By Stan Shoptaugh and Wayne Chen
“It’s great to be with a diverse group of like-minded students, with instructors who truly care about teaching one to learn, and in an environment that is structured for individuals to succeed through group effort. All my expectations of the program have been exceeded," Trevor Yoho, an entering BA student, reflected.
August marks the beginning of a new academic year at Dharma Realm Buddhist University, and this year, DRBU welcomed a spirited batch of new students. A young man trained as a chef in French cuisine was on his way to Yosemite when he visited DRBU. He realized then that Yosemite would have to wait for another day; instead he enrolled as a BA student. One woman, a licensed CPA, resisted the caution of well-meaning friends and put her career on hold to attend the fall semester. A former US Marine found out about the DRBU program through his friends in Buffalo, New York. The light and energy here is tappable and no more evident than right on the front porch of the University Building, where the entire DRBU community has gathered for the start of Orientation. A glance around reveals the diversity of the students and faculty. Daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers have come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, home of Dharma Realm Buddhist University—all students together.
“The atmosphere at Orientation and around the campus among the staff and students has been wonderful. Everyone has been very helpful and welcoming, leaving no trace of positive energy wanting,” David Daniels, first-year BA student, observed.
Maureen McIver, a MA student, shared, “I appreciate all the care and preparation that went into making our entry to DRBU such a welcoming experience. Some highlights include hearing each person talk a little about their reasons for coming, the general laughter, and kindness evident everywhere….”
After Orientation, the cohorts enthusiastically delved into the rigorous DRBU liberal arts curriculum. DRBU classes are conducted with a sense of shared inquiry—a group of participant-observers collaboratively engaging in critical inquiry and self reflection. Through primary texts, students examine the universal human inclination toward liberation and the complex interconnections between the individual, the social, and the natural aspects of existence.
In the words of MA student Dharma Master Jin Shan, the first week at DRBU “was exciting and inspiring. I appreciate so many people's efforts to make it successful. Going back to school after being out of school for a long time makes me feel, in my heart, 30 years younger.”
“It has been a week of wonder: Sanskrit syllables floating in the air, conversing with the Sixth Patriarch about the buddha-nature and delighting in the wisdom of Socrates,” noted DM Jin Rou, a first-year MA student.
The DRBU curriculum introduces students to the Buddha through The Life of the Buddha. The first-year Buddhist Classics class entails a close reading of The Sutra of 42 Sections and sections from the Pali Canon. In Sanskrit class, students learn the grammatical components of the language through the “Universal Door Chapter” of the Lotus Sutra. One seminal text in the master’s program is The Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. The Sutra presents a powerful and resounding vision of the totalistic, unbounded human potential for liberation—that wisdom lies dormant yet fully complete within each sentient being:
You should now believe that the knowledge and vision of the Buddha is just your own mind; there is no other Buddha.... Why don’t you immediately see, right within your own mind, the true reality of your original nature?
In an environment that encourages students to reanimate classical texts and creatively bring them into a modern context, DRBU inspires new ideas and insights, fostering a living dialogue between the students and the texts. DRBU students emerge from the program as active, reflective, and responsible citizens of the world.
At Orientation entering BA student Anne Nguyen captured the prevailing sentiment among the incoming class, “I am so honored to be a student at DRBU. My heart almost jumped out when I was called to the stage to sign the new student book. It marks a new and special journey in my life.”