With the Dalai Lama's blessing, a generation of Buddhist monks are learning to balance faith and reason.
Illustration by Tyler Hoehne
If you spend enough time around Emory University in Atlanta, chances are you’ll see your fair share of Tibetan Buddhist monks. For years, the university has been known for its devotion to the field of Tibetan studies. Affiliated since the early 1990s with the nearby Drepung Loseling Monastery, a spiritual and academic center run by Emory graduate Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, the university has fostered exchanges between students and monks in the Tibetan refugee community in Dharamsala, India, to preserve and learn from Tibetan culture and faith. In 2007, Emory even welcomed the Dalai Lama, head of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism and exiled soul of the Tibetan society, as a Presidential Distinguished Professor. The presence of monks at the school has continued to grow over the last decade, as the school has partnered with the Tibetan community in Dharamsala to develop a program to revolutionize Tibetan Buddhist religious education—by fusing it with the study of Western science, possibly the first major overhaul of the monastic education system in over half a millennium.