Tibetan Buddhism and Modern Physics: Toward a Union of Love and Knowledge Paperback – 28 Apr 2008
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"Readers will surely be rewarded by the light this book shines on the corresponding, but quite different, approaches to reality taken by Tibetan Buddhism and modern physics." -- Dalai Lama
About the Author
Vic Mansfield iwas professor of physics and astronomy at Colgate University. Along with a wide range of science courses, he taught courses focusing on Tibetan Buddhism and Jungian psychology. He was an award-winning teacher who published scores of technical articles in science and several dozen interdisciplinary papers connecting physics to Tibetan Buddhism and depth psychology. For nearly four decades, he practiced and studied with spiritual leaders in the U.S., Europe, and India. He published two previous books: Synchronicity, Science, and Soul-Making (Open Court Publishing, 1995) and Head and Heart: A Personal Exploration of Science and the Sacred (Quest Books, 2002).Vic Mansfield died peacefully on June 3, 2008, after a valiant two-year struggle with lymphoma.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Vic Mansfield's heartfelt appeal for the union of love and knowledge inspired by his own journey through the implications of contemporary science and ancient wisdom on Sunyata is both moving and convincing. The challenge presented does involve the very survival of our species.
I believe he struggles a little too much though with Buddhist causality being challenged by the findings of random factors guiding events as revealed in science and biology. After all, science is about knowledge through findings with specific methodologies, not about human soteriology. Scientific theories and findings are necessarily incomplete. The extrapolations of scientific findings to a world view by New Atheists and others are only the reflection of personal, metaphysical biases and not of science.
Vic Mansfield's concern regarding causality is addressed by Nagarjuna in the Mûlamadhyamakakârikâ, "Nothing whatever arises. Not from itself, not from another, not from both itself and another, and not without a cause." Causality itself remains empty of inherent existence and remains only as a convention for our descriptions and management of the regularities of nature in an understanding echoing Hume's skepticism. In addition, necessary conditions for the arising of phenomena are not necessarily equivalent to causal agents. "Randomness" of biological mutations cannot be truly "random" in the sense that an observer, a microscope, prior knowledge, etc., are necessary conditions for a "random" phenomena to arise.
Thomas Merton, characteristically having no internal conflict on such issues, said it well:
"There is a logic of language and a logic of mathematics. The former is supple and lifelike, it follows our experience. The latter is abstract and rigid, more ideal. The latter is perfectly necessary, perfectly reliable: the former is only sometimes reliable and hardly ever systematic. But the logic of mathematics achieves necessity at the expense of living truth, it is less real than the other, although more certain. It achieves certainty by a flight from the concrete into abstraction. Doubtless, to an idealist, this would seem to be a more perfect reality. I am not an idealist. The logic of the poet -- that is, the logic of language or the experience itself -- develops the way a living organism grows: it spreads out towards what it loves, and is heliotropic, like a plant."
He would recommend it for anyone that has an interest in Buddhism.
At first, I thought the author was wrong when he said that the Gelupka view of emptiness(shentong) was a non-affirming negative, but then I reread "Journey to Certainty", a commentary on Jamgon Mipham's "Beacon of Certianty"; and I realized Dr Mansfield was absolutely correct. I am grateful for this deeper understanding of this important topic. The chapters on non-locality, Karma and the Arrow of time were most enlightening.
No previous training in physics or Buddhism is assumed. Indeed, this text could serve as a first introduction to either discipline. The author, a professor of physic and astronomy, tells us that a major impetus for writing the book was a call by His Holiness the Dalai Lama for works that would introduce Tibetan monks to issues in modern science.
Although the author makes his points with great care and precision, his general tone is light and often quite personal, with frequent anecdotes, occasional humor, photographs, and poetry. The author's warmth shines through. Nevertheless, the discussion is layered, so that deeper meanings are available to more knowledgeable readers.
I've enjoyed a few other books that compare modern physics to Asian philosophies. This one stands out because it focuses in detail on some very specific issues without hand-waving or short-cuts. Among the problems discussed are: can an entity be truly independent? is there invariably a direction to time? can an event be "uncaused"? do physical laws support the possibility of "compassion" as understood in Buddhism? Don't assume you already know what conclusions are reached.
This book comes across as written with feeling and honesty. For all its intellectual concentration, I believe it was primarily a labor of love.