Our small crew has arrived from the other side of the world to share eclipse activities and science with the Buddhist monks and nuns as they prepare for the upcoming eclipse. We were thrilled to see all of the science that is already happening in the monasteries. Even as we arrived, there was an exhibition on the environment at the new Drupong debate hall, as interactive and informative as any Exploratorium exhibit, and infused with Buddhist philosophy and connections.
Our eclipse lessons have started and the science understanding in the class ranges dramatically, reflecting the changing demographics of the monks. Younger monastics were mostly born in India and have gone through primary school here, while many of the advanced leaders come from Tibet where science instruction wasn’t necessarily available or prioritized. Our work is to give the monks and nuns activities to facilitate about eclipses for the community. In the process, many are learning about the science of eclipses for the first time and may are reminded of cosmic geometries they haven’t considered in many moons. We laugh a lot and squint at the hot sun, we drink tea and divide up the activities in preparation for eclipse day and the community we look forward to hosting.
I’ve been working a lot with the nuns and a couple of young women from the secondary school. I am endeared to their ease and gentle kindness with the world. They laugh readily and sometimes nervously when we address them as science teachers. Though they spend much time expressing their understanding of Buddhism, they will be flexing their identities as leaders in the science realm with this eclipse. This goes hand-in-hand with the changes in Buddhist culture. Thanks to the hard work of many in the community, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, nuns have just in the last 3 years been able to get their geshe degrees – akin to a PhD in Buddhism. They are finding and using their voices in increasing numbers and watching them increase their confidence in teaching others is a true honor.