Munching on pizza. Posting on Facebook. Hanging out with friends on weekends.
Some of the newest students at Emory University’s student body may act like typical college kids, but there’s a key difference: They’re Tibetan monks sent by the Dalai Lama to the US to learn science.
Wearing the traditional crimson robes and closely shaved heads of Tibetan monastics, the six men — most in their 30s — are taking physics, biology and chemistry classes with hopes of returning to Tibetan monasteries in India to teach science to other monks and nuns.
It’s the first established program for Tibetan monks from India to train at a Western university, said Geshe Lhakdor, director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in India.
“They are pioneers,” Lhakdor said in a recent interview while visiting Atlanta.
The program is the newest evolution of the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, which is helping the Dalai Lama with his goal of training monastics for the 21st century. Monks and nuns are masters of the mind through the practice of ancient traditions, but they must also master modern concepts of science and technology, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said in a recent visit to Emory.
There have been challenges: Professors well versed in evolution are looking for ways to explain the theory to monks who believe in reincarnation and translators have had to develop new Tibetan words to describe some scientific concepts that don’t exist in Eastern traditions.
“I was very happy when I heard I could come here,” said Sherub Tenzin, 33, one of the monks who fled Tibet for India when he was 19. “In India, we cannot learn science like this.”
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