SCIENCE for MONKS

creating science learning communities with tibetan buddhist monastics since 2001

Contact Science For Monks

News & Announcements

Humble Before the Void

Humble Before the Void

by Chris Impey

June 2014

“This book will provide readers with a greater awareness of the spirit of curiosity and inquiry that lies at the heart of the Buddhist tradition, as well as the fruitfulness of maintaining active communication between the Buddhist and scientific commu­nities.” —from the Foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

In Humble before the Void, Impey, a noted astronomer, educator, and author gives us a thor­oughly absorbing and engaging account of his journey to Northern India to teach in the first-ever “Science for Monks” leadership program. The pro­gram was initiated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to introduce science into the Tibetan Buddhist monastic tradition.

In a vivid and compelling narrative, Impey intro­duces us to a group of exiled Tibetan monks whose charm, tenacity and unbridled enthusiasm for learning is infectious. Impey marvels not only at their enthusiasm, but at their tireless diligence that allows the monks to painstakingly build intri­cate sand mandalas—that can be swept away in an instant. He observes them as they meticulously count galaxies and notes how their enthusiasm and diligence stands in contrast to many American students who are frequently turned off by sci­ence’s inability to deliver easy, immediate payoffs. Because the Buddhist monks have had a limited science education, Impey must devise creative pedagogy. His new students immediately take to his inspired teaching methods, whether it’s the use of balloons to demonstrate the Hubble expansion or donning an Einstein mask to explain the theory of relativity.

Humble before the Void also recounts Impey’s experiences outside the classroom, from the monks’ eagerness to engage in pick-up basket­ball games and stream episodes of hip American sitcoms to the effects on his relationship with the teenage son who makes the trip with him. Moments of profound serenity and beauty in the Himalayas are contrasted with the sorrow of learning that other monks have set themselves on fire to protest the Chinese oppression in Tibet.

At the end of the three week program, both the monks and Impey have gained a valuable edu­cation. While the monks have a greater under­standing and appreciation of science, Impey has acquired greater self- knowledge and a deeper understanding of the nature of learning and teaching in the East and West. This understand­ing leads to a renewed enthusiasm for making his topic come alive for others.

Print and digital editions available online.

Second Cohort Graduation 2013

Graduation of Second Cohort of Sager Science Leaders!

We are pleased to announce the graduation of our second cohort of Sager Science Leaders! These dedicated monks and nuns representing over a dozen monasteries and nunneries in India and Nepal will help develop and implement science educational programs and dialogue at their respective monastic institutions. The second cohort began training in 2010 and has completed over 500 hours of professional development training distributed over four intensive 3-week workshops. These leaders have spearheaded a variety of activities that drive science education forward – sharing the science they have learned by teaching classes large and small, organizing science exhibitions, publishing articles on science and Buddhism, and most recently launching science centers within the monasteries and nunneries. Congratulations!

Cosmology & Consciousness Conference

3-day public dialogue

Dehradun, Nov 15-17, 2013

The three-day meeting, titled ‘Cosmology and Consciousness II – Knowing and Action’ will be held at the Songtsen Library, Dehradun, from 15 to 17 November, 9am to 5pm. Themes under discussion will be How Do We Know, How Do We Extend Our Knowing, and How Do We Know How to Act? Participants from diverse backgrounds and experiences will discuss how best to advance investigations at the intersection of science and spirituality. The conference is an exploration of how science, technology and wisdom come together to address the challenges of the future.

Announcing: Tibetan Buddhist Leaders Science Network

July 2013

We are pleased to announce “Tibetan Buddhist Leaders Science Network” a 3-year project made possible by a generous grant from the Templeton Foundation. The project will involve 75 monastic graduates - geshes and equivalent degree holders (25 per year). Each year, the program will consist of a 4-week intensive introductory science course and conclude with a 3-day public program that positions the monastic participants into dialogue and critical conversations with Indian and Western scientist. The monastic graduates will also team-up with more junior monastic science leaders that are leading science education initiatives, and help shape the future of science learning at their respective monasteries and nunneries. The first program is scheduled in October, 2013. The program is a continuation of our 1-year pilot project, “Engaging Tibetan Buddhist Leaders in Science,” that took place in 2011. Read more about our pilot year…...

World of Your Senses Exhibition at the Exploratorium

San Francisco, May 1-10, 2012
World of Your Senses Exhibition at the Exploratorium

The World of Your Senses, an exclusive exhibition featuring Tibetan Buddhist monastics and their scientific illustrations makes its first U.S. premiere at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, from May 1 to 10, 2012. Admission to this exclusive event is included in the ticket price.

The exhibition was created by Tibetan Buddhist monks who studied western science while living in exile in India. It explores sensory perception (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch) from both a Buddhist and western science perspective. Nine monks and nuns, who received teacher training in India from Exploratorium staff, will accompany the exhibition and serve as its interpreters. This delegation is part of a group charged by the Dalai Lama with teaching science to the next generation of monastics and their communities. The nuns are among the first ever to be trained to become science education leaders for their communities.

