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224 chapter eight Beyond Science and Religion Q: Out of all the things you have done, what is the most memorable? A: I think one of them I did [in the] last thirty years or so [is the] more serious sort of mutual learning with scientists . . . so [in] our monastic institutions in India . . . science education has been incorporated formally into the curriculum itself and is now part of one of the required examination subjects . . . now in [the] modern world science is very important, so therefore [it] must be included. This is something that has been an important achievement. the dalai lama, boston, 2014 e all stand because the Dalai Lama, in his basic black shoes and signature flowing maroon robes fringed in yellow, has left his residence and starts to head our way across the courtyard. But there is a long line of people who need blessing​ —newly married, newly born, rich, poor, white, Indian, Tibetan. He blesses them all. We sit and wait. Then he finally starts our way again, but several people slip in between us for a photo or with things official for him to sign. Just before he gets to our door, a recent escapee from Tibet appears​ —a monk who snuck out of a prison in China and has been on the run for a year with a million-dollar bounty on his head. He and the Dalai Lama meet for a while. Finally, there he is. Konchok and I have been collecting and refining questions and getting our script together for months by e-mail, and in person the days W beyond science and religion 225 before. Konchok is sweating like a monk about to talk to his supreme spiritual leader; apparently, in some situations no amount of meditation keeps you entirely calm. When we sit down with the Dalai Lama, we are at a vital turning point in our project. We have just completed the five-year pilot in Dhar­ amsala and within a week will start teaching the first classes of monks as part of their regular six-year curriculum in biology, neuroscience, and physics in the major monastic universities of Sera, Gaden, and Drepung Loseling. We are eager to know the Dalai Lama’s thoughts on the project, as well as what he thinks its impact has been and could yet be on Tibetan Buddhism specifically and on society as a whole. He talks primarily in English, but often turns to his translator for particular words, usually recalling the words himself before the translator has a chance to respond, and then continuing. A few times he talks for several minutes in Tibetan, and then the translator fills us in. The Dalai Lama tells the following story in response to one of our questions about the once and future relationship between science and religion. The story calls to mind the role China has played in the Eastward journeys narrative generally and in the American-Tibet story specifically. In the 1950s, before escaping from China and into exile in India, the Dalai Lama met several times with Mao Zedong, the leader of the Chinese communist party. Oddly and ironically​ —given the near- and long-term future of the relationship between China and Tibet​ —the two men became very close: “He considered me as his son; I considered him as my father​ —very intimately.” In Beijing (known in the West as Peking at the time), the last time the Dalai Lama was there visiting, Mao unexpectedly and suddenly asked the Dalai Lama to come to his offices. No official translators were even present, and they had to ask one of Mao’s bodyguards who happened to know both Chinese and Tibetan to translate. The Dalai Lama sat at one end of a bench and Mao at the other, while Mao gave him “great advice” about how to lead people. After a while, Mao slid close and told the Dalai Lama, “You have a very scientific mind. Religion is opium.” The Dalai Lama says it was clear Mao thought that science and reli- 226 the enlightened gene gion are very different, unrelated, and that religion is at best a tool of exploitation. “What would Mao think now in the twenty-first century when so much [is] being learned from science about religion and ethics and peace of mind in collaborative projects like ours?” the Dalai Lama wonders, his contagious laugh lifting the room’s mood. “What would he think now?!” The story carried many messages...


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