Buddhist Monastics

From 2009-2012, I was honored to be a part of the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative (ETSI), where I helped develop and teach a basic neuroscience curriculum for Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns. With the inspiration and encouragement of the Dalai Lama, ETSI intends to bring science education formally into the monastic curriculum, to both expand the ways these students understand the world and allow them to engage with scientists on important questions about mind, consciousness, and human flourishing.


My work with ETSI involved building lectures ranging from basic neuroscience (gross and cellular anatomy and function, perceptual and motor systems, circadian rhythms, emotion, stress response) to cognitive science (memory, attention, self, concepts, mind wandering, neuroimaging, distributed brain networks).

I also piloted some of this material over two summers in Dharamsala, India, teaching a select group of 70 monastics. In addition to didactic lecture, we also implemented numerous labs and hands-on activities, including physiological monitoring, experience sampling, surveys, data analysis, and presentation.

Finally, I contributed (writing and editing) to the development of two textbook primers for this program—Perception & Vision and Basic Processes of Transmission, Integration, and Response—that are published bilingually in English and Tibetan.