The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality

by Dalai Lama

Hardcover, 2005




Call number



Morgan Road Books (2005), Edition: 1st, 224 pages


Gallileo, Copernicus, Newton, Niels Bohr, Einstein. Their insights shook our perception of who we are and where we stand in the world and in their wake have left an uneasy co-existence: science vs. religion, faith vs. empirical enquiry. Which is the keeper of truth? Which is the true path to understanding reality? After forty years of study with some of the greatest scientific minds as well as a lifetime of meditative, spiritual and philosophical study, the Dalai Lama presents a brilliant analysis of why both disciplines must be pursued in order to arrive at a complete picture of the truth. Science shows us ways of interpreting the physical world, while spirituality helps us cope with reality. But the extreme of either is impoverishing. The belief that all is reducible to matter and energy leaves out a huge range of human experience: emotions, yearnings, compassion, culture. At the same time, holding unexamined spiritual beliefs-beliefs that are contradicted by evidence, logic, and experience-can lock us into fundamentalist cages. Through an examination of Darwinism and karma, quantum mechanics and philosophical insight into the nature of reality, neurobiology and the study of consciousness, the Dalai Lama draws significant parallels between contemplative and scientific examination of reality. "I believe that spirituality and science are complementary but different investigative approaches with the same goal of seeking the truth," His Holiness writes. "In this, there is much each may learn from the other, and together they may contribute to expanding the horizon of human knowledge and wisdom." This breathtakingly personal examination is a tribute to the Dalai Lama's teachers-both of science and spirituality. The legacy of this book is a vision of the world in which our different approaches to understanding ourselves, our universe and one another can be brought together in the service of humanity.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member cdogzilla
This, like "The Four Noble Truths" is a book I'll be thinking about and reacting to for a long time. While I still don't buy into the argument for the Buddhist theory of reincarnation, it's made more coherently than I've read before and that was really the only area I felt religion might be getting
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in the way of reason. This is one of those books I'd have no hesitation recommending to anyone asking for suggestions of something to read.
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LibraryThing member RMSmithJr
Finally, a spiritual book that seeks to blend with science on touchstone opportunities instead of vigorously relying on the doctrine of denial. Ths book blends well with other contrary views on my bookshelf, most notably Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion, Judith's Barad's The Ethics of Star Trek,
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Carl Sagan's Science as a Candle in the Darkness et al. There is so much more I could re-read and write more on this book. Perhaps after a second reading after reflection through the passage of time, space and place.
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LibraryThing member sneezypb
Fantastic reflection on and insight to various popular topics in science such as the Big Bang, genetic modification of crops, and consciousness. Through these examples, he shows how science and Buddhism agree in areas and disagree in others. Throughout, he expresses the joy conversations with
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scientists have brought him in learning about another perspective and integrating that knowledge with his already extensive understanding of Hindu and Buddhist knowledge.

It reads much like a lecture the Dalai Lama might have given. This book is easily accessible, flows easily, and stole my day.
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LibraryThing member bethlea
The Dalai Lama seems to be a very warm and friendly person. His deep love for all people is very evident.
He is very interested in science and how it could work with Buddhism to improve our future.
Because he is not a scientist, he has a very clear way of explaining science in an understandable way.
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was surprised by his sense of humor!
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LibraryThing member thatguynate
Another transcript of one of the Dalai Lama's Mind and Life Conferences, this is an excellent attempt to bridge Buddhist thought and scientific teaching with the scientific findings of the West. Each topic begins with a brief introductory lecture followed by a discussion among the panel members,
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His Holiness' keen interest and critical mind ensures that all points from the scientific side are easily understood by those with little training in the field while at the same time guaranteeing the authenticity of the Buddhist teachings as well.

