by Jean-FranÃ¡ois Revel ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 15, 1999
At the hands of noted French philosopher Revel (Democracy Against Itself: The Fate of the Democratic Impulse, 1993, etc.) and his son, a Tibetan monk, Ricard (Journey to Enlightenment, not reviewed), the age-old debate between reason and faith receives an intriguing twist: Western norms of thinking confront Eastern concepts of spiritual experience. As a young man, Ricard left a promising career in biology to pursue a deeper wisdom under the tutelage of Tibetan monks exiled in India, including the Dalai Lama. And so the two, with their strikingly divergent paths (the father remains a child of the skeptical French Enlightenment, and the son is now learned in the ways of Buddhist enlightenment), met first in Nepal and then in Brittany to collaborate on this written dialogue, which contrasts Buddhist and European philosophy, science, psychology, ethics, political theory, and spirituality. The dramatic movement of the discussions is purely intellectualâ€”the personal lives of the authors and the natural beauty that surrounded them as they talked in Nepal and France are mutedâ€”and centers largely on Revel, who draws parallels between Buddhist and Western philosophy, learns that Buddhism is more activist than he had thought, and, while doubting Buddhist metaphysics, comes to appreciate how suitably it fills the vacuum left by what he deems the now defunct traditions of Western moral philosophy. Ricard supplies an able introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, though, as he astutely implies at the end, the form the book takesâ€”of logical argumentâ€”mediates his father's didactic skepticism more successfully than his own Buddhist compassion, which comes out sounding overly moralistic at times. Newcomers to Buddhism should note that, while Ricard acknowledges the range of Buddhisms, he does not always flag as such his own distinctly Mahayana teachingsâ€”as, for example, on the universal Buddha-nature. From the ever philosophical French, a rare public display of abstract ideas in lively motion. (Author tour)
Pub Date: Feb. 15, 1999
Page Count: 336
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1999
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