A Landmark Undertaking for the Convergence of Science and Spirituality
In February 2006, Geshe Lhakdor, Director of the Library of Tibetan Works and
Archives, visited Emory University as a Halle Distinguished Fellow. During
his visit, Dean Robert Paul convened a meeting in which Geshe Lhakdor invited
the university to collaborate on the design and implementation of a comprehensive
science program for Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns. In this meeting, Dean
Paul stated, "The Emory-Tibet Partnership was established with the intention
that it be a two-way exchange of people and ideas. Emory's potential involvement
in the science education project will help us to fully realize that idea. This
is an exciting initiative, possibly one of the most exciting initiatives that
the University could be part of."
The invitation met with an enthusiastic response from both the university's
administration and science faculty. As stated by President James Wagner, Emory's
complete commitment toward creating an ongoing and sustainable program, thereby
realizing His Holiness the Dalai Lama's vision of comprehensive science education
within the monastic curriculum, is evidence of Emory's courageous leadership
and bold vision of transformation through knowledge.
By accepting this invitation, Emory has embarked on an historic initiative
to expand the horizons of knowledge for Tibetan monks and nuns. The vision
of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is not only to give Tibetan monastics new tools
for understanding the world, but also to give those monastics tools to contribute
to the effort of translating time-tested Buddhist contemplative knowledge in
a practical way that can help relieve suffering around the world.
"I deeply appreciate that Emory University has accepted my invitation,
and has made a commitment to fully collaborate with the Library of Tibetan
Works and Archives to develop and implement a comprehensive and sustainable
science education program for Tibetan monastics. I have long believed
in and advocated a dialogue and cross-fertilization between science and
spirituality, as both are essential for enriching human life and alleviating
suffering on both individual and global levels. The Emory-Tibet Science
Initiative has a unique opportunity to fulfill this need, and thus make
a contribution not only to the Emory and Tibetan communities, but to
the world at large, by expanding the horizons of human knowledge and
wisdom." - H.H. the Dalai Lama
Please click here to see the acceptance
letter of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in which he describes the importance
of the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, and President Wagner's letter to His
Click here to watch a short video about the ETSI.
The Emory-Tibet Science Initiative: An Overview
Now in its sixth year, ETSI rapidly has expanded the horizons of knowledge for both monastics and Western scholars. Emory’s commitment to creating an ongoing and sustainable program realizes His Holiness’s vision of a comprehensive science education within the monastic curriculum. It is also evidence of Emory’s courageous leadership and bold vision of transformation through knowledge. By bringing together the tools of modern science with time-tested Buddhist contemplative knowledge, more can be done to help relieve suffering around the world.
Under the joint direction of Preetha Ram, associate dean for science at Emory College, and Geshe Lobsang Negi, director of the Emory- Tibet Partnership, ETSI involves more than two dozen Emory faculty from various scientific disciplines and seven full-time translators— three at Emory and four at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India. The initiative already has led to six completed science textbooks in Tibetan and English, with two more textbooks in various stages of completion. In addition, three bilingual science primers have been completed and, after six years, a total of ten textbooks and fifteen primers will have been published and distributed. To complement the main course books, supplementary materials such as the book Brain Facts by the Society of Neuroscience have been translated into Tibetan. Further supplementary materials also will be translated in the future to create a rich body of Tibetan-language science materials for the curriculum.
To help in the translation process (e.g., introducing words such as electromagnetism and cloning into the Tibetan lexicon), Emory has organized and hosted the first and second International Conference on Science Translation into Tibetan.
Currently the program draws from native Tibetan instructors to develop and teach mathematics to the monastic students, a necessary prerequisite for their study of science. The aim is that eventually indigenous science teachers will be cultivated from within the Tibetan monasteries and nunneries so that the program becomes self-sustaining and reaches more than 20,000 monks and nuns throughout India and Nepal.
Emory University takes great pride in being able to help fulfill one of His Holiness’s most cherished dreams of implementing comprehensive science education in the core Tibetan monastic curriculum. The Dalai Lama has guided the process at every step of the way and even personally contributed funds toward the creation of an ETSI endowment. In the message accompanying his first gift, he wrote, “In just the last three years, the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative has made notable progress. However, it is a large and far-sighted project that will require significant resources to ensure its success and sustainability. I am therefore happy to make a contribution of $50,000 toward this important work at Emory and urge others also to lend their support to this unique and meaningful undertaking.” His Holiness followed up this initial gift with a further gift of $50,000 in May 2010. (Click here to read more about this gift.)
When Robert A. Paul completed his term as dean of Emory College in spring 2010, the University honored him for his visionary leadership by renaming the initiative the “Robert A. Paul Emory-Tibet Science Initiative.”