Mosaic

Visiting professor seeks to reconcile Buddhism, science

Geoffrey Samuels

Geoffrey Samuel spent his undergraduate years at Cambridge studying physics. But during that time he also began meditating and studying tai chi. Soon, he'd become so intrigued by Eastern thought that he found himself writing his PhD thesis not on theoretical physics but on Tibetan Buddhism.
Thirty-seven years and six books later, Samuel is a leading scholar on the intersection of science and Buddhism. Since September he has been the Tung Lin Kok Yuen (TLKY) Visiting Professor of Global Asian Studies at UTSC, a recurring position funded by the TLKY Buddhist educational society in Hong Kong. On April 12 Samuel will deliver the keynote address at the TLKY Perspectives on Buddhist Thought and Culture series on campus.
“I have a personal involvement and an academic involvement with science and Buddhism," says Samuel. "I see myself as trying to bridge the two sides."
His work focuses on translating Buddhist beliefs and practices into terms science can understand, while helping expand the ability of Western science to better comprehend Buddhism. For instance, Samuel studies Tibetan “long life” practices, which include sophisticated meditation techniques and rituals thought to promote health and longevity.
"The temptation is to dismiss these practices because they don't make any sense within typical Western scientific approaches," says Samuel. "But instead we can start asking whether they might make sense in some other way. After all, we don’t understand a lot about how healing works.”
Samuel is professor of history, archaeology & religion at Cardiff University. He is also director of the Body, Health and Religion Research Group, a network of multidisciplinary scientists and researchers with similar interests in science and religion.

For details about his upcoming public lecture, visit utsc.utoronto.ca.