About this Research Topic
The Emory-Tibet Science Initiative is an historic collaboration—between American and monastic universities, between science and religion—in which a comprehensive modern science curriculum has been developed and integrated into the traditional monastic training of displaced Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns in India, the first significant change to the curriculum in 6 centuries. The project, now in its second decade and involving hundreds of scientists and thousands of monastics, provides a rich and rare opportunity for exploring: (1) questions of cultural and literal translation; (2) best practices in teaching science and engaging research across cultures and within a religious community; and (3) the impacts of bi-directional science education, prompting new understandings of culturally-relevant pedagogy at both American and monastic universities.
This Research Topic addresses the broader problem of how to most effectively teach and communicate—across vastly different cultures and ways of thinking—to support learning. Few ‘experiments’ in recent times provide a better laboratory on a larger scale for addressing this question than ETSI. We engage the many scholars from both the Buddhist and scientific communities who have built and maintained the science curriculum, laboratories, and physical, social, and intellectual infrastructures in the monasteries and nunneries over the last many years. This includes three different stakeholder groups: Tibetan translators, American scientists, and monastic instructional leaders. Tibetans translate the teachings in real time, translate dozens of texts and teaching materials, and have created an entirely new Tibetan science dictionary. American physicists, biologists, and neuroscientists develop curricula, teach the monastics, and engage them in research projects in India and the US. Monastic instructional leaders have mastered science and English at Emory and then return to their home institutions to teach their peers. These three stakeholder groups have had to navigate different ways of knowing as well as communicating to collectively identify how to best support monastics’ science learning.
We propose to use the historical narrative arc of ETSI—from its origins to its current state in which it is sustained primarily by Tibetan Buddhist monastics and lay Tibetan scientists—to drive this collection. After an introductory editorial, including a short reflection from the Dalai Lama, the following themes will be addressed: (1) origins, historical framework and initial challenges of the program; (2) analyses of both the challenges and insights that the scientists had in teaching and learning from the monastics (including for example case studies in neuroethics, evolution, correlation, physics, and consciousness); (3) monastics analyzing their experiences of learning and then teaching science and how this affects their views of teaching, learning, science, and Buddhism; (4) teaching science in a religious institution: lessons learned and applied in American universities; (5) creating a new Tibetan science dictionary; and (6) translating science across language and culture in texts and in real time.
Keywords: science education, science and religion, cross-culture, Buddhism and science, Dalai Lama
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