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Lions Roar : May 2017
side, whereas in the context of family life, you are as bare as you can be.” Being a family man has allowed Jinpa to act as a bridge between the Dalai Lama and lay audiences. “Sometimes a question does not fully capture what an audience member wants to ask,” says Jinpa. “As a lay person with a family, I may be able to translate those unwritten assumptions. Conversely, I may also be able to explain certain points of His Holiness’ to the audience in a way that is more understandable because of my life situation.” “I’VE ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED in ideas, but I was never that interested in science,” Thupten Jinpa acknowledges. That changed in 1987, when he trans- lated for the Dalai Lama at the first Mind and Life conference. For the first time, contemplative prac- titioners and leading scientists came together for a dialogue about how the inner research of meditation and the outer research of science could work together. “For His Holiness,” says Jinpa, “what science offers is a very empirical way of grounding many aspects of Bud- dhism—the importance of self-discipline, having mastery of your emotions, having awareness of your own eternal mind. If you’re able to explain these ideas in scientific language and cite scientific findings, it’s a much more accessible way of conveying them to Western minds.” There was more scepticism on the scientific side. “When the first Mind and Life Dialogues began, com- passion wasn’t a major field in science,” says Jinpa. “But more and more research indicated evidence of empathy in animals, so you could no longer say altru- ism has been put upon us by culture. Until then, that was what a lot of scientists took morality and religion to be—a human invention to keep a lid on this brute nature. Otherwise, we’d be at each other’s throats.” Jinpa’s role was more than translating mere words. “At the time, the conceptual framework wasn’t there for scientists to understand Buddhist philosophy,” Jinpa says. “If you started using Buddhist jargon, they had no way of appreciating the insights.” To build a foundation for productive dialogue, Jinpa and His Holiness had to create connections beyond the tech- nical language of both worlds. His Holiness’ message about the importance of compassion began to attract greater interest in the scientific world. Jinpa says that the Mind and Life ➢ page 79 Thupten Jinpa’s many projects include preserving and translating key texts through the Library of Tibetan Classics, and modernizing Tibetan grammar to make it easier for future generations of Tibetans to maintain their native language. Sophie works with him on these projects as coordinator, administrator, and more. PHOTOSBYCHRISTINEGUEST