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Alumni Spotlight: Bhikshuni Jin Rou, MA '18
The following is an interview with Bhikshuni Jin Rou, a 2018 graduate of the MA program.
What are you currently up to?
My experience at DRBU, and what I am doing now, can be compared to the cold in winter and hard rain in spring—long and arduous hours of study—the aftermath of which brings the beauty of completion. Rainbows fill the sky, tiny flowers spring up, trees bud. The change in my inner life, like spring growth, is breath breaking, although I’m in the same place and doing the same thing before I entered the university. I’m still at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, farming and writing Buddhist picture books for children, meeting the clear days and night skies of summer in isolation during the COVID-19 shutdown.
Wanting to make a positive impact on the environment, the DRBU farm students and I started a bee-friendly pollinator garden at the greenhouse during Spring 2020. But COVID-19 came through, forcing DRBU to close, and leaving me with the joyful task of completing the garden. The heavy mowing of wildflowers and grass to prevent fires at CTTB has put bees and butterflies in danger. Now they will have a home in which to live, so we can live.
How have you applied what you learned at DRBU to what you are currently doing?
One of the most useful skills I picked up as a DRBU student is structured academic writing, a far cry from free-style creative writing for children, yet similar in using certain techniques in getting the point across and bearing with the audience in mind. The point in writing for children is to take a BIG IDEA and hone it down to a razor point, whereas, the idea in academic writing is to expand a razor point to its exhaustion. The children’s books I write are to be performed, to be retold over and over, so I write them for children, parents, and teachers alike. Weaving the two kinds of writing together helps me to accomplish this goal, and my writing is mysteriously becoming richer and fuller.
With the passing of seasons since graduation, I have been devoted to studying and writing Buddhist picture books for children, attending classes in writing for children at UC Berkeley and the University of Washington State—learning the trade.
For the past few years, I’ve been working with a “foursome team” to produce a stream of books: illustrator Bhikshuni Heng Ching, writer Terri Nicholson and graphic designer Amandine from Paris. To my surprise, I submitted one of the books that we created together, Guan Yin: The Buddha’s Helper, to Nautilus Awards and it won the Silver Medal Award for children’s illustrated fiction. Nautilus placed the book in the category “to make a difference and to inspire.”
In brief, Nautilus Awards is a unique book award program that honors, celebrates, and promotes books that inspire and connect our lives as individuals, families, communities, and global citizens. Dedicated to excellence and the highest literary standards, the Nautilus Awards program encourages its winners in getting wider recognition, exhibiting opportunities, industry exposure and enhanced prospects for sales.
Along with being a winner is the responsibility of promoting the book and adding more to the list--and here it is: Our newest book, Amitabha’s Happy Land, is in full bloom (on the press); our next book, Wu Mo’s Day, is blossoming with the designer, and Buddhist Symbols, a children’s coloring book is bursting from the bud--a summer bouquet of picture books for our world.
What is a favorite pastime / memory from your time at DRBU?
The memory of friendship and tender respect for my teachers at DRBU is like the nautilus shell of wisdom and growth washed ashore by the lulling sea of change. It appeared in my life when I was on the edge of change and it changed me, urging me to seek beyond the ordinary and be unique.
Insights, advice, and/or words of wisdom you'd like to share with new/current students:
From 79 years of experience here on earth, I can truly say: “Be unique. Uniqueness isn’t being a superhero but a solo flyer. Set your destination and keep on course. Watch your vision grow. Listen to your heart. You will arrive at your destined uniqueness by doing the work and sticking to your goal. That’s how I’m doing it.”
Guan Yin - The Buddha's Helper
A collaboration co-written by DRBU Alumna and Board Member
Guan Yin - The Buddha’s Helper, was inspired and created by a team of four: written by DRBU alumna, Bhikshuni Jin Rou, and DRBU Board Member, Terri Nicholson, illustrated by Bhikshuni Heng Ching, and colored and designed by Amandine Dam. This is a delightful book on how children can call on Guan Yin when they are sick, afraid, lonely, lose someone they love, get angry, or have trouble with friends. She is always there like the part inside us that is wise and kind.