Munching on pizza. Posting on Facebook. Hanging out with friends on weekends.
Some of the newest students at Emory University's student body may act like typical college kids, but there's a key difference: They're Tibetan monks sent by the Dalai Lama to the United States to learn science.
Wearing the traditional crimson robes and closely shorn heads of Tibetan monastics, the six men — most in their 30s — are taking physics, biology and chemistry classes with hopes of returning to Tibetan monasteries in India to teach science to other monks and nuns.
It's the first established program for Tibetan monks from India to train at a Western university, said Geshe Lhakdor, director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in India.
"They are pioneers," he said in a recent interview while visiting Atlanta.
The program is the newest evolution of the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, which is helping the Dalai Lama with his goal of training monastics for the 21st century. Monks and nuns are masters of the mind through the practice of ancient traditions, but they must also master modern concepts of science and technology, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said in a recent visit to Emory.
"The monastic institution is traditionally the learning center, so we must put science in this institution," said the Dalai Lama. "Even Buddha himself said 'All my followers shouldn't accept my teachers out of faith, but out of constant investigation.'"