The Tibet-Emory Partnership is one of several programs aimed at bringing science education into Tibetan monasteries and nunneries, with encouragement from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Twenty-six Tibetan monks and two nuns have graduated from an intensive five-year summer program run by professors from Emory University, reports the Associated Press. For six weeks each summer, they’ve been gathering in Sarah, in Northern India, to study subjects ranging from basic math to neuroscience. The monks and nuns didn’t earn any degrees, but they’ll be returning to their monasteries and nunneries with a new Tibetan-language science curriculum that they’ll teach.
“The Buddhist religion has a deep concept of the mind that goes back thousands of years,” said Larry Young, an Emory psychiatry professor and prominent neuroscientist. “Now they’re learning something different about the mind: the mind-body interface, how the brain controls the body.”
Because they’ve been trained to learn by memorizing long passages, few of the program participants take notes during class. But, Young notes, they’re able to follow along and discuss complex concepts at an advanced level. The bigger challenges, he notes, are in reconciling scientific knowledge with spiritual beliefs. But as one young monk notes, “Buddhism basically talks about truth, or reality, and science really supports that.”