How do Tibetan monks learn science?  They invite the best Bay Area scientists to join them in Sarna on the northern tip of India in order to learn how the scientific method works.

About a decade ago, the 14th Dalai Lama, leader of the Tibetan government in exile, began a collaboration with Western scientists to include advanced science and math in the training of monks. Science for Monks, funded by the Sager Family Foundation, has annually brought astrophysicists, neuroscientists and other professors to the exiled monk communities scattered around India.

This year, Science for Monks expanded from didactic teaching and conversation to introduce hands-on workshops. It was a new style of learning for the monks. “We said, ‘We’re going to build this contraption.’ And they just look at us funny and laughed,” said Anzivino, who with his Exploratorium colleagues conducted experiments in mechanics, light reflection and cause-and-effect.

The Exploratorium is a science museum that invites visitors to learn by interacting with science; it also teaches science teachers. “We try to provide conditions for people to become stuck and then get themselves out of it,” said Mike Petrich, director of the Exploratorium’s Learning Studio.

What do you make of this meme of how learning is propagated from one culture to another?

Is this a forced process mandated by the Dalai Lama — or is there a naturalness to the progression of education that thrives beyond the mandated requirements of belonging?


  1. This story just proves how important it is to stay open to new ideas, David. We can always learn. Sometimes we need to be forced there by our parents or religious leaders.

  2. You’re right that sometimes the untrained mind needs to be led to the well for the drinking of knowledge, Anne. We aren’t always born with the need to take on a formal education.

  3. As far as my limited knowledge goes, tibetan monks are highly educated about their own tradition, culture etc.; good to see a perfect blend of science and spirituality!

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