Like most books from the Mind and Life series, this book shows what we all have to gain by bridging two seemingly different but quite complementary worldviews. For the inexperienced it provides an excellent description of the foundation of both sides, but much of the information may be redundant for those who already have some training. However, the true value lies in the mindset of the participants and the realization of what is to be gained by integrating East and West.
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LibraryThing member Patriette
Other spiritual leaders need to open their minds and hearts as the Dalai Lama does here in this profound exploration. How refreshing to see this truly enlightened soul say that some of tenets of his ancient tradition need to change because of truths discovered in the scientific world! I would read
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anything this great soul writes.
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LibraryThing member InfinityOutlaw
Interesting in concept, but it felt a little too broad for me. While it gave a good general outline and was fairly easy to grasp, I strongly wished for more explanation and details on several points. I felt that most of the chapters and ideas could easily have been expanded into their own books. So
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nice overall with interesting ideas, just not as much detail as I would have liked to have seen.
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LibraryThing member vibrantminds
The Dalai Lama takes a look into the world of science and how it affects humanity. From the world of atoms, quantum physics and the cosmos to the consciousness of our minds to genetic engineering, he views many aspects of science and how it relates to mankind. His question that he poses is whether
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science can provide a comprehensive understanding of the spectrum of reality and human existence. His conclusion is that science is close but it is not complete in being able to stand alone otherwise our existence would be limited to only the facts adduced by science. But together science and spirituality can bring us closer to meet the challenges of humanity and bring us closer to a unified world.
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LibraryThing member BarbaraNYC
I started reading this around a year ago, but for some reason I've put the book down (I was preoccupied with other things) and I have not picked it up again. I do want to read this book, so I'm holding on to it and hopefully will get to it soon.
LibraryThing member puckrobin
Regardless of creed, this book offers food for thought; the Dalai Lama shares his experiences encountering science and technology while engaged in the intensive philosophical and faith-based teaching that was his life from toddlerhood. Filled with personal anecdotes about his experiences around the
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world, meeting scientists and intelligentsia as well as his own observations on his studies, his faith and his experience in a tumultuous world, The Universe in a Single Atom offers hope that perhaps science and faith need not be at odds with each other.
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LibraryThing member uufnn
From the dust jacket, " After forty years of study with some of the greatest scientific minds, as well as a lifetime of meditative, spiritual, and philosophical study, the Dalai Lama presents a brilliant analysis of why all avenues of inquiry--scientific as well as spiritual--must be pursued in
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order to arrive at a complete picture of the truth. Science shows us ways of interpreting the physical world, while spirituality helps us cope with reality. But the extreme of either is impoverishing."
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LibraryThing member manadabomb
I will admit it took me a long time to read this. Even though I'm a science geek, a lot of the concepts do go over my head. It doesn't make it less interesting, it just takes me longer to try and grasp the concept or just give up and move on.

HHDL takes some of the concepts of science and compares
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and contrasts them to Buddhist practices. If you are interested in either, then this is probably a good book for you. We're taken through the Big Bang vs the Buddhist beginningless universe, Quantum physics and relativity vs Buddhist emptiness, evolution vs karma, several chapters on sentient consciousness vs neurobiology and finally into genetics vs the entire human race.

In the concepts I did grasp and make notes on, HHDL makes excellent parallels between the scientific world and the spiritual world, something that the majority of religions maintain cannot happen. HHDL is all to happy to point out the similarities and encourage scientific progress, but with warnings of keeping the human compassion and ethics along for the ride.

HHDL has often said that every human on this earth is the same, and should all be treated with compassion. He was essentially proven right when the human genome was finally sequenced.

In his own way, he implores (nicely and gently) for society to get better educated about science so that we don't fear it and so that we do not cross a line. "We must be willing to be revolted when science - or for that matter any human activity - crosses the line of human decency, and we must fight to retain the sensitivity that is otherwise so easily eroded."
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LibraryThing member teddee1
One of the most interesting books I ever read. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but His Holiness, knowledge and insight of modern science is very impressive. Also his ability to explain both the science and the philosophy of Buddhism, so a lay person can understand it. Also his reasoning of the
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need of the understanding and explanation of the ethics and morality of the all the rapid advancement’s in science especially in the area of genetics and the potential use and miss use of this technology, but it just not based on spiritual side but also the morality regardless of believes, but based on humanities morality of all people, regardless of their believes, country of origin, nationality.
I highly recommend this book to everyone regardless of your race, creed or believes…….
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LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
I'm not sure why I wanted to read this, tbh. ?If I'd seen what is apparently an alternate subtitle: The Universe in a Single Atom: How Science and Spirituality Can Serve Our World, I might have realized without even picking it up that it's not for me. ?áIt is short and easy to read, so maybe
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spiritual people can get more out of it than I did. ?á

