Mind and Life

Discussions with the Dalai Lama on the Nature of Reality

Pier Luigi Luisi; with Zara Houshmand

Columbia University Press

Mind and Life

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Pub Date: December 2010

ISBN: 9780231145510

232 Pages

Format: Paperback

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Pub Date: October 2008

ISBN: 9780231145503

232 Pages

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Pub Date: December 2010

ISBN: 9780231529709

232 Pages

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Mind and Life

Discussions with the Dalai Lama on the Nature of Reality

Pier Luigi Luisi; with Zara Houshmand

Columbia University Press

For over a decade, a small group of scientists and philosophers—members of the Mind and Life Institute—have met regularly to explore the intersection between science and the spirit. At one of these meetings, the themes discussed were both fundamental and profound: can physics, chemistry, and biology explain the mystery of life? How do our philosophical assumptions influence science and the ethics we bring to biotechnology? And how does an ancient spiritual tradition throw new light on these questions?

Pier Luigi Luisi not only reproduces this dramatic, cross-cultural dialogue, in which world-class scientists, philosophers, and Buddhist scholars develop a holistic approach to the scientific exploration of reality, but also adds scientific background to their presentations, as well as supplementary discussions with prominent participants and attendees. Interviews with His Holiness the Karmapa, the Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, and the actor and longtime human rights advocate Richard Gere take the proceedings into new directions, enriching the material with personal viewpoints and lively conversation about such topics as the origin of matter, the properties of cells, the nature of evolution, the ethics of genetic manipulation, and the question of consciousness and ethics.

A keen study of character, Luisi incorporates his own amusing observations into this fascinating dialogue, painting a very human portrait of some of our greatest—and most intimidating—thinkers. Deeply textured and cleverly crafted, Mind and Life is an excellent opportunity for any reader to join in the debate surrounding this cutting-edge field of inquiry.

One of the best books of its kind. Mind and Life is accessible and engaging and yet deals with this topic in a technically sophisticated way.

Vic Mansfield, professor of physics and astronomy, Colgate University

In the fascinating dialogues presented in this book, leading physicists and biologists discuss with H. H. the Dalai Lama the current scientific understanding of the essential nature of the material world and the living organisms that have emerged within it. Can we know anything about atoms independently of our systems of measurement and conceptual frameworks in which we make sense of our data? Does life and consciousness emerge solely from complex configurations of molecules and cells, or are there other dimensions to reality besides the physical? These are some of the compelling questions addressed in the conversations between two great knowledge traditions—science and Buddhism—by some of the leading proponents of those cultures.

B. Alan Wallace, president, Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies

The dialogues in this book give us many fascinating insights into the new conception of life that is now emerging at the forefront of science. Yet the book does much more. The author vividly describes a remarkable encounter of people from very different cultures who meet in a spirit of great kindness and deep mutual respect. Their non-dogmatic approach to fundamental questions of human existence provide a model for cross-cultural communications that is urgently needed in today's world.

Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics and The Science of Leonardo

A pleasure to read.

Buddhadharma

Stimulating.

Nature

An excellent presentation of what can happen when intelligent, open minds sit down together with the goal of mutual understanding and betterment.

Sameet Kumar, PsyCritiques
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. How Real Are the Elementary Particles?
2. The Emergence of Complexity; and an Interview with Matthieu Ricard
3. Toward the Complexity of Life
4. How Life Unfolds; and an Interview with Richard Gere
5. The Magic of the Human Genome and Its Ethical Problems; and an Interview with His Holiness the Karmapa
6. From Consciousness to Ethics
7. Last Words
About the Mind and Life Institute
Notes
Index

About the Author

Pier Luigi Luisi is professor of biology at the University of Roma 3 and the author of The Emergence of Life: From Chemical Origins to Synthetic Biology. His major research has been in the fields of self-organization of chemical systems and the emergence of novel functional properties as a result of increased complexity.