Tibetan Buddhism & Modern Physics

Toward a Union of Love and Knowledge By Vic Mansfield

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Tibetan Buddhism & Modern Physics
Toward a Union of Love and Knowledge
by Vic Mansfield

"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."
—H.H. The Dalai Lama

Subjects: Science and Religion, Buddhism

Foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

5.5 x 8.5, paperback
192 pages

ISBN 10: 1-59947-137-X
ISBN 13: 978-1-59947-137-2

Book Details

Description

 "I am grateful to [Vic] for responding to my appeal for people who have such knowledge to share it with others." —H.H. Dalai Lama


Astrophysicist Vic Mansfield wrote this book in response to the Dalai Lama’s “heartfelt plea” for genuine collaboration between science and Buddhism. The Dalai Lama wrote a foreword to the book and the Office of His Holiness translated it into both Chinese and Tibetan.

In a clear and engaging way, Mansfield shows how the principle of emptiness, the philosophic heart of Tibetan Buddhism, connects intimately to quantum nonlocality and other foundational features of quantum mechanics. He explores detailed connections between emptiness, modern relativity, and the nature of time.

Writing in a clear and accessible style, Mansfield assumes the reader has no technical background in either subject. He compares and contrasts essential theories of both Tibetan Buddhism and modern physics, and connects Tibetan Buddhism and physics to vital issues in today’s world.

Tibetan Buddhism and Modern Physics will appeal to a broad audience that includes general readers and undergraduate and graduate students in science and religion courses.

For Tibetan Buddhists, the profound interconnectedness implied by emptiness demands the practice of universal compassion. Because of the powerful connections between emptiness and modern physics, Mansfield argues, the interconnected worldview of modern physics also encourages universal compassion. Along with these harmonies, the book explores a significant conflict between quantum mechanics and Tibetan Buddhism concerning the role of causality.

Mansfield concludes by exploring the question: “How does this expedition through the heart of modern physics and Tibetan Buddhism — from quantum mechanics, relativity, and cosmology, to emptiness, compassion, and disintegratedness — apply to today’s painfully polarized world?” Despite differences noted and questions raised,  Mansfield sees a solid basis for uniting these worldviews. From this vision, the message of universal compassion can accompany the spread of the scientific worldview, stimulating compassionate action in the light of deep understanding — a true union of love and knowledge.

Contents

Introduction by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Acknowledgements

1. What are Buddhism and science? Why is a dialogue needed?

2. Quantum Mechanics & Compassion: Parallels & Problems

3. An Introduction to Middle Way Emptiness

4. The Physics of Peace. Quantum Nonlocality and Emptiness

5. A Quantum Mechanical Challenge to Tibetan Buddhism

6. Relativity and the Arrow of Time

7. Toward the Union of Love and Knowledge

Foreword, H.H. Dalai Lama

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Vic Mansfield

Dalai Lama and Vic Mansfield

   
I HAVE A DEEP INTEREST in the close relationship between modern science and the study of the inner dimensions of the human mind. This is because we live in a physical world.  We have a physical body and a mind, the two of which are closely interconnected. In fact, it is our experience of physical sensations and emotional responses as a consequence of these circumstances that make us sentient beings.  Nevertheless, if we compare the physical and mental influences upon our lives, it is clear that physical pain can be subdued by strength of mind; therefore, mental happiness and satisfaction are ultimately more important to us than physical discomfort and unhappiness. This is one of the reasons why spirituality, attention to our inner dimension, is so important.  On the other hand, if someone is mentally unhappy, simple physical comfort does not relieve their mental distress.

     I believe that it is the basic right of all beings, but particularly human beings, to lead a happy and successful life. In this context, science and technology have brought us a great deal of benefit.  Because of advances in science and technology, some fundamental human problems have been solved, while other kinds of basic human misery, including disease and hunger, are being addressed.  I have no doubt that science and technology can contribute towards the happiness of us all and that science is a vast and wonderful source of knowledge.

     However, despite their achievements in many fields, we have not yet found a way to use science and technology to eliminate the worries and unhappiness that trouble so many people.  Indeed, I think the basic remedy for mental trouble by nature lies within the mind itself and the potential for really solving problems of the mind only exists on a mental level.  Therefore, while we certainly need science and technology, we also need a sense of spirituality, including ways to cultivate the warm heartedness and compassion that underpin our basic happiness.

     Until recently, these two fields, science and spirituality, have remained distant and apart from each other.  But I believe this is changing.  For example, although I am a Buddhist, if I were to cling only to Buddhist teaching and deny what modern scientific findings prove, I would believe that the world was flat, at the centre of the universe and that the sun and the moon go around it.  Clearly, if I were to adopt an extreme stance and only consider what the scriptures say, keeping my distance from science, then I myself would suffer, not least due to a lack of knowledge.

