UW’s College of Engineering recently profiled Eric Chudler, research associate professor of bioengineering and executive director of the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, and his nearly-annual trips to India to teach neuroscience to Tibetan Buddhist monastics. Dr. Chudler’s travels are coordinated through the nonprofit Science for Monks program, which connects scientists and educators with the exiled Tibetan monastic community. It is a product of the Dalai Lama’s interest in integrating western science into the curriculum for Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns.
Dr. Chudler was invited to participate in part due to his work on Neuroscience for Kids, an online resource he launched in 1996 to help middle school teachers teach kids about the brain and nervous system. In his six trips made since 2011 to colleges and monasteries across India, Dr. Chudler’s lessons on neuroanatomy and physiology, brain function and how it controls the senses, learning, memory and perception align with Tibetan Buddhism’s emphasis on first-person study of conscious experience.
“Buddhist monastics receive a tremendous amount of education — especially philosophical training in logic and debate and in contemplative practices like meditation — but they don’t have much exposure to western science,” he explains. “Because of Buddhism’s deep exploration of consciousness and the mind, neuroscience has become a key point of intersection.”