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Barbara O'Brien

Tibetans, Science, and Swimming

By July 4, 2012

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I got a kick out of this Washington Post story about Tibetan monks and nuns learning science. The Tibetans had no science education before beginning the program, which is being taught in India by visiting professors from Emory University. Even so, the professors are impressed with the Tibetans' abilities to grasp complex material.

This does not surprise me. I say anyone who can master Tibetan metaphysics could challenge Stephen Hawking in the smarts department. What little I've seen of it gives me a headache.

If Tibetan Buddhism were swimming classes, the teachers would have you memorizing all kinds of theoretical texts about swimming before they let you in the wading pool. And then you'd master 27 different strokes before you can progress to the shallow end of the "big" pool.

The Zen approach is more like throwing students into the deep end on Day One, perhaps with some shouted instructions on how to tread water. And then if you don't drown, teachers will work with you to refine your technique. You can learn to swim either way, of course.

July 4, 2012 at 5:39 pm
(1) Hein says:

hehehehe my experience exactly of both traditions
my swimming training was typical the zen experience described
perhaps that is the reason for my affinity for zen…

July 6, 2012 at 10:15 am
(2) David says:

At least with Zen (American Zen at least) you can leave the zendo before actually drowning, where people are nice to you and get you to take another swim. :-)

July 6, 2012 at 2:23 pm
(3) mickeypamo says:

O yeh! On a totally secular, mundane level, my father ceremoniously lifted me up and threw me into the deep end, as I cried help help, and watched him laughing. Maybe he didn’t even know how much I needed that lesson. Now I swim.

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