    The Buddhist tradition, particularly the thousand-year-old tradition of the Indian University of Nalanda that we inherited in Tibet, is concerned with trying to know reality, various levels of reality, through investigation, avoiding the pitfalls of under-estimation and exaggeration.  Modern science too is concerned with discovering reality, not only in theory, but also in practice by conducting repeatable experiments.  Whether we approach reality through science or through a spiritual path, we have to accept it as it is.

     Victor Mansfield, whom I have known for many years, is someone who has reconciled his professional involvement with science with a deep interest in spirituality and Tibetan Buddhism in particular.  He has taught and written widely about both.  In this book, he has set out specifically to show how religion and spirituality are compatible with life in the modern world.  I am grateful to him for responding to my appeal for people who have such knowledge to share it with others.  In today’s world, we no longer live in the kind of isolation that allows us to dismiss views that are different from our own, for to do so can only be a source of conflict.  Our increasing interdependence requires that we try to understand and appreciate other points of view. 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.

THE DALAI LAMA (SIGNED)
November 23, 2007

About Vic Mansfield

"I am grateful to him for responding to my appeal for people who have such knowledge to share it with others." —H.H. Dalai Lama

As a professor of physics and astronomy at Colgate University for thirty-five years, Vic Mansfield taught a wide range of science courses, as well as courses focusing on Tibetan Buddhism and Jungian psychology. Students consistently described Vic's classes as rigorous and challenging, yet always a joy to attend. His Core:Tibet course was a perennial favorite with students, who called it transformative, citing Vic’s passion, humor, and spontaneity. An award-winning teacher, Vic published scores of technical articles in scienceas well as 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 US, Europe, and India. Vic also wrote Synchronicity, Science, and Soul-Making (Open Court Publishing, 1995) and Head and Heart: A Personal Exploration of Science and the Sacred (Quest Books, 2002). In April, 2008, Vic was the co-recipient of the prestigious Sidney J. and Florence Felten French Prize for inspirational teaching. Vic was a lifelong student of Anthony Damiani and Paul Brunton, in association with whom he served as a founding director of Wisdom's Goldenrod Center for Philosophic Studies. Vic died peacefully on June 3, 2008 after a valiant two-year struggle with lymphoma. For details on his life and accomplishments, his obituary, and information about his writings are posted at his continuing Web site.

Book Details

 "I am grateful to [Vic] for responding to my appeal for people who have such knowledge to share it with others." —H.H. Dalai Lama


Astrophysicist Vic Mansfield wrote this book in response to the Dalai Lama’s “heartfelt plea” for genuine collaboration between science and Buddhism. The Dalai Lama wrote a foreword to the book and the Office of His Holiness translated it into both Chinese and Tibetan.

In a clear and engaging way, Mansfield shows how the principle of emptiness, the philosophic heart of Tibetan Buddhism, connects intimately to quantum nonlocality and other foundational features of quantum mechanics. He explores detailed connections between emptiness, modern relativity, and the nature of time.

Writing in a clear and accessible style, Mansfield assumes the reader has no technical background in either subject. He compares and contrasts essential theories of both Tibetan Buddhism and modern physics, and connects Tibetan Buddhism and physics to vital issues in today’s world.

Tibetan Buddhism and Modern Physics will appeal to a broad audience that includes general readers and undergraduate and graduate students in science and religion courses.

For Tibetan Buddhists, the profound interconnectedness implied by emptiness demands the practice of universal compassion. Because of the powerful connections between emptiness and modern physics, Mansfield argues, the interconnected worldview of modern physics also encourages universal compassion. Along with these harmonies, the book explores a significant conflict between quantum mechanics and Tibetan Buddhism concerning the role of causality.

Mansfield concludes by exploring the question: “How does this expedition through the heart of modern physics and Tibetan Buddhism — from quantum mechanics, relativity, and cosmology, to emptiness, compassion, and disintegratedness — apply to today’s painfully polarized world?” Despite differences noted and questions raised,  Mansfield sees a solid basis for uniting these worldviews. From this vision, the message of universal compassion can accompany the spread of the scientific worldview, stimulating compassionate action in the light of deep understanding — a true union of love and knowledge.

