Monday, January 21, 2013

My Review - Mind and Life: Discussions with the Dalai Lama on the Nature of Reality

I recently reviewed Mind and Life: Discussions with the Dalai Lama on the Nature of Reality, a product of the 2002 Mind and Life Conference, the tenth (X) in the series that has just recently reached its 26th iteration. I reviewed the book for Wildmind Buddhist Meditation, where I review a book or two each year.

Here is just a little taste of the beginning of the review, offering a little background on the conference:
The Mind and Life Institute emerged as “a bold experiment” in 1987 from the efforts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Adam Engle, and Francisco Varela. Between ML IX and X, co-founder and visionary scholar Francisco Varela passed away, a tremendous loss for all of us who seek knowledge in the realm of consciousness studies. Varela has been ably replaced by Richard Davidson (author, most recently, of The Emotional Life of Your Brain).

Among the luminaries attending past conversations are neuroscientist Antonio R. Damasio, philosopher Owen Flanagan, psychologist Daniel Goleman, anthropologist and Zen priest Roshi Joan Halifax, psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, Cistercian monk and founder of the Centering Prayer movement Father Thomas Keating, cellular geneticist and Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, and philosopher Evan Thompson, among many, many others.

The Scientific Coordinator at ML X was:
  • Arthur Zajonc, Ph.D., Professor of Physics at Amherst College
Participants were:
  • Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness, the XIVth Dalai Lama of Tibet

  • Michel Bitbol, M.D., Ph.D., Directeur de recherché at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, France

  • Steven Chu, Theodore and Frances Geballe Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Stanford University
  • Ursula Goodenough, Ph.D., Professor of Biology at Washington University

  • Eric Lander, Ph.D., geneticist, molecular biologist, mathematician, and the founder and director of the Whitehead Institute Center for Genome Research

  • Prof. Dr. Pier Luigi Luisi, Professor of Macromolecular Chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
  • Matthieu Ricard, Ph.D., Author and Buddhist monk at Shechen Monastery in Kathmandu and French interpreter since 1989 for His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  • Arthur Zajonc, Ph.D., Professor of Physics at Amherst College
The interpreters were:
  • Geshe Thupten Jinpa, Ph.D., President and chief editor for The Classics of Tibet Series produced by the Institute of Tibetan Classics in Montreal, Canada
  • B. Alan Wallace, Ph.D., Visiting Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
When I began reading this book, my expectations, based on watching videos of the last several Mind and Life Conferences, no doubt skewed my experience of the book at first. Having seen those videos of recent conferences, I kept waiting for the book to get into the dharma, but that is not the book’s purpose, although there is certainly some Buddhist philosophy later in the book.
Read the whole review.

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