The Dalai Lama has received this year's $1.7 million prize from the John Templeton Foundation, a Pennsylvania-based charity that supports research in the sciences, philosophy, and theology aimed at understanding "big questions of human purpose and ultimate reality." The foundation chose to honor the Tibetan Buddhist leader for his engagement with scientists and people of other faiths, calling him "an incomparable global voice for universal ethics, nonviolence, and harmony among world religions."
Along with Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama becomes the second person to win both the Templeton Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Dalai Lama has often drawn parallels between scientific inquiry and the Buddhist tradition of self-reflection and meditation. In 1987, he co-founded the Mind and Life Institute, a nonprofit in Boulder, Colorado, that promotes research on understanding the human mind through a combination of Eastern contemplative practices and Western scientific methods. More recently, a 2005 meeting between the Dalai Lama and researchers at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, led to the creation of a center dedicated to the scientific study of compassion.
While some scientists have been inspired by the Dalai Lama, his attempts at outreach have sometimes gotten a mixed reception. More than 500 researchers signed a petition protesting his appearance at the 2005 annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, arguing that it blurred the lines between science and religion. Several thousand people turned up to hear him speak.