Daily, from 10 am to 1 pm, (Tuesday May 1, through Sunday, May 6 – and Tuesday, May 8 through Thursday, May 10), museum visitors will be able to interact with and observe the visiting monastics as they discuss their work and create new paintings. Master painter Jampa Choedak will have a work space in the Exploratorium’s Wattis Web Cast Studio, where he’ll be painting a landscape of the San Francisco Bay and its marine life. The completed work will be displayed at the Exploratorium’s new location at Pier 15 in 2013. The exhibition is supported through a collaboration between the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA), the Exploratorium, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Sager Family Foundation through the Science for Monks Program.

View slideshow

Press Release

After Dark: Press Release

View a clip of Geshe Lhakdor's presentation at After Dark:

His Holiness the Dalai Lama wins Templeton Prize

New York, March 29, 2012
Dalai Lama wins Templeton Prize

The Dalai Lama has been awarded the Templeton Prize, a 1.7 million dollar award for his work with science and religion. His Holiness will accept the award on May 14th in London, England.

Read pdf

Read full article in the Washington Post

International Conference on Cosmology & Consciousness

Dharamsala, Dec 16-18, 2011
Cosmology & Consciousness Conference

We are delighted to announce the funding of a new grant with the Templeton Foundation. The 1-year pilot project will introduce science to Geshes (and other monastic graduates) who shape religious and higher education, so that the monastic community can itself continue to explore connections between the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and Western science. The project will immerse 25 monastic graduates in 150 hours of science training and discourse that is schedule to take place from November 20 to December 14, 2011 at the Institute for Buddhist Dialectics Sarah Campus in Dharamsala, India. This workshop will build-up to a 3-day public conference and dialogue (December 16 to 18, 2011), among Geshes, other Tibetan scholars, and Indian and U.S. scientists. The monastics writings and conference proceedings will be published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives and posted on this site, and also on the Web Sites of our partners. The proposed project adds value to our ongoing efforts and expands the opportunities and vision for future cross-cultural exchanges. The grant will be administered by The Exploratorium in partnership with Library of Tibetan Works & Archives and the Science for Monks project. We are very excited by the new direction and opportunity to engage the Geshes and monastic graduates. In the coming weeks and months we will be adding pages to this site sharing the development and progression of this work.

Engaging Tibetan Buddhist Leaders in Science

October, 2011
Engaging Tibetan Leaders in Science

We are delighted to announce the funding of a new grant with the Templeton Foundation. The 1-year pilot project will introduce science to Geshes (and other monastic graduates) who shape religious and higher education, so that the monastic community can itself continue to explore connections between the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and Western science. The project will immerse 25 monastic graduates in 150 hours of science training and discourse that is schedule to take place from November 20 to December 14, 2011 at the Institute for Buddhist Dialectics Sarah Campus in Dharamsala, India. This workshop will build-up to a 3-day public conference and dialogue (December 16 to 18, 2011), among Geshes, other Tibetan scholars, and Indian and U.S. scientists. The monastics writings and conference proceedings will be published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives and posted on this site, and also on the Web Sites of our partners. The proposed project adds value to our ongoing efforts and expands the opportunities and vision for future cross-cultural exchanges. The grant will be administered by The Exploratorium in partnership with Library of Tibetan Works & Archives and the Science for Monks project. We are very excited by the new direction and opportunity to engage the Geshes and monastic graduates. In the coming weeks and months we will be adding pages to this site sharing the development and progression of this work.

2nd Cohort Begins

April, 2011
2nd Cohort of Tibetan Monastics Begins

In May 2011, the Sager Science Leadership Institute began training the second cohort of monastic science leaders. The new group of future leaders will build upon the ongoing efforts of the first cohort. The new cohort includes 34 monks and nuns, and will reach 6 new monastic institutions located in India, and now, also include institutions in Nepal. The new cohort began with a 2-week workshop organized at the Deer Park Institute in Bir, India. The focus of the first workshop of the new cohort was perception. Paul Doherty and Modesto Tamez from the Exploratorium led the monastics in hands-on activities related to sensory perception. Eric Chudler from the University of Washington provided instruction and hands-on activities in the neuroscience of perception. Richard Sterling from the University of California Berkeley, launched the writing strand and the led several writing workshops with the monastics. Four monks from the first cohort (Geshe Nyima, Dawa Dorjee, Tenzin Choegyal, and Dhoundup Gyalten) returned to the program and served as teaching assistants and co-educators. The new cohort has also started working on a new exhibition about Buddhist and scientific perspectives of climate change.

