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The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet Paperback – October 26, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

How did the universe come into being? What is the meaning of human life against the blackness of infinity? Religion and science have many answers to these and like questions, answers that sometimes meet but more often diverge.

In this book-length conversation, French Buddhist monk Ricard and Vietnamese-born astrophysicist Trinh explore how Buddhism and modern science address life's big questions. Among the matters they touch on, sometimes fleetingly and sometimes in depth, are the illusory nature of phenomena, the guiding intelligence of nature, and the search for the mechanisms that drive planets and humans alike. Both authors, each conversant in the other's medium, argue against reductionist views of nature. And both provide plenty of data that support Albert Einstein's declaration that "if there is any religion that could correspond to the needs of modern science, it would be Buddhism."

Hard-nosed skeptics will perhaps find Ricard and Trinh's reconciliation arguable. Still, the record of their conversation makes fascinating reading and provides a useful overview of scientific reasoning and spiritual inquiry. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This transcribed and expanded dialogue between Buddhist monk Ricard and astrophysicist Thuan claims few original insights but provides a good general introduction to science-and-religion issues representing two notably different Buddhist perspectives. At its best, the book is animated by contrasts. Thuan, a Vietnamese-American trained at CalTech, identifies with Buddhist ethics and spirituality, but his worldview often reflects Western science and philosophy. Ricard, a French biologist who emigrated in the 1970s to become a disciple of Khyents‚ Rinpoche, speaks from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Although Thuan and Ricard find common ground on many ethical matters and agree in a general way about the "interconnectedness of phenomena," they also run into genuine disagreements about cosmic origins, the nature of consciousness and the orderliness of the universe all areas where traditional Buddhist beliefs are in tension with scientific theories or their implications as commonly understood in the West. To the authors' credit, they avoid superficial reconciliation of these differences, although Ricard, who renounces "dogmatism" but consistently defends orthodoxy, sometimes claims to "refute" opposing viewpoints a little too neatly. The conversational format also limits the precision and depth of the authors' positions and at times becomes unnecessarily repetitive. Philosophical dialogue is an ancient but exquisitely difficult art, and even the most engaging verbal exchange may occasionally appear banal or rambling in print, especially when the same points of debate arise time and again.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 42945th edition (October 26, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400080797
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400080793
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The nature of the relationship, and the compatibility, between the scientific and religous outlook continues to fascinate scientists, religious people, and philosophers. Most of the many books on this subject deal with religion in general terms or concentrate on Western theistic religions (primarily Christianity and Judaism.)
This book is a fascinating discussion of Buddhism and science told through articulate and intelligent exchanges between Ricard and Thuan. Ricard earned a PhD in chemistry in France before leaving a promising career to become a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Thuan is a Vietnamese who became enamored of at an early age and is a world-renowned astrophysicist and writer.
The most important sections of this book are the introduction, which sets the problem, and the conclusion. Science does not satisfy the spiritual needs of man -- his need to end suffering, understand himself, and the nature of his world -- to find meaning. How is it possible to find religious meaning in a world where science seems to be the only source of knowledge?
In his introduction, Ricard argues that science and Buddhism approach reality in different ways. He finds Buddhism non-dogmatic, willing to accept scientific findings and based on an introspection into the human condition with Buddha as a guide. Thuan agrees that human beings need spirituality as well as science.
There are fifteen chapters discussing with impressing erudition specific scientific issues and how Buddhists might view them. We get discussions of the "big bang" theory of quantum mechanics, the nature of time, computers and thought, and the nature of consciousness, among other topics. For a book cast in the form of a discussion, the references are copious.
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Format: Paperback
I was a bit skeptical upon first seeing this book. I worried about another floofy book about New Age/Western Buddhism. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded. This book is a fairly dense "argument" between the present positions of astrophysics/quantum physics and the Buddhist metaphysics. I'm a philosopher by trade and I read a lot of popular science books (especially in physics) so I managed well with the text. However, I think it may frustrate some persons without any background. So, ultimately, unless you are somewhat familiar with contemporary physics, you might want, regrettably, to skip this one.

The Buddhist in the book is a very intelligent chap, more than capable of explaining/defending his position. And he successfully presents Buddhism in a very intellectual manner. I learned a lot about the Buddhist position with regard to cosmology - which is wonderful because that's what I hoped to get out of the book. I think this book should quiet some of the stereotypes of Buddhists... and it would be most enjoyed by persons who do not draw a hard absolute line between natural science and religious practice.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this book frustrating pretty much from start to finish, but I was determined to persevere until the end, and I'm glad I did. My frustration was caused by several factors:

- The book is presented as a dialogue between a Buddhist (originally trained in science) and a scientist (mainly an astrophysicist), and it often seemed like the two authors were talking past each other, rather than really communicating.

- The dialogue format often seemed like a disorganized way to present the ideas, making the presentation fragmented and repetitive.

- I particularly felt that Ricard's presentation of Buddhist ideas was overcomplicated (compared to other books I've read).

- For the sake of coherence and clarity, it seemed that the book would have been better if written by a single author well acquainted with both Buddhism and science, and organized in a more "standard" way, rather than a dialogue.

- Because of the relatively high intellectual level of the book, a considerable prior knowledge of both Buddhism and science (especially physics) is needed to really benefit from the book. My background was enough to get me past this hurdle, but this definitely limits the audience for the book.

- Largely for the reasons noted above, the book took me a fairly long time to finish.

So, considering all of these apparent negatives, how did the book manage to earn 4 stars? In an odd way, somewhat reminiscent of Zen koans, the struggle involved in reading the book made me work especially hard to understand the authors, and in the process I definitely learned something. I ultimately found that there is indeed much wisdom in this book, but it's somewhat buried, so one has to do some mining to bring it out.
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Format: Paperback
After being raised by a hardcore Christian mother in a hypocritical/judgmental church, I rebelled and became a hardcore atheist. I used to think that Science and Religion were opposites, and Science = Truth, and Religion = Lies.

Then a single book blew my mind and changed my life. This book showed me that there are many areas of science where the brilliant scientists are still guessing and looking to philosophy/spirituality for answers, meaning that one is not "more correct" than the other. The book also showed me that Buddhism is a "happy medium" between the cold logic of science and the brainwashed warmth of organized religion - it's a philosophy that encompasses critical thinking but also love and compassion.

That book was called "The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet" and I *HIGHLY* recommend it to every single person I talk to. You will enjoy it regardless of your religious background or scientific knowledge base.
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