Over two decades ago, my family foundation, the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, and the Dalai Lama’s private office began a groundbreaking program called Science for Monks to teach Western science to Tibetan monks and nuns. Incredibly, it was the first time in the 1,500-year history of Tibetan Buddhism that Western science was to be taught in the monasteries.
Recently, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama announced a decision by his leaders of the monasteries to elevate the study of science from an elective choice to becoming part of the core curriculum. His Holiness further commented that this decision was the most significant change to the monastic curriculum in centuries.
Beyond the Robe tells the story of the decade long development of the Science for Monks programs and what it reveals about the larger role Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns can play in their monasteries, in their communities, and in the world at large.
Beyond the Robe follows the monks’ study of science, but it is not a science book. The real story is what the study of science has revealed about who these remarkable men and woman really are and the much bigger role they seem so suited to fill.
The Dalai Lama says that academic study as an end isn’t enough. The job description of a monk is to make a positive difference in people’s lives, which means that our initiative between monks and scientists only matters if it leads to actions that benefit our world.
Leaders without egos. Leaders who are even tempered, dedicated, compassionate people. These are people who we should want to have the greatest possible voice. Instead of simply admiring them from afar, let’s all get close enough to really listen.
I hope that Beyond the Robe helps you to feel closer to the monks and nuns and to better understand their immense potential to provide leadership in their world and further insight into ours.