Student Spotlight

Nov 16, 2023

Name: Monica

Cohort: BA'26

What were you doing before DRBU?

I was a moderately nonconformist high school kid who'd often go silent on my mom because I didn’t want to admit that she was always right. (P.S. Mom, I still love you!).

What is an influential class, book, or concept that blew your mind?

The fundamental awareness we embody which we often restrict in a rigid confine of our narrative is actually boundless and unrestrained. It encompasses the entirety of the universe, while also quietly permeating the routines of our daily existence. When we catch a fleeting glimpse of this expansive awareness, it fills us with profound gratitude and contentment, allowing us to experience a sense of “free and easy wandering”. (It might sound like I've got it all figured out, but truth be told, I'm still figuring it out LOL. That's why DRBU is the place where I'm on a journey to understand and access this experience.)

How has DRBU changed you? Are there any surprising things you learned or challenges you faced?

During this semester, I've come to realize that I'm becoming more self-contented and more honest with myself, which allows me to rebuild my core self-confidence. But it is still a work in progress.

One of the challenges I've encountered has been the shared inquiry approach. Initially, I felt like I had nothing to contribute to the discussion, as I couldn't relate to the texts. But later on, I recognized that I hadn't been open to engaging with the readings in the first place. Once I established a connection, it naturally encouraged me to share more, but I acknowledge that communication remains a challenge, especially as an introverted individual. I had spent so much time in my own world that I seemingly forgot how to engage with others. That being said, I am grateful for the patience from my instructors and schoolmates to give me the space to grow.

What does contemplative practice mean to you? Do you have a daily practice?

It feels a bit like taking a vacation from my usual state of intellectual thinking. It provides me with a temporary escape, a breather from the excessive thinking. However, in the quiet moments, it also stirs deep existential questions that I can't help but ponder. I do have a regular recitation and list of practices that I am assigned to do (not from DRBU), but I am in a terminal case of laziness and procrastination. (That’s not something to be proud of, I guess, but I am where I am.) So, I really like the idea of cultivating mindfulness in every moment, regardless of the task at hand, even though it feels like there is more work to do. There was one time I asked one of our beloved professors, Doug Powers, about how to cultivate every moment. His response was simple and straightforward "JUST DO IT". However, I couldn't help but delve deeper into his words, pondering their meaning. It struck me that his advice held a mirror to my life, where so many of my ideas often remain unrealized, lost in the realm of thinking.

What’s it like to be a part of the DRBU community?

The DRBU community, in its entirety, resembles a therapeutic journey. Every interaction within it serves as a form of therapy, seeking to mend and nurture me, even when the process may initially appear challenging. Among all these encounters, Professor Doug Powers stands as the best antidote for me. His energy extends to the very core of my being (I believe), touching me in a deeply profound and meaningful way.

How has financial aid played a role in your being at DRBU?

Like most of us, I wouldn’t be here without financial aid. I always think that I must have received a cash advance from my “merit & blessing” bank to be here. While I'm undoubtedly grateful for this opportunity, I must confess that there are times when I take it for granted, like a spoiled child. So, my goal is to further nurture the spirit of gratitude, to genuinely "accept the gift and take my responsibility,"(a quote from Mr. Powers)!

What would you say to someone who is thinking about applying to DRBU?

Don’t think, JUST DO IT! Being here is definitely a trip and it waits for you to define it, (or not), and you always have the choice to change direction.


Name: Yafang (Edwina) Wang

Cohort: MA student, Class of 2025

Hometown: Taiyuan City, Shanxi Province, China

What were you doing before DRBU?

I was translating between Chinese and English, taught English, and recited classics.

What inspired you to choose this University?

I came to know about CTTB and DRBU in 2014 from my tea teacher who encouraged me to study in DRBU to enhance my translation in the field of classics. However, international students were not able to come because the university did not issue I-20. In retrospect, the encouragement was a fountainhead. Meanwhile, the exposure to the professors and the great books of the high-quality academic program answer my inner call to unlock meditativeness, compassion, and wisdom from within.

What has surprised you most about university life?

When I arrived in the evening, I went directly to my dorm. As I stepped into the room, I felt I entered into a world of bliss. As part of the learning environment, the dorm is wonderful and the staff are really supportive. It’s totally beyond a dream. I feel Master Hua’s aspiration to develop talents has been so seriously carried on. Having the opportunity to receive education here has been the most precious gift.

Are there any books from the reading list you’ve really enjoyed?

I enjoy In the Buddha’s Words by Bhikkhu Bodhi. The introductions before each chapter make the reading process to the point and productive. The expressions and vocabularies of the texts are instrumental in writing and translation. The Sixth Patriarch’s Jewel Platform Sutra is also illuminating. Its cornerstone philosophical teaching is to “search out Bodhi only in the mind” (菩提只向心覓). To some extent, I develop a more dispassionate understanding of my feelings, perceptions and thoughts.

What’s it like to be a part of the DRBU community?

DRBU community provides a supportive learning environment for an inward journey towards inner transformation. Whether in the texts, the pedagogical shared-inquiry during the class, or the work-study outside of the class, I feel directed to focus on myself while being supportive to the community.

What do you do outside of class?

Just as Venerable Master Hsüan Hua has said: “There is not a single location that is not a place of learning, and there is not a single moment that is not a time for learning.” There are a lot of learning opportunities both inside and outside of class. Outside of class, I read, do work-study, and go to the Buddha Hall. In the Buddha hall, I really like the melody with which "The Universal Door of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva" from The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra is chanted during the Guanyin Recitation Session. It’s tremendously beautiful and enjoyable.

What is your favorite spot on campus and why?

The Shurangama Mantra Bell area – out of inner gratitude. And it feels auspicious.

How has financial aid played a role in your being at DRBU?

Financial aid has played a critical role for me. Thanks to the generous financial aid from DRBU, I am able to afford all my educational, living, and travel costs.

What’s your service scholarship (work-study) job?

The work study is a fountainhead of growing wisdom and joy. I work in the big kitchen, the organic farm, and the girls’ school. The carefulness and teamwork required in the kitchen cleaning could be applied to other areas. Besides, the farm work teaches me to observe the weather, to listen to the soil, and to use tools. Working at the girls’ school helps me develop professionalism.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about applying to DRBU?

Your actions will be your best friend. And I want to share a beautiful haiku with you:

“The light of a candle 

Is transferred to another candle –

spring twilight.”