The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, is giving $50,000 to an Emory University science education program tailored to Tibetan monastics.

The unexpected gift from the 74-year-old 1989 Nobel Peace laureate, who accepted an appointment as an Emory Presidential Distinguished Professor in 2007, will go to the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, a collaboration between Emory and the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India

Emory and Tibet formed an educational partnership more than 10 years ago.  The science initiative grew out of the existing relationship.  Its goal is to foster knowledge exchange and combine Western scientific education with the insights of Eastern monastic traditions. 

“In just three years, the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative has made notable progress,” the Dalai Lama wrote, as cited in an Emory news release. “However, it is a large and far-sighted project that will require significant resources to ensure its success and sustainability.  I am therefore happy to make a contribution … toward this important work at Emory.”

As part of a five-year pilot program, Emory faculty members travel to Dharamsala each summer to teach a 10-week course to more than 100 monks and nuns.

Dharamsala, a Himalayan city in northern India, is the site of Tibet’s government-in-exile. The Dalai Lama was expelled from Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.  Since then, his relationship with the Chinese government has been rocky at best.  

China has repeatedly called the spiritual leader a “splittist,” accusing him of fomenting Tibetan independence movements, though he has repeatedly called for what he labels says is real Tibetan “autonomy”, not outright independence, under Chinese rule.

He roiled Chinese officials recently when he visited Taiwan to comfort victims of a deadly typhoon.  China’s government accused him of trying to undermine national unity by accepting the invitation from Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party, which ruled the island for the last eight years with a pro-independence bent. China considers Taiwan to be a province.

The Dalai Lama will visit Emory again Oct. 17-19, 2010. 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...