Graduation of the First Cohort of Monastic Science Leaders

Deer Park Institute, Bir, India
May 13, 2010
Graduation of the 1st Cohort of Tibetan Monastics

We are exceptionally pleased to announce the graduation of the first cohort of the Sager Science Leadership Institute for Monks! This is a significant historic achievement, and for the first time in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan monastics, 30 of them, will be deployed as teachers and leaders of science education to several major monastic institutions that include; Sera, Gaden, Drepung, Sakya, and Bon (Tashi Menri) Monastery. These five institutions are home to approximately 15,000 monks, many eager to learn science!

The new graduates will bring back to their home monasteries a variety of teaching strategies and educational materials, from cosmology to neuroscience, developed through support of the Sager Family Foundation that include; hands-on activities, translated articles, writing assignments, and fully translated and dubbed educational science videos. In addition to teaching other monks science, the science leaders will publish articles on Buddhism and science, conduct science exhibition, organize dialogues on the interface of science and spirituality, and help develop the vision and materials that grow opportunities for monastics to engage with science at their home monastic institutions.

Since 2001, the Sager Family Foundation has been working in partnership with the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA) in Dharamsala, India, to provide opportunities for Tibetan Buddhist monks exiled in India to study science. Through the Science for Monks program, a critical mass of monks with sufficient knowledge and interest in sharing science, as well as substantial demand for science education, was created through annual intensive 4-week science education workshops, for 50 monks, organized from 2001 to 2007. A major outcome of this work was the launch of the Science Leadership Institute in 2008, through which, thirty of these monastics were trained to teach and lead science education. The Science Leadership Institute organized local monastic leadership groups supported through bi-annual 2-week workshops implemented by expert teachers from major education institutions, including the Exploratorium in San Francisco, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Arizona, Tucson.

In addition to continued support of the 1st cohort, a second cohort of 30 monastics will be recruited in 2011, expanding the study groups and science centers to new traditions of Tibetan Buddhism both in India and Nepal. The new cohort will also include a strong representation of nuns! There are hundreds of monastic institutions eager to engage with science, and the Sager Family Foundation is committed to partnering with this historic initiative for many years to come.

LTWA has also developed collaboration with many other educational institutes in the west including Emory University which is now supporting the creation of a comprehensive science curriculum for all the monasteries. The primary responsibility of the monastic science education is led by the science department at the LTWA headed by Director Geshe Lhakdor. The science department undertakes many of science educational programs including the organization of annual science workshops, scientific terminology translation seminars, popular science book translations, and short science courses. The department also publishes a quarterly science newsletter and bi-annual science journals in Tibetan.

World of Your Senses Exhibit in Dharamsala

Dharamsala, India
Dec 2010
World of Your Senses exhibit in Dharamsala

The Second showing of World of Your Senses was hosted by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India. The 7-day showing provided an opportunity for members of the exiled government and tibetan community to view the unique paintings that share the interface of science and Buddhism on sensory perception. Bobby Sager, the long-time supporter and a founder of the Science for Monks program was one of several key guests to view the exhibit.

Smithsonian has hand in Indian science exhibit planned by Tibetan monks

Washington Post
New Dehli, India
May 13, 2010
World of Your Senses exhibit in New Dehli

NEW DELHI - The northern Indian town of Bir was greeted with an unusual sight when Scott Schmidt carried six-foot-long plywood sheets on his head through the streets. Schmidt, who develops exhibits for the Smithsonian, had retrieved the wood from the village carpenter and toted it on his head to the Buddhist institute he was visiting. "I got impatient," said Schmidt. "I probably broke every rule of how a Westerner is supposed to act in a village in India."

Schmidt was helping a group of 30 Tibetan monks plan "The World of Your Senses," a bilingual science exhibition displayed last month in New Delhi at the India Habitat Center, an arts and culture venue in India's capital. Read More ...

Tibetan Monks and Nuns Turn Their Minds Toward Science

New York Times
June 29, 2009
Science for Monks in the New York Times

DHARAMSALA, India — Tibetan monks and nuns spend their lives studying the inner world of the mind rather than the physical world of matter. Yet for one month this spring a group of 91 monastics devoted themselves to the corporeal realm of science.

Instead of delving into Buddhist texts on karma and emptiness, they learned about Galileo's law of accelerated motion, chromosomes, neurons and the Big Bang, among other far-ranging topics. Read More ...

First Science Exposition by Monastics

Deer Park Institute, Bir, India
June 22-24, 2009
1st Science Exhibition by Tibetan Monastics

The 1st Science for Monks Exhibition is an undertaking of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA) and is part of several events this year commemorating 50 years of Tibetan Government and people in exile. The interactive exhibition focuses on topics of common interest to both Buddhism and science and are presented by monks that participate in both the Emory Tibet Science Initiative and the Sager Science Leadership for Monks. View Exhibit Page ...

Science for Monks on Facebook Science for Monks on Youtube Science for Monks on Picasa