22 episodes

“The Circled Square: Buddhist Studies in Higher Education” explores practices of effective teaching and learning in a diversity of higher education contexts.

The Circled Square circledsquare

    • Education
    • 5.0 • 9 Ratings

“The Circled Square: Buddhist Studies in Higher Education” explores practices of effective teaching and learning in a diversity of higher education contexts.

    Mushrooms for Enlightenment or Why Buddhism is Like Shrek: A Conversation about Teaching with Sangseraima Ujeed

    Mushrooms for Enlightenment or Why Buddhism is Like Shrek: A Conversation about Teaching with Sangseraima Ujeed

    Mushrooms for Enlightenment or Why Buddhism is Like Shrek: A Conversation about Teaching with Sangseraima Ujeed
    Episode 22
    Recorded: June, 21 2022
    Duration: 56:02
    In this conversation with Sangseraima Ujeed, Assistant Professor of Tibetan Buddhism at the University of Michigan, she talks about teaching in a Public University as a practising Buddhist, the draw to teach and grow students in the knowledge of her native Mongolian language, and how she carefully works through primary texts with her students. An avid forager she hopes to build courses that bring students out into nature and sees the potential of Buddhist theories and concepts to build resilience, tolerance and alternative worldviews in her students.
    Memorable Quotes
    "What I really care about in my teaching, and I try to bring in as much as I can, is getting the students to engage with primary sources…we try to read about three or four texts from beginning to end.
    "The style of writing is so alien to them. This is a fourth century text that writes in a specific way. It's a commentarial literature genre which has its own thing. But at the end of it, they were like, we just read this thing from this period! And they felt proud.
    "37 Practices of a Bodhisattva is 37 verses, about 37 practices. That part was really valuable because as we started reading the 37 Practices, the war in Ukraine broke out. So taking little chunks of it and conceptualizing the suffering of other beings and the inability to really actually do something, but to have to think about situations like that when they arise, we could really bring in real life situations.
    "As a devoted forager, I would love to be able to take the students out into nature in the fall when species are abundant and just talk about the interconnectedness of an ecosystem whilst we go and forage and learn about the ecosystem or the forest and try to put that parallel to interconnectedness, what that looks like from the Buddhist position. In there with fungi, decomposition and the ecosystem, there's a lot to be said also about rebirth.
    Links and References
    Sangseraima Ujeed https://lsa.umich.edu/asian/people/faculty/sujeed.html
    Donald Lopez https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_S._Lopez_Jr.
    Lopez Jr., Donald S. 2005. Critical Terms for the Study of Buddhism. University of Chicago Press. https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/C/bo3534242.html
    Buddhaghosa, and Ñāṇamoli. 1976. The Path of Purification: (Visuddhimagga). Berkeley, CA [etc.]: Shambhala Publications. https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/PathofPurification2011.pdf
    Dzatrul Ngawang Tenzin Norbu and Stagg, C. 2020. A Guide to the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva. Snow Lion. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/608046/a-guide-to-the-thirty-seven-practices-of-a-bodhisattva-by-ngawang-tenzin-norbu-translated-by-christopher-stagg-foreword-by-dzogchen-ponlop/9781559394918
    "How mindfulness changes the emotional life of our brains", a talk by Richard J. Davidson, (TEDxSanFrancisco) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CBfCW67xT8
    Advanced Buddhist Meditation: The Investigation of Dr. Hebert Benson, MD. Russ Pariseau, USA, 2008. https://vimeo.com/248297652
    Benjamin Brose  https://lsa.umich.edu/asian/people/faculty/bbrose.html
    Sisse Budolfsen https://himalayanhermitage.com/
    Tsongkhapa, https://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Tsongkhapa/TBRC_P64
    Facebook Group "I Love Wild Mushrooms" https://www.facebook.com/groups/730397800439930

