Justin Howe, a graduate from DRBU’s M.A. in Buddhist Classics program, opened this year’s convocation ceremony with a question: What is convocation? Convocation is a time to commemorate what DRBU has stood for in the past, to anticipate what it can offer in the future, and to communicate what it means in the present. On August 21, 2019, new and returning students, faculty, friends, and family were welcomed to the start of a new year at Sudhana Center’s Buddha Hall in Ukiah, CA. Seven students joined the B.A. in Liberal Arts Class of 2023, while seven joined the M.A. Class of 2021 and four joined the Graduate Certificate in Buddhist Translation Class of 2020—a new program designed to deepen understanding of Buddhism through textual translation. This year’s group of students is comprised of a diversity of backgrounds. The ages range from late teens to 60s, and some have travelled here from Mexico, China, and Malaysia. Additionally, some of our students are coming right out of highschool, while others have years of work experience and prior education that will enrich the DRBU community.
Three speakers addressed the audience during the Convocation and spoke of DRBU as a whole. The ceremony began with the school song, “Jin Xu Kong,” as the procession of new students took their seats in the Buddha Hall. Afterwards, DRBU President, Susan Rounds, gave the first welcome speech. She spoke of the nature of DRBU’s community, and how it has developed to represent the diverse group of people it is made up of today. Those in attendance chose to become members of the DRBU community because of a shared belief in the innate human capacity for wisdom. Furthermore, we are not a tribe that clings to a shared identity; instead, we are a community open to new paths of inquiry and challenge within ourselves. Dr. Rounds ended her speech on a similar note, expressing hope for the community, as all living beings are pure, compassionate, and full of light.
In the next speech, DRBU Dean of Students, Bikishuni Heng Liang, discussed the values we share as a community. Dharma Master Liang expressed that since the only thing we can depend on in life is change, DRBU allows us to engage in the process of our own transformation. She also commented on DRBU’s unassuming appearance. Although DRBU holds a quiet, subtle campus at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, within it, is an environment of steady change and growth for its members.
Dr. Martin Verhoeven, the Dean of Academics, followed with the final speech of Convocation. He addressed the theme of “unsettlement,” as it is likely to arise during self-reflection and cultivation of the self at DRBU. The model of activating inherent goodness and wisdom in DRBU’s curriculum is rooted in the understanding that we are not lacking in anything. He spoke of DRBU as an invitation to challenge identity and return to wisdom. In this environment, there is a sense of familiarity in unfamiliarity, as students learn to affirm discomfort, rather than run away from it.
Convocation concluded as new students signed their names in DRBU’s matriculation book, marking the start of a new year and continued growth at DRBU. Following the ceremony, new students worked together to prepare a community lunch for all the attendees. Several Bhikkshunis, DRBU alumni, and volunteers also stepped in to help. There was a “friends and family circle” afterwards, where friends and family offered well wishes to the new students and asked questions about DRBU.
Written by a sophmore in the BA program
Photography by Stan Shoptaugh