A Reflection on Shared Inquiry

  • Students sitting around a table in a classroom
    Classes take place around a table to facilitate discussion

Written by a freshman in the BA program

As one of the younger students attending DRBU, I often contrast its unique learning environment to the modes of learning I relied on in high school: lectures, testing, and independent study. As a high school student, I approached education in a calculated manner, with the intention of studying to get good grades, getting good grades to go to a good college, and graduating from a good college to attain a meaningful career. There was value in engaging with academics systematically for me to succeed in a test-based learning environment, but I questioned the value of the material I was studying because I had difficulty applying what I learned to my life outside of school. The majority of my time was used to study subjects that were largely impersonal to me, and the rest of my time was spent searching for meaning in what I did.

Classes at DRBU utilize the Shared Inquiry method to generate thoughtful discussions that develop our understanding of a subject. These discussion-oriented classes connect the student to the subject so that larger implications of what we’re learning can be drawn from ourselves and the world. This style of learning has united the divide I created between academics and my personal life. I no longer invest time in school for the sake of an ambiguously meaningful future; instead, I reap what I learn in the present.

In my Buddhist Classics class, for instance, Shared Inquiry helped me to understand the Buddhist concept of rebirth on my own terms. Our classroom discussions on rebirth and other topics explored some of the questions that arose out of my nonreligious background; such as, how far along do I need to cultivate before evidence of rebirth becomes apparent, and how do I understand the unobservable aspects of rebirth empirically? The benefits of contemplative dialogue aren’t restricted to the classroom; they extend to the personal pursuit of meaning between ourselves and the world. My experience with academics has been dominated by the notion that learning is accomplished alone, with grit and discipline guiding the way to success. But my time at DRBU has taught me that learning will always coincide with relationships between myself, others, and the world.