Author  DRBU Staff

Name: Peter “pedrӦ” Tran

Cohort: BA ‘24

Hometown: Bay Area

What is an influential class, book, or concept that blew your mind?
The concept of zhongyong, a Confucian concept about finding and using equilibrium in every situation. I prefer the translation “harmony point.” Finding the harmony point in myself first to find the harmony point in any given situation has had a transformative effect on my personal and professional life. The micro and macro are interrelated, and this concept helped me understand that.

Can you tell us the title of a recent paper? What is it about? What is it really about?
“Jyun Kang University” is about the time I spent volunteering at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, specifically at Jyun Kang Restaurant. What it is really about is how I needed to learn what hard work and discipline meant and that this type of work ethic should be independent of any and all external conditions. Under intense heat or extreme cold, running on little sleep or an empty stomach, my teacher taught me that the way we conduct ourselves never wavers. This teaching is now embedded in my being. My time there with my teacher truly saved my life. 

How has DRBU changed you? Are there any surprising things you learned or challenges you faced?
The most challenging thing was facing the massive amount of trauma hiding underneath this carefully constructed caricature I subconsciously created to shield myself from having to live life. Shout out to my wonderful therapists for their grace and listening ears and to DRBU for providing such amazing mental health support. 

What does contemplative practice mean to you? Do you have a daily practice?
Constant, constant self-reflection on how I treat others and myself and holding myself accountable for when I use my words and actions unskillfully. I have had to apologize more than ever before, and my ego does not always enjoy doing so, but it is better than letting meaningful relationships sour over little petty things. My daily practice is being mindful of the mind-ground as much as I can by “watching the mechanisms fire,” as [Professor] Doug puts it. 

What’s it like to be a part of the DRBU community? What do you do outside of class?
What a special collection of some of the kindest people I have had the blessing to be around. The old cynical me would have never thought that complete strangers could be so kind, patient, and supportive of me, my well-being, and my family as well. It truly does feel like a family here. Outside of the classroom, I am usually trying to put together fun things to do at Sudhana Center, like hang-out sessions, board game and movie nights, and playing sports with the local community like basketball and volleyball. I also follow TV series with homies outside of school and go to the Bay Area to work and spend time with my parents and sister.

What were you doing before DRBU?
Nothing I consider worthwhile. I had dead-end jobs, liked partying and clubbing, and spent a lot of time in community college but never completed my associate’s degree.

Can you share a memory of a quintessential DRBU moment with us?
No question, taking my precepts! That was 6 years in the making. To me, that was my real graduation. I never really came to DRBU for a degree or higher education. I came here to learn more about myself, to grow spiritually, and to learn to overcome my struggles. Having the courage to take the precepts and believe that I could uphold them for this lifetime took a tremendous amount of internal work. 

How has financial aid played a role in your being at DRBU? What’s your service scholarship (work-study) job?
I literally would not have been able to afford to go here without it. I had given up on the notion of getting a bachelor’s degree before applying here and hearing of the financial aid assistance provided. My utmost gratitude to [DRBU’s founder] Master Hua and his vow of making education affordable to anyone, as well as the staff here who work extremely hard to make that vow stay true.
The work-study that I do this semester is going to college fairs and hosting campus tours for outreach and admissions, working on the editing team for the student magazine, watching over the 4th & 5th graders over at IGDVS boys’ school, and helping out with the meal program at Sudhana Center.

What are you interested in doing after DRBU? How does what you’re learning here carry out into the world?
Immediately after, I want to get my realtor license and become a certified driving instructor. I believe that these two professions would provide me with the work-life balance I am looking for as I work towards my ultimate goal, which is to be the owner and director of an after-school program. I want to provide children with a safe space while still providing a fun experience where they can learn real-world skills, such as how to file taxes, use tools, figure out their own boundaries, respect other people’s boundaries, and maintain friendships and spot toxic ones, etc. I am not sure a curriculum like this exists yet, so that’s why I want to start my own after-school program, but I’ll need to build the funds first. 

From my perspective, DRBU develops and builds the soft skills of being a human being: learning how to work with other people and their varying attitudes in a patient manner, leading discussions and meetings, meeting people at where they are at, being a team player, and communicating in a coherent manner. These are skills that will be important once I leave this place. With the work ethic I gained from Jyun Kang, anchored with the patience and kindness I learned at DRBU, I believe it will get me to where I am trying to go.  

What would you say to someone who is thinking about applying to DRBU?
If you’re looking for a sign, this is it!!!

If you’re looking to become the best version of yourself, this is the place that will support that.

If you’re trying to grow spiritually, this environment nurtures that in spades!

If your financial situation is what is preventing you from pursuing higher education, that won’t be a problem here. 

If you’re tired of the grind of the capitalistic world, this is a nice place to get away from that and study what’s really important in life. 

If you’re feeling existential or even cynical, this place helped me become more human, and I believe it can do the same for you!