Meditating on consciousness

Michael Bond in Nature:

456170ai1_0The Dalai Lama is keen for Buddhists and scientists to interact.

In the troubled relationship between science and religion, Buddhism represents something of a singularity, in which the usual rules do not apply. Sharing quests for the big truths about the Universe and the human condition, science and Buddhism seem strangely compatible. At a fundamental level they are not quite aligned, as both these books make clear. But they can talk to each other without the whiff of intellectual or spiritual insult that haunts scientific engagement with other faiths.

The disciplines are compatible for two reasons. First, to a large degree, Buddhism is a study in human development. Unencumbered by a creator deity, it embraces empirical investigation rather than blind faith. Thus it sings from the same hymn-sheet as science. Second, it has in one of its figureheads an energetic champion of science. The current Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetans, has met regularly with many prominent researchers during the past three decades. He has even written his own book on the interaction between science and Buddhism (The Universe in a Single Atom; Little, Brown; 2006). His motivation is clear from the prologue of that book, which Donald Lopez cites in his latest work Buddhism and Science: for the alleviation of human suffering, we need both science and spirituality.

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