Emory-Tibet Science Initiative receives $1 million grant from Dalai Lama Trust

By Elaine Justice, Emory University | March 25, 2014

Emory University has received a grant of $1 million from the Dalai Lama Trust to support the endowment fund of The Robert A. Paul Emory-Tibet Science Initiative (ETSI). The grant will help provide permanent support for the ETSI, which is implementing a six-year science curriculum in major Tibetan monastic institutions. Founded in 2007 as an outgrowth of the Emory-Tibet Partnership, the ETSI is dedicated to integrating a comprehensive modern science curriculum into Tibetan monastic education. The program aims to provide Tibetan monastic students in India and other regions with a basic background in philosophy of science, physics, biology and neuroscience that complements their monastic education.

“For more than 30 years I have been engaged in an ongoing exchange with scientists, exploring what modern scientific knowledge and time-honored science of mind embodied by the Tibetan tradition can bring to each other’s understanding of reality,” His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama said during his visit to Emory last fall. “This is important because the greatest problems humanity faces today must be addressed not only on a material level, but also on a psychological and emotional level.”

“It is an honor and a privilege for Emory to work hand-in-hand with His Holiness on the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative,” says Emory President James Wagner. “This generous grant from the Dalai Lama Trust signifies his confidence in the work that has been done to date, and his strong and personal commitment to the ETSI’s long-term future.”

“The vision of His Holiness the XIV 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,” says Lobsang Tenzin Negi, director of the Emory-Tibet Partnership and co-director of the ETSI.

Since its founding the ETSI has:

  • Sent Emory faculty to Dharamsala, India, each summer to offer six-week science intensive courses to two pilot cohorts, totaling 90 Tibetan monks and nuns from 22 institutions, who will help bring this science curriculum to their home institutions;
  • Developed a series of bilingual, Tibetan-English science textbooks, covering physics and cosmology, biology and life sciences, neuroscience, mathematics and philosophy of science; and
  • Hosted two cohorts of six monastic science scholars to undergo rigorous science education at Emory in order to become future indigenous monastic science teachers at their respective monastic institutions; the second cohort is currently in residence at the university

“Emory is bringing modern science education to Tibetan monastics both on our campus and in India,” says Robin Forman, dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences, the academic home of the ETSI. “Our faculty and Tibetan monastics are engaged in a vibrant collaboration to establish a comprehensive science curriculum as a way of protecting, preserving, and enhancing Tibetan culture and civilization, and asking new questions about the human experience, which are opening pathways of discovery for scholars everywhere.”

In 2014 the ETSI will begin implementing a six-year science curriculum in the largest Tibetan monastic universities. This will provide the vast majority of future Tibetan monastic graduates with modern science training and will include:

  • Summer intensives at three major Tibetan monastic universities at Drepung, Gaden and Sera, India, taught by Emory faculty or faculty from other distinguished U.S. universities;
  • Year-round learning at those institutions, facilitated by on-site teachers, with weekly classes and video lectures;
  • Distance learning opportunities for monks and nuns at other Tibetan monastic institutions;
  • Creation of a library of more than 180 video lectures dubbed into Tibetan; and
  • Creation of 19 core textbooks and 10 supplemental textbooks in English and Tibetan.

“It’s a long-term project,” says Negi. “Our aim is to foster a permanent, informed dialogue and close collaboration between the Tibetan monastic scholars and modern scientists to explore new insights that will contribute to a more holistic understanding of the human condition.”

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