But I got to p. 37 when I met this line: Reality, including our own existence, is so much more complex than objective scientific materialism allows." ?áOk, so it is the same old dogma that I know from Christians, the same old claim that we should 'give up and let god.' ?áI disagree. ?áThe scientific method is the only valid way to get to know the world. ?áIt's the only thing that leads to real advances in medicine, psychology, technology, sociology. ?á If only more politicians and economists applied the scientific method, the world would be a better place. ?á(Studies of history, respect for the traditions of historical precedence, can get us only so far, too, imo. ?áWe must strive to overcome the baser aspects of human nature. ?áWe must, for example, admire the works of Shakespeare for their revelation of the follies that humans have in the past exhibited, and be proud that we no longer [for example] think it's funny to 'Tame the Shrew.')

?áReligion is about faith. ?áIt's just as much of a myth or fairy-tale or hallucinogenic high experience as any of those things more accurately labeled. ?áNo amount of prayer or ritual or service to a god or pope or?ámeditation is going to increase our knowledge of how the world works. ?áThe only real ways that spirituality could 'serve our world' is by serving as a palliative to the fearful and an admonition to the wicked. ?áAnd, since the wicked twist the words of the holy texts to suit their ambitions anyway, and since the fearful would actually be better off if they worked to become?ásmarter and stronger, I can't even allow for that. ?áI'm sure the man means well, but imo it's time for the human race to grow up, to free ourselves from the shackles of tradition."
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LibraryThing member swbesecker
Interesting concepts presented about man and our quest for truth (science) and how spirituality and science either agree/support each other and how we must rein ourselves in as a matter of ethics. At times, this book is very dry and hard to plug through.
LibraryThing member dasam
The main argument is that both science and spirituality at their core are efforts to combine wisdom and compassion, and that both ways of knowing the world give value to what it means to be human.
LibraryThing member ZanaDont
Beautiful. Simplistic. Thoughtful. Interesting.
I am envious of the wonderful conversations the Dalai Lama has been able to have to the greatest thinkers of the 20th century.... and also, of the conversations those men and women have been able to have with him. If you are already a believer in a
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holistic picture of universal complexity and completeness... this book is not a surprise, but if you've never considered such a thing (or don't know what I'm talking about) you may enjoy this particular picture as provided by the synthesis of current science and how they dovetail with classical ancient Tibetan Buddhist teachings.
Also a small history on Buddhism and the beliefs of a number of different sects of Buddhist philosophy.
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LibraryThing member bleached
The Dalai Lama is truly an inspirational and humble man. In this book he takes a look at how Buddhism and science build off each other and how science lends answers to some of life's questions. However, science can not answer some questions and we must still turn to spirituality to pick up the
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pieces. But as science and our understanding of the universe evolves, so should our understanding of spirituality. I would highly recommend this book to both people who love science and those who barely passed science class. The Dalai Lama managed to relay his ideas and beliefs in a way that anyone can understand and everyone must at least appreciate, even if they don't entirely agree.
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Original publication date



076792066X / 9780767920667

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(178 ratings; 4.1)

Library's review

Tibetan Buddhist writings frequently state that many of the things we perceive in the world are in fact illusory, as illusory as echoes or mirages. In Twelve Examples of Illusion, Jan Westerhoff offers an engaging look at a dozen illusions--including magic tricks, dreams, rainbows, and reflections
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in a mirror--showing how these phenomena can give us insight into reality. For instance, he offers a fascinating discussion of optical illusions, such as the wheel of fire (the "wheel" seen when a torch is swung rapidly in a circle), discussing Tibetan explanations of this phenomenon as well as the findings of modern psychology, and significantly clarifying the idea that most phenomena--from chairs to trees--are similar illusions. The book uses a variety of crystal-clear examples drawn from a wide variety of fields, including contemporary philosophy and cognitive science, as well as the history of science, optics, artificial intelligence, geometry, economics, and literary theory. Throughout, Westerhoff makes both Buddhist philosophical ideas and the latest theories of mind and brain come alive for the general reader.
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