THE QUANTUM AND THE LOTUS: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet

Matthieu Ricard, Author, Trinh Xuan Thuan, Author, Trinh Xuan Thuan, Joint Author . Crown $25 (320p) ISBN 978-0-609-60854-8

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 Khyentsé 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. (Aug. 7)

Reviewed on: 07/23/2001
Release date: 12/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-4000-8079-3
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