Negi emphasizes making public religious square more interconnected



For three decades, the Dalai Lama has promoted the greater convergence of science and spirituality, a mission Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi has worked to carry out.

Negi, co-founder and director of the Emory-Tibet Partnership and a senior lecturer in Emory University’s Religion Department, will discuss the initiatives he is helping to implement at the university in his Interfaith Lecture, titled “The Convergence of Science and Spirituality: The Emory-Tibet Partnership,” at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy.

Week Eight’s Interfaith Lecture theme is “The Global Religious Public Square.”

Emory University has a close relationship with the Dalai Lama, Negi said, and has engaged in two initiatives to advance his vision and work. One such program is the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, which seeks to develop a deeper understanding in a contemplative community: the modern scientific understanding of the world.

“It is an initiative where we are developing a comprehensive modern science curriculum to teach Tibetan Buddhist monks and men,” Negi said.

The other is a program in cognitively-based compassion training, or CBCT, a method that Negi developed.

CBCT, “a training in cultivating compassion,” Negi said, is drawn from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, but made secular by taking out Buddhism-specific concepts, such as reincarnation.

It is not only something rooted in tradition, he said, but something that makes sense from a scientific viewpoint, with compassion cultivated through systemic training.

The training appeals to things that can be understood commonly, such as the fact that all humans aspire to be happy and free from suffering.

“Increasingly, the world is becoming more and more interconnected. Our interests are intertwined,” Negi said. “By opening our hearts and minds and attuning to those realities … we can find a greater understanding about others, a greater compassion for each other.”

Additionally, the university offers students the opportunity to study abroad in India and live with Tibetan communities to learn about the culture and science of the mind, Negi said. The program promotes an exchange between Western and Tibetan forms of knowledge.

“We see that the students really value that experience, learning about how important the compassion is regarded in Tibetan culture, how it is embodied,” he said. “There are people who really value and embody it, but often with a certain kind of surprise [to], on a larger cultural level, see the compassion manifesting as a cultural phenomenon.”

In a world that can be increasingly interconnected and polarized at the same time, Negi said, it is essential to focus on common qualities such as compassion, kindness and love.

“If we don’t pay attention to the fundamental message that each religion offers and see universal applications in those fundamental values in religion, and ignore that and focus individualistically, it’s easy to find the differences that could promote more of our conflict or misunderstanding,” he said. “But it’s when we focus on the common values that each religion promotes — that’s where I think we can see how different religions have common goals and common values.”