On Sunday, March 25th, we invited the Tenzin Gyatso scholars to have dinner at Prof. Lovell’s house and then tour our campus Observatory. The Tenzin Gyatso scholars are monastics in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition who study science at Emory for two years. The current cohort includes 4 monks and 2 nuns, many of whom I first got to know in India. While the faculty types provided dinner (largely South Indian food!), the monks helped make Chai at the end of the dinner. After dinner, everyone saw the historic Beck telescope – though the sky was cloudy so we didn’t get to see any stars through it. Prof. Lovell then treated us all to a great planetarium show.
This isn’t the first time that the monastics have come to campus, but it was nice to have a small event where we could chat for a while with them. I even got to use one of my very few Tibetan phrases, since there was a cat around to talk about. They seemed surprised (perhaps impressed) by some Americans cooking Indian food! Much of the astronomy was familiar to them, as they are currently studying astronomy at Emory. But it was neat to ask them about Tibetan astronomy/astrology and to see, in the planetarium, how the night sky would look different between Tibet and where the monasteries now are in South India.
I’m very fortunate to have gotten to know these incredible people (and other monastics who are currently in India), and I am even nearby to Emory! This week is Emory Tibet Week, where there are many different events at Emory and important visitors from India. I don’t often make it up to Emory, but I hope to find the time to go and see the Mandala. I might have the opportunity to spend weeks with the Tibetans in India, but we spend that time in physics class, not making Mandalas.
Fittingly, I booked my tickets to India today. I’m thrilled to be returning to Drepung Loseling to teach the monks (3rd year – Atoms, Matter, Heat, Waves, Sound) and teach the nuns again (2nd year – mechanics). This year I will spend some weeks up in Dharamsala, where I will hopefully improve my Tibetan language skills beyond discussing cats.