goonan on December 29, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have an extensive background in science including quantum physics at the graduate level. I have also studied world religions for 20 years and I'm currently a coach who uses integral psychology as a model. Integral psychology studies the psyche on every level and draws on the world's wisdom traditions in addition to current psychological, cognitive and neurological research. Given my background, I feel I am in a good postion to give this book a fair and thorough review.

On the plus side, it is obvious that the Dalai Lama is not approaching this topic with an agenda. His genuine humility, sincerity and openness comes through on nearly every page. It is also clear that he is not entrenched in particular religious ideas and openly states that he is willing to abandon them if empirical science proves them "untenable." It is also evident that the Dalai Lama has respect for science, the scientific method and a natural curiosity in this area. He has also more than casually acquainted with numerous famous scientists and has enough scientific background to speak on a variety of intersections between Buddhism and science.

The scope of this book is very broad and touches on many important and relevant questions about the nature of reality, the beginning of the universe, quantum physics, evolution and consciousness. It also addresses ethical issues especially as they relate to genetic research.

For the average layperson, this is an extremely accessible book that does not make a lot of assumptions about Buddhism or scientific knowledge. This is both a strength and a weakness. For people who don't know much about either, it is a great introduction to all of the areas above.
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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Richard G. Petty on April 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Many people feel that one of the really important issues facing us all, is whether it is possible to find some middle ground between science and spirituality, or whether they are simply different experiential and philosophical categories that have no business trying to get together.

For over thirty years, the Dalai Lama has been at the forefront of efforts to find a rapprochement between the insights of Buddhism and the discoveries made using the scientific method. His journey has led him to have detailed discussion with some of the finest minds: the late David Bohm, John Eccles and Karl Popper to name just three. This is without doubt the clearest and most accessible of the Dalai Lama's books examining the relationship between contemporary Buddhist thought and Western science.

There are many gems in here, but there are one or two of particular importance. I still hear people translate the term "Karma," as "Fate," or as a law of causality. The author makes it clear that karma means "action," and he clearly differentiates it as the mechanism by which an intentional act will reap certain specific consequences. Karma refers to the intentional acts of sentient beings.

The book is full of such insights. It is an easy read and is both an overview of a number of critical areas in current scientific research and a spiritual interpretation and synthesis. This is not just a book for Buddhists, but for anyone interested in the broader issues of life and the Universe.

Highly recommended.
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