Dalai Lama: science and Buddhism share a quest of open investigation

Science and Buddhism share a quest of open investigation into the nature of reality, and science can be a pathway to discovering well-being and happiness, the Dalai Lama told the Society for Neuroscience.

Tibet's spiritual leader, speaking alternately in English and through a translator, praised neuroscience the study of the brain and nervous system as important work he's been interested in for 15 years.

"I believe we want happiness," he said on Saturday, adding that the way to transform society is through education and by boosting among individuals, families and communities "some of the useful emotions such as compassion or forgiveness."

Science is particularly important, he said, because it reaches both the religious and nonreligious and can help identify the factors and forces that promote well-being.

And on the growing controversy surrounding the teaching of intelligent design in addition to evolution in U.S. classrooms, the Dalai Lama said the greater the dialogue, the better.

But the Dalai Lama's visit to Washington was not without controversy. More than 500 people, many of them Society for Neuroscience members, signed a petition decrying the selection of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner as a speaker.

Society President Carol Barnes said Saturday that six abstracts were withdrawn from the conference in protest and that the objections were both over the Dalai Lama's qualifications to address a scientific meeting and his subject matter as well as his politically charged leadership.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 following an aborted uprising against Chinese rule in the territory and now keeps an office in exile in the Himalayan town of Dharmsala, India.

"He is qualified to speak about his own experience," Barnes said, adding that the goal of the society's new "Dialogues Between Neuroscience and Society" series is to expand the horizons of the group's membership.

She said a counter petition supporting the Dalai Lama's visit also was circulated, AP reports. P.T.

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