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Talking Up Enlightenment

Neuroscientists hear--and applaud--The Dalai Lama
DALAI LAMA,



2005 SOCIETY FOR NEUROSCIENCE

Many years ago a curious boy looked through a telescope and, on seeing the shadows in the craters of the moon, realized that he had to make a choice. His religion taught him to respect the moon as a generator of light, but science taught him that the moon reflected the sun's rays. The subtle clarification offered by science ultimately trumped the Buddhist interpretation for Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama.

Today when this political and religious leader is faced with conflicting explanations of life's mysteries, the Dalai Lama still favors scientific evidence over classical Buddhist concepts. At a time when Americans are battling state by state for religion-free science education, he urges people to take a path of peace between the perspectives. An estimated 14,000 people attended his lecture on November 12, 2005, at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C., with most of them watching from overflow rooms where the talk was broadcast on large screens. Dressed in gold and crimson robes, he suggested a healthy dose of skepticism toward religious pronouncements. Although science can overturn spiritual teachings, people can benefit from scientific understanding without losing faith, he reasoned.

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