Tibetan Buddhism and Modern Physics

Toward a Union of Love and Knowledge

Vic Mansfield (1941–2008)

Foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Tibetan Buddhism and Modern Physics: Toward a Union of Love and Knowledge addresses the complex issues of dialogue and collaboration between Buddhism and science, revealing connections and differences between the two. While assuming no technical background in Buddhism or physics, this book strongly responds to the Dalai Lama’s “heartfelt plea” for genuine collaboration between science and Buddhism. The Dalai Lama has written a foreword to the book and the Office of His Holiness will translate it into both Chinese and Tibetan.

In a clear and engaging way, this book shows how the principle of emptiness, the philosophic heart of Tibetan Buddhism, connects intimately to quantum nonlocality and other foundational features of quantum mechanics. Detailed connections between emptiness, modern relativity, and the nature of time are also explored. 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, the book argues that 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.

The book concludes with a response to 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 and questions raised, the book's central message is that there is a solid basis for uniting these worldviews. From this basis, 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.

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.

Foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama / ix 

Acknowledgments / vii

1: What Are Buddhism and Science? Why Is a Dialogue Needed? / 3

2: Quantum Mechanics and Compassion: Parallels and Problems / 27

3: An Introduction to Middle Way Emptiness / 45

4: The Physics of Peace: Quantum Nonlocality and Emptiness / 63

5: A Quantum Mechanical Challenge to Tibetan Buddhism / 97

6: Relativity and the Arrow of Time / 131

7: Toward the Union of Love and Knowledge / 151

Notes / 169

Index / 175