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Gentle Bridges: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on the Sciences of Mind Paperback – October 16, 2001
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About the Author
Jeremy Hayward is the international education director of Shambhala Training. He is the author of Letters to Vanessa: On Love, Science, and Awareness in an Enchanted World and Shifting Worlds, Changing Minds: Where the Sciences and Buddhism Meet. He teaches warriorship retreats around the world.
Francisco J. Varela, Ph.D., was Fondation de France Professor of Cognitive Science and Epistemology at the École Polytechnique and the Institute of Neuroscience of Paris. He is also the author of Principles of Biological Autonomy.
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Top customer reviews
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.
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. In this book,the emphasis is on western science: the presentation and dialogue on the recent history of scientific theory pertaining to Darwinian evolution is especially valuable. There's more information about the series at [...]
Personally I like dialogues, perhaps because I'm an aural learner. To me these books are like plays in the mind, about the mind, and such issues as perception, altruism, and whether artificial intelligence can ever be humanly intelligent. Some of these scientists know a lot about Buddhism already, while others know very little. But they all seem impressed by the long tradition of Tibetan Buddhists in investigating phenomena of mind, and in developing a sophisticated view of how mind relates to the universe. I'm sure they are heartened as well by the Dalai Lama's attitude that Buddhist doctrine is not dogma, and if science disproves these theories, they ought to be abandoned. But it's clear that western science has much to consider that Buddhist scholars have already thought about in a way more relevant to the most advanced western science than the science of even a few decades ago. Together they may help answer perennial questions about humanity's role in the universe. Maybe even the meaning of life, the universe and everything.