Mindful Media: The Universe in a Single Atom

Mindful Media: Book Reviews, DVDs, and CDsIf I’ve done it right, this post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure policy here.

We read a lot of books about living mindfully in my family and I love hearing from others when they come across a book that they or their kids liked. We also use other media like movies, music, and spoken word to talk about and practice mindfulness. In this continuing series, I’ll be writing posts about the mindful media that my kids and I recommend. Feel free to share any you’ve come across in the comments and if it looks like it might be a nice complement to the one I’m reviewing, I’ll be happy to review it or add a link to it in my post.
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The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality

 by the Dalai Lama

(this review is a little different as it’s more stream of consciousness observations that I made while paused during various sections of the book and I don’t have time to proof.  I hope it makes sense.)

In this book, the Dalai Lama explains the lifelong dialog between science and spirituality in which he has been engaged.  The book urges combining wisdom and compassion in all research and exploration.  Much  repeated introspection and discussion with others, as well as a continual questioning of all of the ideas and methodologies we hold as true are, at the same time very Buddhist and scientific.

 

The title real does the book justice as it manages to touch on a broad range of subjects including genetic research, cosmology, quantum physics, evolution, the nature of consciousness and reality.  The topics can be dizzying, and he freely admits to not grasping portions of them.  He says that his lack of mathematical training holds him back from going as deeply into the subjects that he’s obviously so passionately interested.

 

I found it fascinating to hear about his interest in mechanics and science as a boy, in the palace in Tibet before the exile. I enjoyed reading about his lifelong spiritual and scientific education, dialogues with scientist, and how he recommended that scientific courses be included into the Buddhist monastic education, which it was after a few years.

 

He talks about the discussions and correspondence with the many elite scientist he has had during his life, many of them life-long friends, and I can imagine many of those scientists leaving with just as much to think about as he did.

 

Every time that I read something by him, I’m amazed at the willingness to not know, to be wrong, and to keep learning.  This book is no exception.  There’s no dogma or agenda undermining differing points of view.

 

I look at my own small glimmers of understanding compassion and I can see the edges of what it must be like to exist in a sea of compassion.  This book gave me a grasp of the freedom there is in not having fear of being mistaken and to be able to never tire of reexamining belief structures and judgments.  The real connection of true listening without ego in the way, is what I heard in his words.

 

The main crux of the book deals with the difference between knowledge without restraint, which is an unbalanced materialist view of science, and knowledge tempered with compassion and ethical search, creates a space for compassionate wisdom.  It wasn’t mentioned in the book, but I think of the Nazi scientist that generated information by conducting horrific experiments before and during World War II.  The research was useful to later scientists, but it was agreed not to use it, but to find ethical ways to look for the information.  This is science with wisdom.

 

I like how he explained the rigour of the scientific method for inquiry about the world around us and the principle similarities with deep meditative introspection.  He talks about the biases and errors that both methods can fall into, as well as how vital both are for each other for balance.

 

The most interesting part of the book, for me, was the final section where he begins with his concern about genetic manipulation that is now available to us, and the need for scientists to balance themselves with deep introspective study on the ethics.  Given the human race’s horrific history with eugenics and the current abuse of the food supply through genetic modification, I agree that this balance is going to be vital now and in the future.

 

Overall, whether you’re experienced or new to Buddhism or to scientific inquiry, this book will leave you thinking.  I found it readily applicable to my issue of SciAm that arrived the afternoon after I finished reading this book, as well as to my own studies in mindfulness-based education.

 

I ended up reading the text as well as listening to the audiobook version.  While both are easy to read and listen to, I felt as though getting the words in two different ways, stimulated different parts of my brain and allowed me to think about the book more deeply.  The audiobook version was read by Richard Gere, who is a long-time practicing Buddhist and has met the Dalai Lama on several occasions.  He is interviewed at the end of the book about what he thinks of the Dalai Lama and what he thought about the book. So, if you have a choice, I’d recommend going for the audio version.

 

Related Posts You May Like:

Have you read any good books lately? I’d love to hear from you.

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Disclosure: If I did this right, there are affiliate links in this post. You can read my full disclosure policy here.

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Post for NaBloPoMo
(Since I’m writing most of these late at night, in bed, while tandem nursing twins, I’m choosing to concentrate on writing rather than proof-reading or editing. Please forgive the extra typos and non-nonsensical grammar. Thank you.)

See you tomorrow for Nablopomo.
NaBloPoMo November 2014

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