Top, monks observe the insects they find outside their monastery. Above, from left to right, the monks kneel in a day-long prayer for the Dalai Lama’s birthday; they live in replicas of their Tibetan monasteries; the monks study science at the direction of the Dalai Lama, who is their spiritual leader.
If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.” — DALAI LAMA XIV
writing in his book “The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality”
UC MERCED MAGAZINE | FALL 2015
BY LORENA ANDERSON University Communications
Professors Help Monks Expand Scientific Knowledge
uddhism teaches us that existence is suffering, but this summer, two professors found out that teaching neuroscience to Buddhist monks can be enlightening. Cognitive science Professors David Noelle and Carolyn Dicey Jennings each spent about 10 days in southern India, sharing some of their knowledge with groups of exiled Tibetan monks at two of the three monasteries that take part in the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative. They returned with a new understanding of the political refugees, their lives, their beliefs and their culture. “There were lots of things that went against my expectations,” Jennings said. “When I think of a Tibetan monastery, I think of people meditating in solitude. But this was one of the most engaged communities I’ve ever seen.” Inaugurated in 1998 by Dalai Lama XIV, an affiliation between Emory University and Drepung Loseling Monastic University has grown into a multi-dimensional organization that helps advance the Dalai Lama’s directive that scholarly monastics study science and promote the convergence of science and spirituality. The summer sessions offer about four weeks of courses on the philosophy of science, physics, biology and neuroscience. Courses are taught by faculty members from Emory and other universities. Students spend six hours a day in class, hearing lectures, holding discussions, watching demonstrations and participating in hands-on experiments. At the end of each week, every student takes a final exam on the week’s topic.
Published on Aug 28, 2015
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