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Lions Roar : July 2019
Daijaku Judith Kinst is the Noboru and Yaeko Hanyu Professor of Buddhist Chaplaincy at the Institute of Buddhist Studies and the author of Trust, Realization, and the Self in Soto Zen Practice. oppress each other. So how we understand reality and teachings matters. Because we turn to our institutions of learning to provide us with a means to educate ourselves about the world and our role in it, they play a crucial part in shaping our lives. If we’re going to consider how Buddhist education will evolve over the next forty years, we must develop a clear-eyed view of the factors that impact it. Higher education is in crisis now. Aims and expected outcomes are shifting. Academic degrees are, increasingly, financially out of reach for many people, and the student debt crisis is explod- ing. This is unsustainable. With climate change, technological developments, and changing demographics, the shape of education will almost certainly change dramatically. We must face this squarely and rethink what we mean by education. This means reflecting on our values, engaging in thoughtful conversations, and developing a vision of what’s possible. What’s needed with regard to Buddhist educa- tion? How can we educate future leaders to respond to current needs and those that will emerge? Where do we turn for examples that will guide us? We must take care, as we ask these questions, to include those that are left out of a conversation that often focuses on elite universities—we must include those attending and teaching at commu- nity colleges, smaller, poorer colleges, and schools in far-flung areas. If we don’t do this, we’ll perpet- uate systems of privilege and limit our vision. We must ask, is the buddhadharma any less relevant for the education of a nurse’s aide than it is for a physician? If there is anything that looking toward traditionally Buddhist cultures tells us, it’s that Buddhism is for all people. Developing programs that produce educators with a solid understanding of Buddhist teach- ings, who are able to create classes appropriate for varied educational settings and connect Buddhist teachings to people’s day-to-day lives and work, will lead to new insights and perspectives. We must ask what types of academic educa- tion will help us create new systems and responses to our changing world. Educational institutions rooted in the dharma are particularly good mod- els for what’s possible. For example, an institution that has the Buddhist teachings of interdepen- dence as a basis for its curriculum can make a unique contribution in discussions about how we could respond to climate change. In the last few years a group of educators from schools and organizations with programs in Bud- dhist ministry and chaplaincy have come together to share resources, concerns, methods, and friend- ship. Within this group, those of us from Buddhist educational institutions found we have a particu- lar affinity. Institute of Buddhist Studies, the University of the West, Naropa University, and Maitripa College are each different. However, we’re all rooted in the Buddhist tradition, welcome students and faculty from all Buddhist schools, and engage deeply from that basis with non-Buddhist traditions. We’ve discovered, in our discussions, that having the dharma as the founda- tion changes the entire institution and the education it offers. In all these schools, the “trans- lation” of material from non- Buddhist sources occurs in an environment in which the richness of Buddhist teachings is the con- text. Students come from a wide range of traditions, and a diver- sity of views is valued, encour- aged, and inevitable. This directly impacts the way students grow and develop. In the case of the Institute of Buddhist Studies, where I teach, we’re also deeply connected to the Graduate Theological Union, which means students from other GTU schools have the opportunity to study Buddhism in a Buddhist institution. The inclusion of students from other theological schools makes for a lively classroom. In our program, and the others, students come to know one another as lifelong students of the dharma. They challenge one another to bring forth new insights, build a strong theoretical basis in the dharma for their service in the world, and grow in their ability to articulate it to oth- ers. They build a confidence that doesn’t require erasing real differences or making another wrong. The leaders we’ll need, as we face the challenges ahead, grow and thrive in these institutions founded on the dharma. ♦ PHOTOBYALESSANDRAMELLO/MELLOPHOTO.COM CELEBRATING YEARS LION’S ROAR | JULY 2019 75