    • 56 min
    Kate Hartmann: Online Teaching Beyond the Pandemic

    Kate Hartmann: Online Teaching Beyond the Pandemic

    Trained in religion at Harvard, Kate Hartmann started her teaching job in Wyoming during the pandemic and has heartily embraced the challenges and possibilities of online and virtual modes of teaching. She also speaks eloquently about what her students in Wyoming need and want from her in person teaching about Buddhism. Founder of the new Buddhist Studies Online course platform, Kate shares academically and historically grounded studies of Buddhism with the wider public. She emphasizes the importance of applying Buddhist texts to contemporary issues such as structural racism and climate justice. In this episode you will hear Kate share numerous tips and strategies to engage students and use new technologies for teaching. 
    “A world in which religion is treated with a kind of sense of history and diversity and respect is a world that I want us to live in.” Kate Hartmann 
    “I created my classes to be taught hybrid… I could really start from scratch and say, ‘What is the thing that I want to get across and how can I make this work for my students?’” Kate Hartmann  
    “It's hard to talk to the public. One, it's hard to get their attention, two it's hard to do it kind of responsibly, and three, it's hard because you don't get a lot of institutional recognition for this. None of this stuff counts for tenure or job applications for many of us in the field.” Kate Hartmann 
    “What we wanted to do is take the resources of the academy, the kind of rigor, the scholarship, the training, and bring it to this general audience that's interested and that otherwise might be consuming garbage nonsense on Instagram and YouTube. There's a lot of stuff out there and we as academics should be proactively reaching out to that community.” Kate Hartmann
    Links and References
    Episode webpage http://teachingbuddhism.net/episode-21-kate-hartmann-online-teaching-beyond-the-pandemic/
    Dr. Hartmann’s website https://www.drkatehartmann.com/
    Perusall https://www.perusall.com/
    Buddhist Studies Online https://www.buddhiststudiesonline.com/
    Seth Powell’s Yogic Studies https://www.yogicstudies.com/
    ReligionForBreakfast YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/ReligionForBreakfast/featured
    Bodhicharyavatara https://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Bodhicharyavatara
    Bloom’s Taxonomy https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/
    Dreamer, R. Charles Johnson https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Dreamer/Charles-Johnson/9780684854434
    The Advice to Layman Tundila https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9781400880072-024/pdf
    Himalayan Hermitess, Kurtis Shaeffer https://global.oup.com/academic/product/himalayan-hermitess-9780195152999?cc=ca&lang=en&
    Love and Rage, Lama Rod Owens https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/608716/love-and-rage-by-lama-rod-owens/
    Radical Dharma, Angel Kyodo Williams https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/547708/radical-dharma-by-rev-angel-kyodo-williams-lama-rod-owens-and-jasmine-syedullah/

    • 50 min
    José Cabezón: Teaching Tibetan Buddhism as Professor and Practitioner

