'Indigenous Teachers'

Tibetan monastics return to teach science in Dharamsala

By Mary Loftus

Six Buddhist monks wearing their by-now-familiar crimson robes, smiling broadly and carrying flowers, stood out from the more traditionally clad graduates in Emory’s Commencement ceremony on May 13.

After three years of studying physics, biology, chemistry, and other sciences alongside Emory students, the first group of monastics to attend the university as part of the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, at the request of His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, have completed their course of study.

“I had a wonderful experience being here, not only as a student but as a human being,” said Ngawang Norbu 13C, who, with his fellow monastics, is returning to Dharamsala, India, to teach science to other Tibetan monks and nuns.

“These six monks are really the pioneers . . . for bringing modern science into the monastic setting,” says Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi 99PhD, a former monk who is cofounder and director of the Emory-Tibet Partnership. “They will be indigenous teachers.”

Monks sitting with graduates at Commencement

Tibetan wisdom: The inaugural Emory-Tibet Science Initiative class of six monks left their mark on Emory; a new group is set to arrive in the fall.

Kay Hinton

This was the first program established for Tibetan monks from India to train at a Western university, and their arrival in 2010 garnered worldwide attention. The monks shared an apartment, took turns cooking Chinese and Indian meals, and meditated each morning. But they also ate pizza, hung out on the Quad, kept up with friends on Facebook, and wore sneakers with their robes.

While here, they translated introductory science books into Tibetan to take back as teaching tools.

The Dalai Lama, a Presidential Distinguished Professor at Emory, returns to Atlanta in October for a three-day series of events on citizenship, ethics, and education. A public talk will take place at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. For more information, visit www.dalailama.emory.edu.

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