His Holiness the Dalai Lama wins Templeton Prize
New York, March 29, 2012
Humble Before the Void
by Chris Impey
“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.
World of Your Senses Exhibition at the Exploratorium
San Francisco, May 1-10, 2012
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.
2nd Cohort 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.
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
New Dehli, India
May 13, 2010
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
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
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 …