Cosmology and Buddhist Thought: Interview with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson – Nirvana


The first principle was the principle that when causes and conditions are right, things manifest then.  The causes and conditions aren’t there, whatever was supposed to manifest won’t.  It’s like the storm did not manifest. Right and what’s the value of that?

The value of that has to do with deeply understanding changes in your life that can have consequences.  I’ll tell you…it actually connects to the next concept really.  And you’ve heard of the concept of nirvana, I’m sure.  And what is your understanding? I would say a state of mind or state of body entering in a  heightened peak sense of happiness.

Pretty much close. Is it mind or body or both?

It’s totally depends on whether it’s mind or body or both!  It can be all of the above.  Or one or the other in itself in any combination.  I guess. 

Zen BuddhaMy understanding is it’s very simple and it’s really being present – that life exists in the present moment only.

And that nature has this tendency to be that way.  But we don’t for some reason.  We can fight things and therefore lose  our composure, our serenity, and our equanimity. You say fight things.  Like what?

Well we have desire that … Flexible but what are we fighting about?

We’re fighting the fact that our wants, our desires are not being satisfied.  And  we’re fighting them. Fighting.  I still don’t know what we’re fighting. If you have unfulfilled desires, what are you fighting?

You’re fighting to fulfill your desire. So why is it a fight?  I desire to have a milkshake.  I really like milkshakes because it’s malt in it.  But it’s like two miles away and I don’t have a way to get there.  Maybe I’ll get there next week when I drive by it.  So I postpone it.

Yes. So what am I fighting?

Well that’s not a fight there.  You’ve come to…  But it’s a desire I have.

But there are all kinds of desires at all levels. Right, I’m just trying to get concrete example of what a desire unfulfilled that you’re fighting for.  I just don’t know what that really means.

Okay, let me see if I can… It’s not a given to me that it’s an unfulfilled desired leads to a fight.

Well let’s put it this way.  It could be, it could lead to a struggle. For sure.  I want to ultimately kill for it.

Yeah right.  The suffering.  And to causing other people to suffer.  And it is in the context of … Okay, so it’s not the generalized statement, it’s specifically examples of desires gone unchecked.

Yes. People that turn violent or disrespectful or abusive.


Very good.  You put it, well.  Very clear thinking.  Now for me… By the way, you’ve got to look at organizations in total.  Humans are not the worst force ever to be set loose onto the ecology of the earth.  That took place two and a half billion years ago when the cyanobacteria of the oceans slowly but systematically and irreversibly over time, converted to carbon dioxide atmosphere to an oxygen atmosphere.

And all the surface creatures that die in the presence of oxygen died.  And entire new waves of life arose.

Thriving in the oxygen atmosphere and all the anaerobic creatures – they either died or they went subsurface.

And so if you ever go to a beach and you dig through the sand, below a certain distance the sand changes color almost abruptly. That’s a place where no oxygen reaches it and the color comes about from the microbes that thrive anaerobically.

I’ve done that. Yeah that’s right.  And the same is true at some parts of the bottom of the ocean. If there is no oxygen circulation and no oceanic currents, the water is then purple.  There is some other ecosystem that is not oxygen generated.  And so those bacteria completely transform the world.  And far more than we ever can or will.

I think I remember that from Origins. Yeah, it would be in Origins that’s right.

So it was those mounds in Australia. Yeah, as a record of the…

Of the cyanobacteria. Right, right.

Yeah, that’s an interesting observation. And so I’m saying, so humans are uniquely guilty for wanting to change their environment to suit their needs.  Of course, beavers do that as well.  We somehow say it’s all okay for them but not okay for us.

I tend to look a little more holistically at things that any animal is no longer alter its environment to serve it’s own needs.  They all do it.  What does an ant do? I want to dig in the earth and pull grains out and create them into a warren of chambers and underneath the soil for their own purposes.

But they cooperate with each other.  No, but not with other ant colonies.

So a lion’s den does then doesn’t cooperate with other lion’s den.

So in other words, I’m more absolving, is that the right word?  I’m more forgiving of human behavior than many other people are, when I compare it to the behavior of other creatures that in their own attempt to live do whatever they do and whatever they can to, with the environment to each other in order to survive.

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