Humble before the Void: A Western Astronomer, his Journey East, and a Remarkable Encounter Between Western Science and Tibetan Buddhism Info

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“This book will provide readers with a greater
awareness of the spirit of curiosity and inquiry that lies at the heart
of the Buddhist tradition, as well as the fruitfulness of maintaining
active communication between the Buddhist and scientific commu­nities.”
―from the Foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

In
Humble before the Void
, Impey, a noted astronomer, educator, and
author gives us a thor­oughly absorbing and engaging account of his
journey to Northern India to teach in the first-ever “Science for Monks”
leadership program. The pro­gram was initiated by His Holiness the
Dalai Lama to introduce science into the Tibetan Buddhist
monastic tradition.

In a vivid and compelling narrative, Impey
intro­duces us to a group of exiled Tibetan monks whose charm, tenacity
and unbridled enthusiasm for learning is infectious. Impey marvels not
only at their enthusiasm, but at their tireless diligence that allows
the monks to painstakingly build intri­cate sand mandalas―that can be
swept away in an instant. He observes them as they meticulously count
galaxies and notes how their enthusiasm and diligence stands in contrast
to many American students who are frequently turned off by sci­ence’s
inability to deliver easy, immediate payoffs. Because the Buddhist monks
have had a limited science education, Impey must devise creative
pedagogy. His new students immediately take to his inspired teaching
methods, whether it’s the use of balloons to demonstrate the Hubble
expansion or donning an Einstein mask to explain the theory
of relativity.

Humble before the Void also recounts Impey’s
experiences outside the classroom, from the monks’ eagerness to engage
in pick-up basket­ball games and stream episodes of hip American sitcoms
to the effects on his relationship with the teenage son who makes the
trip with him. Moments of profound serenity and beauty in the Himalayas
are contrasted with the sorrow of learning that other monks have set
themselves on fire to protest the Chinese oppression in Tibet.

At
the end of the three week program, both the monks and Impey have gained
a valuable edu­cation. While the monks have a greater under­standing
and appreciation of science, Impey has acquired greater self- knowledge
and a deeper understanding of the nature of learning and teaching in the
East and West. This understand­ing leads to a renewed enthusiasm for
making his topic come alive for others.


Average Ratings and Reviews
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68 Ratings

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Reviews for Humble before the Void: A Western Astronomer, his Journey East, and a Remarkable Encounter Between Western Science and Tibetan Buddhism:

3

Nov 02, 2015

It's difficult not to be both intrigued and warmed by the subject matter of Impey's "Humble Before The Void". Some of my favorite books have centered around the intersection of eastern spiritualality and science, specfically quantum physics and cosmology. Zukav's "Dancing Wu Li Masters" and even Dalai Lama's "Universe in an Atom" are great examples of hard science and edifying pedagogy being informed by eastern spirituality in a powerful way.

This book doesn't quite live up to those two examples, It's difficult not to be both intrigued and warmed by the subject matter of Impey's "Humble Before The Void". Some of my favorite books have centered around the intersection of eastern spiritualality and science, specfically quantum physics and cosmology. Zukav's "Dancing Wu Li Masters" and even Dalai Lama's "Universe in an Atom" are great examples of hard science and edifying pedagogy being informed by eastern spirituality in a powerful way.

This book doesn't quite live up to those two examples, however. The science in this book trace that of a actual 3 week science course Mr Impey is teaching to Tibeten Monk's. Therefore, the science itself is a survey and slightly elementary. Yet, the teaching techniques and classroom dynamics are quite interesting. This book is at it's best when the author is introspective and delivering very rich, if not philosophical, descriptions of his experience at the edge of the world teaching science, his relationship with his son, and the impress of the Buddhist world-view on his western sensibilities.

I would have preferred that the book focus even more on author's narrative and less of the science program's impact on the Monk's. Impey was at his best critiquing the western culture towards education and comparing it with eastern attitudes. Overall, I really enjoyed this and very much valued Mr. Impey's thoughtful perspective. ...more
4

Jun 17, 2015

Chris Impey describes his experiences in the Science for Monks program, and the details of his teachings of the Tibetan Buddhist exiles in Dharamsala, India. His writing style is fluid and not difficult to follow. Given the fact that he had to teach using an interpreter probably aided his descriptions in the book of the complex physical phenomenon he was conveying. The speed of light, relativity, quantum mechanics, evolution and other concepts were front and center. A portion of the material was Chris Impey describes his experiences in the Science for Monks program, and the details of his teachings of the Tibetan Buddhist exiles in Dharamsala, India. His writing style is fluid and not difficult to follow. Given the fact that he had to teach using an interpreter probably aided his descriptions in the book of the complex physical phenomenon he was conveying. The speed of light, relativity, quantum mechanics, evolution and other concepts were front and center. A portion of the material was the description of the nonstandard props and exercises he used to impart the cumulative wisdom that is science. The parallels between science and buddhist philosophy, and the wonder he found upon this realization, were sprinkled throughout the book.
An engaging book that was a bit tedious at times---mainly his descriptions of the setups of some of the lessons he gave---but well worth the effort, regardless. I look forward to reading other books by this author. ...more
4

May 16, 2015

A must-read for teachers who are in need of inspiration. Impey's an engaging storyteller, and his explanations are as simple as they can be. His main focus is conveying the course material (which would probably be titled Astrophysics for Non-majors in a course catalogue) as well as the structure of the program and his personal reflections about how the trip transformed him (global educators, take note), BUT his methodology was really exciting. Can I use Zoob to teach English grammar? Should I A must-read for teachers who are in need of inspiration. Impey's an engaging storyteller, and his explanations are as simple as they can be. His main focus is conveying the course material (which would probably be titled Astrophysics for Non-majors in a course catalogue) as well as the structure of the program and his personal reflections about how the trip transformed him (global educators, take note), BUT his methodology was really exciting. Can I use Zoob to teach English grammar? Should I wear masks of our most famous applied linguists to class and engage students in the Socratic method? Which methods will YOU want to try after reading this book?

...more
4

Aug 07, 2015

It sort of reminded me of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and yet it was sometimes more than that.

It just seemed it could have been even more. It could have been transcendent. Maybe. In the end I learned more about cosmology and science and Buddhism so it certainly wasn't a waste of my time.
5

May 12, 2015

Very interesting book for it's cultural, historical, and educational observations. Communicating the very big and very small is difficult, and I really enjoyed how he was able to teach through physical analogy.

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