Mirrors for Reflecting: Reading Texts Across Traditions for Self-Cultivation

Theme Statement

When the jury presiding over the trial of Socrates found him guilty of corrupting the minds of young Athenians, Socrates acquiesced to his death penalty by proclaiming that it would be impossible for him to stay silent and live a life devoid of inquiry. For Socrates, this inquiry meant “doing philosophy”—committing oneself with utmost seriousness to defining the essentials of life. This, in turn, required self-examination and rigorous discussion with others—not as an intellectual sport or empty debate, but as a sincere pursuit of wisdom. This pursuit was the greatest good a human being could undertake, such that a life without serious examination was not worth living. According to Socrates, living a good life calls for active reflection on one’s beliefs and actions, beginning with knowing one’s inner promptings and convictions.

Socrates’ notion of a good life is echoed in the central message of the Great Learning (Daxue), a Confucian text that defines learning as a lifelong activity of personal transformation. The text proposes that learning, at its highest level, begins with uncovering the light of one’s inner virtue, which inspires the renewal of one’s daily conduct, and when expanded, rectifies human affairs. It proposes an interconnection among the three dimensions of human existence: the personal, the social, and the natural world. The root of all attainments ultimately rests upon the cultivation of one’s own character. As we travel through classical traditions, we encounter concordant invitations to engage texts as mirrors for self-inquiry and transformation.

Dharma Realm Buddhist University invites proposals for papers that uncover and discover ideas of self-cultivation in core texts across traditions. What might the study of a text tell us about living a good life? What is the relationship between learning and praxis, the abstract and applied? What is ‘virtue’? How can a reader bridge the seemingly disparate activities of reading a text and living a life grounded in virtue? How are we to ‘read’ a text? What might the role of contemplative exercises be in understanding certain texts? Do these texts come embedded with their own tools for unlocking their meaning? Finally, do these texts nudge us to ask not only what they mean, but how we are meant to be different through reading them: individually, socially, environmentally?


DRBU hosts the 2019 Hsüan Hua Memorial Symposium in honor of its founder, the Venerable Master Hsüan Hua (1918-1995).  Master Hua emphasized the importance of grounding oneself in the study of primary texts — using them both for self-cultivation and to apply the insights they contain for the betterment of society. Encouraging his students to start schools at the primary, secondary and the university level, Master Hua was a visionary educator with a deep and far-reaching outlook on learning. He once said, “Education is without beginning or end. There is not a single location that is not a place of learning, and there is not a single moment that is not a time for learning.” In this spirit, DRBU carries out its vision as a community dedicated to a liberal education in the broad Buddhist tradition.

DRBU Call for Proposals

DRBU invites you to submit a paper proposal for the Hsüan Hua Memorial Symposium.
Please submit proposals, including name, institutional affiliation, a paper title, and an abstract of no longer than 300 words via this form
 by April 21, 2019.
Proposals submitted by the deadline will be reviewed by the conference program sub-committee. Selected papers will be assigned to panels based on shared themes.
Paper presentations will be 15-20 minutes, based on a seminar-style paper of 5-6 pages.
All potential conference participants are welcome to contact the Hsüan Hua Memorial Symposium sub-committee with questions about panels and proposals: