On May 24, 2019, Dharma Realm Buddhist University held its commencement ceremony at Sudhana Center in Ukiah, CA. This year’s commencement ceremony was a significant milestone for DRBU, as we graduated our first class of students from the B.A. in Liberal Arts program. A total of seven B.A. students received their diplomas: Bhikshuni Heng Jie, Bhikshuni Jin Zhi, Bhikshuni Jin Run, Bhikshuni Vien Trung Tinh, Lisa Liang, Frank Liu, and Alex Wang. In addition, our fifth cohort of students graduated from the M.A. program in Buddhist Classics. The seven M.A. graduates were Indrayani Barker, Meina Co, Justin Howe, Brenda Li, Brianna Morseth, Mojo Tchudi, and Sheila Xie.
The theme of “pioneering” ran throughout this year’s commencement ceremony, for the graduating B.A. students were pioneers for DRBU’s new degree program. As the first students to complete the program, they are integral to the DRBU community and have helped shape every aspect of the student experience–from academics, to dorm and community life, to service-scholarship (work study). In addition, the parents and family members of the graduating students are pioneers in supporting the students throughout their studies at a school that was not yet accredited at the time of enrollment. Families traveled from as far as Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Florida to attend the commencement ceremony.
The keynote address was given by Professor Harold Roth, a pioneer in the academic field of Contemplative Studies. Dr. Harold Roth is a Professor of Religious Studies and East Asian Studies at Brown University and founder of Brown University’s Contemplative Studies Initiative and Concentration. His keynote address, titled “Contemplative Tools for the Future,” discussed the value of an education that develops knowledge of oneself and one’s potential as a human being. Professor Roth argued that the dominant paradigm of knowledge in higher-education treats the human and the natural world as an “Other.” At DRBU and in Brown’s Contemplative Studies Program, an alternative mode of inquiry is practiced that uses a critical first-person subjective perspective to explore oneself and one’s relationship to the world. To do so, students try various contemplative practices that are directly related to what they are reading and reflect openly about their experience. To further emphasize this point, Professor Roth discussed how the Daoist text, the Huainanzi, offers alternatives for seeing the environment that emerge out of contemplative practice.
Bhikshuni Heng Chih, a DRBU Professor Emerita and Chair of the Board of Trustees was also acknowledged during the ceremony as a pioneer. Dharma Master Heng Chih became a fully ordained Buddhist nun in 1969 and was one of the first five Caucasian monastic disciples of Venerable Master Hsuan Hua. This year, 2019, marks her 50th year in the Sangha, making her one of the world’s most senior Buddhist nuns. She was acknowledged during commencement for her decades of service to the monastic order, the translation of Buddhist texts, and to DRBU.
Both the B.A. and M.A. cohorts selected three speakers to give short talks during the commencement ceremony. The talks reflected the value and transformation that each student received from their time at DRBU. Many thanked their teachers, friends, and mentors for supporting them along the way.
Following the speeches, President Susan Rounds awarded the degrees. The commencement ceremony ended with the singing of “Dedication of Merit” and the school song, “Jin Xu Kong” (Pervading Empty Space).
Written by DRBU Staff
Photography by Stan Shoptaugh