2020 Senior Essays

May 31, 2020

Undergraduates at DRBU present their senior essay in the spring semester of their final year. This essay is an amassed and sustained intellectual endeavor that epitomizes the culmination of a student’s education at DRBU. The following are glimpses at successfully completed and orally defended essays by three seniors.

Bhikshuni Su Trung An

Senior Essay Title: “One Lives Every Day but Dies Only Once”

What It’s About: It explores how four texts approach the concept of death and dying: The Death of Ivan Ilyich by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy; The Death and the King’s Horseman by Nigerian playwright, Wole Soyinka; and two related texts spoken by Buddha, The Mindfulness of Death in Maranasati Sutta from Anguttara Nikaya, and The Visible Origin and Passing Away of Suffering from the Samyutta Nikaya.

Thesis Advisor & Committee Member(s): Bhikshuni Jin Jr and Stacy Chen


Kathleen Irby

Senior Essay Title: “Habit Energy”

What It’s About: This essay uses Yogācāra (Consciousness-only) philosophy to discuss karma's influence on our lives. 

Thesis Advisor & Committee Member(s): Doug Powers, Franklyn Wu, Shari Epstein, and Bhikshuni Heng Yi

Thoughts and Reflections After Completion of Your Senior Essay: 
It was an extraordinary experience and I encourage everyone to embrace the moment as monumental. The questions from the panel and supporters were insightful and challenging, which led me to a deeper understanding of the text and some personal insights for further cultivation.


Bhikshuni Jin Jung

Senior Essay Title: “Freedom from the Five Aggregates”

What It’s About: The five aggregates are used to explore the following questions: How do aggregates lead to suffering? How does one empty the five aggregates? How does one reach the shore of Nirvāṇa?

Thesis Advisor & Committee Member(s): Lauren Bausch and Bhikshuni Jin Jr

Thoughts and Reflections After Completion of Your Senior Essay: 
Freedom is my goal in life. I wish to be free from ignorance, stupidity, birth, and death. So, naturally
The Heart of Prajna Paramita Sutra that we read in class connects me with the title of freedom. Since I became a monastic, I really wanted to understand the mind Dharma, however, the topics of five aggregates, eight consciousnesses and twelve links always confused me. I really wanted to understand them better. With guidance from instructors, I narrowed down the topics and focused my essay topic to “Freedom from the Five Aggregates.” More than just a paper topic, it became my goal of practicing and investigations. During the writing process, I not only processed the language, but I put my effort into understanding how aggregate works. I sensed how it disturbs our true mind and we didn't even notice it. After my essay, I understand myself better, and am aware my mind goes the right way. I also feel my writing skills have improved. I learned some technical aspects of academic writing, like the proper use of quotations. But more importantly, I am clearer about my paper structure than I was before writing my senior essay. This has allowed for me to better connect to my writing.