Filmed during Mind & Life Institute’s “Mind & Life XIV: The Universe in a Single Atom” on April 9-13, 2007.

Day Two

Cosmology and the Relativity of Space and Time
SPEAKERS: George Greenstein, Arthur Zajonc

Two related themes emerge from the Dalai Lama’s writings on cosmology:
1) The relativity of time and space as developed within both Einstein’s relativity theory and Buddhist philosophy. For example, the Dalai Lama refers to the arguments of the Sautrantika School and Nagarjuna concerning the relative nature of time, and to the Kalchakra system’s concept of “space particles” as the source of material existence from out of emptiness or the vacuum. This latter view echoes modern ideas of fluctuations of the quantum vacuum and the inflationary theory and merits further discussion.
2) The Big Bang and the Buddhist idea of a beginningless universe. Like modern cosmology, Buddhism endorses an evolutionary cosmology, but for logical reasons it is held to be one that is without beginning or end. Moreover, there are a “billion fold” universes in various stages of development. One feature of Buddhist cosmology is the central place of sentient beings whose evolution (karma) is served by the development of a world system. In a sense, their view is “anthropic,” that is centered on human development.

INTERPRETER: Thupten Jinpa

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
Richard J. Davidson
John Dunne
Paul Ekman
R. Adam Engle
Martha Farah
Matthieu Ricard
Bennet M. Shapiro
Wolf Singer
Evan Thompson
Anton Zeilinger


George Greenstein, PhD

Amherst College

Arthur Zajonc, PhD

Mind & Life Institute

Thupten Jinpa Langri, PhD

McGill University

Mind & Life Connections


2007 Mind & Life Dialogue XIV

The Universe in a Single Atom

Topics: Contemplative Wisdom