advancing the convergence of science and spirituality

ETSI Overview and Curriculum

Planning and Development

Dr. Gary Hauk, Vice President of Emory University, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama presenting certificates of completion to the monastic participants of the ETSI development phase.

In 2006, science faculty at Emory University began work on the development of a science education curriculum that would be appropriate for Tibetan monastics. To facilitate this effort, the Emory-Tibet Partnership invited a number of scholars with expertise in the intersection of science and Tibetan Buddhism, including Dr. Georges Dreyfus, Dr. Thupten Jinpa, Dr. Alan Wallace, and Geshe Lhakdor to consult on the project. This constituted the "planning phase," of ETSI, the outcome of which was an initial curricular plan.

During the development phase, a team of science faculty from Emory, and other leading academic institutions, traveled to Dharamsala, India each summer from 2008 to 2013. During a six-week session, they offered intensive science education to ninety-one Tibetan monks and nuns interested in advancing the convergence of science and spirituality. These pioneering monastics were selected to participate with the idea that they would become future science leaders within their home monastic institutions. Divided into two pilot classes or "cohorts," these students were drawn from twenty-two monastic institutions representing the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism–Gelug, Sakya, Nyingma, and Kagyu–as well as the Bon tradition. The first class completed the five-year curriculum and graduated from the program in the summer of 2012, and the second cohort graduated in the summer of 2013.


Photo by Kelsang Gyatso

Summer 2014 marked the beginning of the most extensive and challenging phase of ETSI. The ETSI curriculum has now been introduced into three major Tibetan monastic universities in exile: Gaden, Sera, and Drepung, all located in southern India. The implementation phase is comprised of summer intensives taught by Emory faculty, year-round study, distance-learning materials and tools, and further curriculum refinement.

The annual summer intensives take place over the course of four weeks each year, during which time monastics receive instruction in the philosophy of science, physics, neuroscience, and biology.  Courses are taught by faculty members from Emory and other distinguished universities with assistance from the Tenzin Gyatso Science Scholars. Students are in class for six hours per day, and are tested on the last day of each course. Classes are comprised of lectures, discussion, demonstrations, and hands-on experiments.

Monks and nuns at other academic monastic institutions can participate in the ETSI program via distance learning. Through the use of ETSI-produced materials and video lectures, 100% of academic monastic institutions interested in participating in ETSI will have the opportunity to do so. 

Translation Work

ETSI Science Texts arrive for distribution

Under the leadership of Geshe Lobsang Negi, director of the Emory-Tibet Partnership, and through the efforts of the ETSI faculty and staff translators, six billingual science texts have already been published with more in various stages of production. A total of ten textbooks and fifteen primers will be published and distributed over the next six years. To complement the main course books, supplementary materials such as the book Brain Facts by the Society of Neuroscience and Samir Okasha's Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction have also been translated into Tibetan. Additional supplementary materials continue to be translated to create a rich body of Tibetan-language science materials for use in the curriculum.

Beginning in 2009, Emory has hosted an annual International Conference on Science Translation into Tibetan to further the development of a scientific lexicon in Tibetan.  (e.g., introducing words such as 'electromagnetism' and 'cloning' into the Tibetan language).

2015 International Conference on Science Translation into Tibetan