Introduction by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Acknowledgements

1. What are Buddhism and science? Why is a dialogue needed?

2. Quantum Mechanics & Compassion: Parallels & Problems

3. An Introduction to Middle Way Emptiness

4. The Physics of Peace. Quantum Nonlocality and Emptiness

5. A Quantum Mechanical Challenge to Tibetan Buddhism

6. Relativity and the Arrow of Time

7. Toward the Union of Love and Knowledge

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Vic Mansfield

Dalai Lama and Vic Mansfield

   
I HAVE A DEEP INTEREST in the close relationship between modern science and the study of the inner dimensions of the human mind. This is because we live in a physical world.  We have a physical body and a mind, the two of which are closely interconnected. In fact, it is our experience of physical sensations and emotional responses as a consequence of these circumstances that make us sentient beings.  Nevertheless, if we compare the physical and mental influences upon our lives, it is clear that physical pain can be subdued by strength of mind; therefore, mental happiness and satisfaction are ultimately more important to us than physical discomfort and unhappiness. This is one of the reasons why spirituality, attention to our inner dimension, is so important.  On the other hand, if someone is mentally unhappy, simple physical comfort does not relieve their mental distress.

     I believe that it is the basic right of all beings, but particularly human beings, to lead a happy and successful life. In this context, science and technology have brought us a great deal of benefit.  Because of advances in science and technology, some fundamental human problems have been solved, while other kinds of basic human misery, including disease and hunger, are being addressed.  I have no doubt that science and technology can contribute towards the happiness of us all and that science is a vast and wonderful source of knowledge.

     However, despite their achievements in many fields, we have not yet found a way to use science and technology to eliminate the worries and unhappiness that trouble so many people.  Indeed, I think the basic remedy for mental trouble by nature lies within the mind itself and the potential for really solving problems of the mind only exists on a mental level.  Therefore, while we certainly need science and technology, we also need a sense of spirituality, including ways to cultivate the warm heartedness and compassion that underpin our basic happiness.

     Until recently, these two fields, science and spirituality, have remained distant and apart from each other.  But I believe this is changing.  For example, although I am a Buddhist, if I were to cling only to Buddhist teaching and deny what modern scientific findings prove, I would believe that the world was flat, at the centre of the universe and that the sun and the moon go around it.  Clearly, if I were to adopt an extreme stance and only consider what the scriptures say, keeping my distance from science, then I myself would suffer, not least due to a lack of knowledge.

    The Buddhist tradition, particularly the thousand-year-old tradition of the Indian University of Nalanda that we inherited in Tibet, is concerned with trying to know reality, various levels of reality, through investigation, avoiding the pitfalls of under-estimation and exaggeration.  Modern science too is concerned with discovering reality, not only in theory, but also in practice by conducting repeatable experiments.  Whether we approach reality through science or through a spiritual path, we have to accept it as it is.

     Victor Mansfield, whom I have known for many years, is someone who has reconciled his professional involvement with science with a deep interest in spirituality and Tibetan Buddhism in particular.  He has taught and written widely about both.  In this book, he has set out specifically to show how religion and spirituality are compatible with life in the modern world.  I am grateful to him for responding to my appeal for people who have such knowledge to share it with others.  In today’s world, we no longer live in the kind of isolation that allows us to dismiss views that are different from our own, for to do so can only be a source of conflict.  Our increasing interdependence requires that we try to understand and appreciate other points of view. 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.

THE DALAI LAMA (SIGNED)
November 23, 2007

About Vic Mansfield

Larson Publications photo of author Vic Mansfield

"I am grateful to him for responding to my appeal for people who have such knowledge to share it with others." —H.H. Dalai Lama

As a professor of physics and astronomy at Colgate University for thirty-five years, Vic Mansfield taught a wide range of science courses, as well as courses focusing on Tibetan Buddhism and Jungian psychology. Students consistently described Vic's classes as rigorous and challenging, yet always a joy to attend. His Core:Tibet course was a perennial favorite with students, who called it transformative, citing Vic’s passion, humor, and spontaneity. An award-winning teacher, Vic published scores of technical articles in scienceas well as 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 US, Europe, and India. Vic also wrote Synchronicity, Science, and Soul-Making (Open Court Publishing, 1995) and Head and Heart: A Personal Exploration of Science and the Sacred (Quest Books, 2002). In April, 2008, Vic was the co-recipient of the prestigious Sidney J. and Florence Felten French Prize for inspirational teaching. Vic was a lifelong student of Anthony Damiani and Paul Brunton, in association with whom he served as a founding director of Wisdom's Goldenrod Center for Philosophic Studies. Vic died peacefully on June 3, 2008 after a valiant two-year struggle with lymphoma. For details on his life and accomplishments, his obituary, and information about his writings are posted at his continuing Web site.

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