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Gentle Bridges: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on the Sciences of Mind Paperback – October 16, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Francisco J. Varela (1946--2001) was Director of the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, Professor of Cognitive Science and Epistemology, CREA, at the Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, and Cofounder of the Mind and Life Institute.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala (October 16, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570628939
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570628931
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,469,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William Kowinski on January 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
Readers shouldn't think this book is of interest only to Buddhist adherents of any school. In a series of presentations and dialogues, contemporary scientists---Newcomb Greenleaf, mathematician and artificial intelligence researcher; physicist Jeremy Hayward, neuroscientist Robert Livingston, biochemist Luigi Luisi, cognitive psychologist Eleanor Rosch, and biologist Francisco Varela---present a wonderfully succinct and relevant crash course in contemporary science from its methodologies to its latest findings (as of 1991) and their implications for questions that western science has in common with Tibetan Buddhist thought.
For it turns out that various schools of Tibetan Buddhism have been systematically investigating and building theories about the mind---how it perceives, what knowledge and thinking are, what the relationship of the individual is to common reality---for centuries. So this book reflects a true dialogue, in which western scientists and the Dalai Lama and other Buddhists present each learn from the other.
In fact, several of the scientists comment on how pertinent the Dalai Lama's questions are, often anticipating the next line of research they're going to talk about. "You think like a scientist!" one of them exclaims.
While the Dalai Lama explains the theories and explorations of various Buddhist schools with remarkably easy erudition, the emphasis of material in this book is on western science. This is the first of at least eight books emanating from conferences that the Dalai Lama has hosted with western scientists, on questions of mind. A much fuller presentation of Tibetan Buddhist theories of mind can be found in "Consciousness at the Crossroads," dialogues from the next conference, published by Snow Lion Press.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The work Gentle Bridges: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on the Sciences of Mind is from the 1987 Mind and Life Conference, the first dialogue sponsored by the newly established Mind and Life Institute. The Mind and Life Institute was founded to promote the alleviation of suffering, a traditional Buddhist ethic, by means of combining the methods and findings of modern science with those of the contemplative tradition. `Gentle Bridges' is an appropriate title since the conference was a tentative meeting of Buddhism and science in order to establish a basis for future dialogue.

The contributors are from diverse fields, including Buddhism, philosophy, mathematics, physics, cognitive science, and biology. Many topics are discussed and the enthusiasm of the participants comes through in the text. The investigative techniques of Buddhist contemplation and scientific methodology are compared, as well as Buddhist and scientific views on a variety of subjects, such as artificial intelligence and the nature of consciousness.

There is little depth to the work and some prior knowledge of Buddhism and/or science is recommended. The book provides a broad sweep of the many topics that could benefit from a dialogue between Buddhism and science and so might be best treated as an introductory work to the other Mind and Life publications. Nonetheless, the content is enthralling and will almost certainly further the reader's interest in the field of religion and science.
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One of my favorite books. A compelling interdisciplinary dialogue in neuroscience, physics, and Buddhism from the Mind & Life Institute.
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Format: Paperback
This book presents us with a few men of ancient Eastern tradition interlocuting with a few men of Socratic Western tradition on the nature of the world around us. Before any specifics of scientific architectonics are covered, they question the method of science. Logical positivism is questioned, and they do not attempt to invalidate it but do attempt to jeopardize its optimistic infallibility. Despite this doubt, it is also discovered that the Dalai Lama's Buddhist attitude is nearly identical with science, and that he emphasizes direct experience over tradition or scripture. (though one of his sacred texts proclaims a flat Earth, he does not try to retain belief in it due to the more recent discovery that our planet is indeed not flat.) There are other times where he does however introduce the Buddhist cosmology. It has never occurred to me however that this should be of any concern to Buddhism. The stories of the Buddha himself portray him as abstaining from any theological discussions on such things as cosmogony. I ask you to recall his response to such questions as 'is the world eternal.' He did not answer. The purpose of following the Dharma was to eliminate sorrow from life, not to find answers as many neophytes to Christianity and other overly theistic religions do. So for example, I do not see why it matters so much to the Dalai Lama whether or not consciousness is generated from and dependent on brain chemistry. In the book he says that a Buddhist cannot accept this idea. He says that you must either believe that the universe just happened to form itself for no particular reason at some point or that consciousness has an eternal origin.Read more ›
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