Contributing Author Book Review
The Quantum and the Lotus
Mathieu Ricard and Trinh Xuan Thuan’s book The Quantum and the Lotus is a challenging dialog on perspectives of reality as seen by both modern science and Buddhist philosophy.
Ricard and Thuan bring experience both in Buddhist traditions and modern science to the conversation. Ricard earned a Doctorate in molecular genetics from Pasteur Institute. In 1972, he left the world of science to pursue a practice in Tibetan Buddhism. He now lives in Nepal and devotes time to his practice, teaching, writing numerous books, and serving as French translator for the Dalai Lama.
Thuan, born in Hanoi, was raised in a Buddhist household, but left Vietnam to pursue a degree in science at California Institute of Technology followed by a PhD in astrophysics at Princeton. He is on the lecturing staff of the University of Virginia.
In the course of their conversation, modern science and ancient spirituality arrive at similar conclusions about the nature of reality. Following the tradition of physics meets metaphysics found in the Dancing Wu Li Masters and The Tao of Physics, Thuan and Ricard take us to greater depths in both the current insights of physics and the counterparts of those insights in Buddhist philosophy.
Is the universe immutable or is it the illusion recognized by limited sensory perceptions? Are we separate selves or is there a universal interconnectivity among all things? How do Buddhist concepts such as emptiness, interconnectivity, and no-self find counterparts in science? These and many other questions are addressed.
The authors begin the task of balancing the world views of phenomena versus absolute by citing the work of Parmenides, who espoused a concrete, unchangeable universe, and Heraclites, whose work depicted a world of constant change.
Offering detailed insight into the comparatively recent work of Einstein, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, and numerous other physicists on the leading edge of quantum physics and astrophysics, Thuan and Ricard offer a Middle Way of perceiving the way things work at the microcosmic and macrocosmic levels.
In this book, I found both “OH, YEAHs”, concepts as familiar as the remembrance of an old favorite melody, as well as so many “AH HAs”, ideas totally new, but that fit like a discovered piece to place in the expanding jigsaw puzzle of my world view.
I have identified or alluded to only a few of the topics addressed in this dialogue. For those interested in the exploration of the nexus of the physical and metaphysical, there are so many more issues discussed. The entire book is one mind-opening idea after another. – David Larson