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Space and Eternal Life: A dialoge between Chandra Wickramasinghe and Daisaku Ikeda Paperback – February 10, 1998
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In this dialogue, the two men probe some of the deepest aspects of our existence. They touch on everything from Religion to Near-Death Experiences to Nuclear Weapons to AIDS to the Big Bang Theory and more.
As the dialogue unfolds, both the Buddhist viewpoint and an astronomer's view of the world are expressed, side by side, with interesting comparisons between the two.
While at first sight Buddhist philosophy might seem to lack the advantages of the empirical methodology of science in its exploration of the physical world, Buddhism's treatment of psychology, including the idea of many states of consciousness, appears to be remarkably sophisticated in modern terms.
This book also shows how ancient Buddhist ideas of cosmology are in tune with modern scientific thoeries. Fascinating through and through.
In his foreward to the book, Sir Fred Hoyle states, "Many challenging problems face humankind as we approach the dawn of the new century. This book expolores some of these problems.... "
In closing the discussion, Ikeda states, "The advance of astronomy and unfolding of cosmology will expand humanity's awareness so that it encompasses the entire Earth.... "
Chandra Wickramasinghe brings his skills as both poet and astronomer to introduce the reader to haiku poetry which he describes as ".....having a quality that might be described as 'cosmic'" ( page 4 ). Sir Fred Hoyle, who composed an introduction to "Space and Eternal Life," often contended that the divisions imposed by academia on the sciences were purely artificial but for which Nature has no respect. The highly intellectual dialogue between Wickramasinghe and Ikeda, upon which this book is based, extends Hoyle's analysis into the arts, humanities and philosophical/religious domains. These interconnections are manifested where Wickramasinghe argues that the poet and the scientist, using different language, "...discern the truths hidden in the facts" ( page 7 ). The overlap of cosmology and religion is dealt with ( page 32 ) where Ikeda equates the Buddhist view of the nature of the Universe with modern day observations and empirical scientific models of its structure. The interconnectedness of the academic disciplines is elevated to a higher level where Wickramasinghe and Ikeda contrast the reductionism of the Cartesian approach to reality with that of the more holistic dependent origination view inherent in the Buddhist mindset ( pages 64 - 70 ).Read more ›
I don't know why the two were so determined to bend cosmology to fit their fixed idea of how the universe should be, all the while extolling the virtues of "evidence". But that is not how science works and I was disappointed, indeed incensed, to see the way many ideas in cosmology and astrophysics were being distorted.
What I would have found far more interesting... a discussion between Ikeda and a sceptical scientist, not between two men overeager to pander to the other's viewpoint.
If you are looking for an insight as to how Nichiren Buddhists views the world, this book could be it. If you want scientific accuracy and clarity please look elsewhere.
Disclaimer: I did not actually read this book in its entirety, because the judgements these men made on moral issues were extremely unpalatable to me and I could not finish that part (in particular I refer to their comments on suicide and abortion which I found stigmatising and extremely insensitive). The parts about science I read, but I didn't feel I gained anything from them.
I will state again I found some of the comments on "sanctity of life"-type issues rather disturbing and indeed insulting to me as someone who has witnessed and suffered from extreme depression. To me that is reason enough to avoid this book.