Mathieu Ricard and Trinh Xuan Thuan's book. The Quantum and the Lotus, is a challenging dialog on perspectives of reality as seen by both modern science and ancient eastern philosophy.
Ricard and Thuan bring experience both in ancient Buddhist traditions and modern science to the conversation. Ricard earned a Doctorate in molecular genetics from Pasteur Institute. In 1972, he left the world of science to pursue a practice in Tibetan Buddhism. He now lives in Nepal and devotes time to his practice, teaching, writing numerous books, and serving as French translator for the Dalai Lama.
Thuan, born in Hanoi, was raised in a Buddhist household, but left Vietnam to pursue a degree in science at California Institute of Technology followed by a PhD in astrophysics at Princeton. He is on the lecturing staff of the University of Virginia.
In the course of their conversation, modern science and ancient spirituality come to similar conclusions about the nature of reality. Following the tradition of "physics meets metaphysics" found in the Dancing Wu Li Masters and The Tao of Physics, Thuan and Ricard take us to greater depths in both the current insights of physics and the counterparts of those insights in Buddhist philosophy.
I refer to Buddhism in this context as a philosophy as the word religion has come to imply a duality, a concept of self and other, that is the opposite of the position regarding the nature of reality taken by both participants in this excellent, though demanding, dialogue.
Is the universe immutable or is it the illusion recognized by limited sensory perceptions? Are we separate selves or is there a universal interconnectivity among all things?
Mathieu Ricard and Trinh Xuan Thuan address these and many other questions about the nature of the universe. Citing early tensions created by differing universal perspectives in ancient Greece by citing the work of Parmenides, who espoused a concrete, unchangeable universe, and Heraclites, whose work depicted a world of constant change, the authors begin the task of balancing the world views of a constantly changing phenomena and an immutable absolute.
Offering detailed insight into the comparatively recent work of Einstein, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, and numerous other physicists on the leading edge of quantum physics and astrophysics, Thuan and Ricard offer a Middle Way of perceiving the way things work at the microcosmic and macrocosmic levels.
They compare the way humans see the world through our sensory perceptions, traditions, religions, and technology with other species, whose sensory mechanisms must provide a differing world view. The result is the concept that what we, through our senses, perceive as “real” could be described as a contextual, consensual reality that is actually a very fluid, constantly changing, process.
In this book, I found both “OH, YEAHs”, concepts as familiar as the remembrance of an old favorite melody, as well as so many “AH HAs”, ideas totally new, but that fit like a discovered piece to place in the expanding jigsaw puzzle of my world view.
On this page, I have alluded to a few of the topics addressed in this dialogue. For those interested in the exploration of the nexus of the physical and metaphysical, there are so many more issues discussed. The entire book is one mind-opening concept after another.
For your convenience, I’ve put a link to the Amazon site where either the paperback or the Kindle ebook version is available. Wishing you good reading.
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