World of Your Senses

The World of Your Senses Exhibition shares parallel perspectives from Buddhism and Western science on sensory perception. From the Buddhist perspective, sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch are perceived by five consciousnesses, and the sixth consciousness is the mind. The original concept was envisioned by a dedicated and curiosity-filled group of thirty Tibetan Buddhist monks living in India. The making of the exhibit was supported through a unique collaboration between the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives (LTWA), The Sager Family Foundation’s Science for Monks Program, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Exploratorium in San Francisco. The exhibit is a hand-painted, fifteen-panel show on canvas in the traditional Tibetan thangka painting style, and woven into panels. It deals with the five senses, the Tibetan and Western scientific perspectives. The World of Your Senses Exhibition is the result of many years of work growing out of directives from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his long history of engaging Western scientists in dialogue.

View the Web Tour!

Making the Exhibit

Designing the Exhibit

Work on the exhibition began in December of 2009 at Drepung Monastery in South India during a two-week meeting of the Sager Science Leadership Institute. Working with museum professionals from the Smithsonian, the monks established elements of the exhibition design and, through working with staff from the Exploratorium, made hands-on activities to accompany the panels. In May 2010, during the next meeting of the Sager Institute, the monks again worked with staff from both the Exploratorium and the Smithsonian to finalize the layout and develop the imagery for the exhibit panels.

The Tibetan “thangka style” of painting in this exhibit draws upon the tradition of medical text paintings from 17th-century Tibet, which was used to instruct traditional healers in the science of Tibetan medicine–similar to the purpose of botanical or scientific illustrations in use by Western educators and scientists, both historically and today. The Western science illustrations are modeled on popular depictions of the senses in science text books that 21st-century monks became familiar with during the course of their studies with Western educators and scientists.

Painting and Tailoring

The final designs were then interpreted and hand-painted by thangka painters at LTWA, led by master painter Jampa Choedak. Mr. Choedak also meticulously painted paintings of the sense deities -“devas”- which have never before been painted in such a large size, and normally play a supporting role, relegated to the background of a traditional thangka devotional painting. The master tailor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Phuntsok Tsering, led the framing and sewing of the completed paintings.



General Parade Ground, Tawang
October 20th to 20th, 2017
The 4-day showing in the NE Indian town of Tawang.
View photos

Thimphu, Bhutan
November 19th to 21st, 2015
3-Day exhibition was our first program in Bhutan.
View photo

Bylakuppe & Hunsur
August 29th  to September 1st, 2013
The 4-day showing at Sera Monastery (August 29 and 30), Camp 1 (August 31), and in Hunsur (September 1st).

February, 2013
Five monastics from the 2nd cohort of the Sager Science Leadership Institute led 18 monastics from Shechen Monsatery in Nepal, in presenting the World of Your Senses during the annual Monlam Festival.

Drepung Monastery, Mundgod
January 18th to 23rd, 2013
Hosted by Drepung Loseling Monastery during the XXVI Mind and Life meeting.

Shechen Monastery, Kathmandu
November 14th to 17th, 2012
A special showing at Shechen Monastery in Kathmandu. The exhibition was presented by a group of monastics from the first and second cohort of the science leadership program and by the monks of Shechen Monastery.

Exploratorium, San Francisco
May 1-10, 2012

The World of Your Senses, an exclusive exhibition featuring Tibetan Buddhist monastics and their scientific illustrations makes its first U.S. premiere at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, from May 1 to 10, 2012. Admission to this exclusive event is included in the ticket price.

Nine monks and nuns, who received teacher training in India from Exploratorium staff, will accompany the exhibition and serve as its interpreters. This delegation is part of a group charged by the Dalai Lama with teaching science to the next generation of monastics and their communities. The nuns are among the first ever to be trained to become science education leaders for their communities.

Daily, from 10 am to 1 pm, (Tuesday May 1, through Sunday, May 6 – and Tuesday, May 8 through Thursday, May 10), museum visitors will be able to interact with and observe the visiting monastics as they discuss their work and create new paintings. Master painter Jampa Choedak will have a work space in the Exploratorium’s Wattis Web Cast Studio, where he’ll be painting a landscape of the San Francisco Bay and its marine life. The completed work will be displayed at the Exploratorium’s new location at Pier 15 in 2013. The exhibition is supported through a collaboration between the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA), the Exploratorium, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Sager Family Foundation through the Science for Monks Program.
Press Release
After Dark: Press Release
View a clip of Geshe Lhakdor’s presentation at After Dark

Tibetan Library, Dharamshala
April 23-30, 2011
10-day showing of the exhibit in Dharamsala India, at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives.

India Habitat Center, New Delhi 
November 19-23, 2011 (Opening)
His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama inaugurated the exhibit on November 19, 2010 at the Open Palm Court in the India Habitat Center, New Delhi, India. Nearly, 1000 scientists, Tibetan scholars, and local Delhites attended the exhibition over the five days in Delhi. The opening of the exhibition in New Delhi corresponded with the Mind and Life conference also taking place in the India Habitat Center. The exhibition in New Delhi was hosted by The Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Read Washington Post article