The “Science for Monks” Web site describes an education project initiated in 2000 by the Dalai Lama to keep his followers abreast of contemporary thought. Conferences are held each year to instruct exiled Tibetan monks in the ways of Western science. “I have personally been engaged in dialogues with scientists for many years and have found it extremely useful and enriching. I also believe that modern science can benefit from Buddhist perspectives,” the spiritual leader said in 2002.
This year, Dewey I. Dykstra Jr., a professor at Boise State University in Idaho, was among the teachers who spent four weeks in Dehra Dun, India, teaching the holy men. Dykstra said that his “Inquiry in Physics Workshop” focused on conceptual change about the nature of lenses, images and light, using a ray model of light. He praised his students, saying that even with the language barrier -- they had to work through a translator -- the monks were soon thinking in terms of light rays of the sort we think of in Western science, and many had developed a theory of real image formation.
“This may seem like a trivial accomplishment,” he said, “but based on experience with US college students, it is not.”
Perhaps a future seminar on electrodynamics will teach them to chant “Ohm.”
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