    José Cabezón: Teaching Tibetan Buddhism as Professor and Practitioner

    José Cabezón is the Dalai Lama Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. Among his many contributions to the field of Buddhist Studies, José served as the president of the American Academy of Religion in 2020 and his Presidential Address (published in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion in September 2021) surveyed the study of Buddhism in North America as an academic discipline within religious studies. In this episode, he reflects on how he balances his research with teaching various undergraduate and graduate courses. His teaching is organised around a spectrum of topics that give students skills they need while also developing their engagement with Buddhism, historical and in the contemporary moment. He brings his own experiences as a Buddhist monk into his courses which can help students engage with the worlds of religion and the context of Tibetan Buddhism, which is foreign to most undergraduate students in the US. In addition to reflecting on how his teaching has changed during his career, he also analyses how the backgrounds, interests, and skill-sets of his undergraduate students have shifted. Are humanities degrees less “pragmatic” than other programs? We invite you to listen and hear how José would respond to this assumption. 
    Memorable Quotes
    “I'm a Buddhist and I have a long background as a Buddhist. Many of my colleagues have said that they'd like to keep students guessing about their own religious background and that this serves a good pedagogical function in the class that kind of keeps students asking questions and wondering what the professors' relationship to the material is. I, from the very beginning, have taken a different tack, and I've kind of come clean at the beginning about what my background is, the fact that I was a Buddhist monk for ten years.” José Cabezón
    “I have a colleague who retired recently. She works in the area of religion and cognitive science. We talked about this once, about whether or not it was legally kosher to teach meditation in a public university. Her response to me, I thought it was very interesting that she said "athletes are trained and they're told to do things, so why is this any different?" José Cabezón
    “In the case of Tibet, it is important to kind of break stereotypes. I mean, the glamorization or the fetishization of Tibet as a kind of magical, mystical place where there's flying lamas and things like that.” José Cabezón
    “Simply to be able to see the history of Tibet presented, at least until a certain period of time, but more or less independent of Chinese history, that it isn't as the history of a province of China, that Tibet kind of had its own history up until the present, that in itself is kind of eye opening for many students.” José Cabezón
    “The goal in the undergraduate course, as I said, is to kind of expose them to a culture that's very different from their own and to have them think about what it means that there are people in the world who think in this very different way. In the graduate classroom it's really to prepare them to be experts in Buddhism.” José Cabezón
    “The language class is a kind of third component to my teaching that in many ways is my favorite form of teaching because I like reading texts and I like reading texts with the graduate students. Apart from teaching them Tibetan and the nuances of reading classical Tibetan, it's also an opportunity to have them think critically about texts, to teach them to ask questions about what the text is saying.” José Cabezón
    “Undergraduates have changed insofar as we have fewer majors than we used to, maybe about a third of the majors that we used to have. I think when I first arrived here religious studies had something like 200 majors and now we have maybe 60 or 70. This is true across every discipline of the humanities, it's not just religious studies. In part, I think that's because students are th

    • 47 min
    Jan Willis: Stories from a Black, Baptist, and Buddhist Teacher

    Jan Willis: Stories from a Black, Baptist, and Buddhist Teacher

    Dr. Jan Willis discusses her lifetime of teaching Buddhism and Buddhist studies courses. She reflects on helping students broaden their horizons and find their true selves, just as she discovered the wider world of higher education after surviving childhood in the segregated south. In her teaching, she uses stories to connect students with the pivotal moments in history that shape our understanding of social justice and engaged Buddhism. Jan is a Professor Emerita of Religion at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and Visiting Professor of Religion at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. In addition to her research on Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhist saints’ lives, and women and Buddhism, she also publishes on her personal experience of being a Black woman in Buddhist studies. This episode was recorded in January 2022.
    Memorable Quotations
    “I was raised in a mining camp outside of Birmingham, a town that was a mining camp that was split down the middle by one street. Blacks on one side, whites on the other. We dare not cross the road.” Jan Willis
    “I praise all of my strong black women teachers.” Jan Willis
    “I saw math and music as having universal languages. Here are languages that can be understood by anyone who reads that language.” Jan Willis
    “I was one of those faceless 15 year olds, tenth graders, who marched with King. So in '63 that had happened and that transformed my whole life. But in '65, when I got these scholarships, the Klan marched on our home. This was something that we'd grown up knowing about, the Klan targeted people from time to time.” Jan Willis
    “It was very, very dangerous I knew from the beginning, to be conspicuous in the south. It was frightening.” Jan Willis
    “So the Klan comes,… They set up a cross, 12 or 15 foot in front across the street from the house in an alleyway. And they light it. So I'm amazed. I'm awestruck. I'm dumbfounded, gobsmacked. Because first, the robes are not all white. There are red robes and there are purple robes, and the second thing is that they're men and women and children enrobed. This really strong urge came up in me to go out and talk to them… I wanted to teach them that just as they were a family, we were a family inside this house just like them.” Jan Willis
    “I call it a 'dual education,' our teachers made sure that we not only learned English literature, but we learned black literature. That we not only sang the national anthem, but we sang the negro National anthem as well. That we recited poems... That I can meet people, African-Americans today, a number of times I can meet them if they are my same age we can start reciting the same poem, we'll make the same hand gestures. So there was this dual education going on all the time which said 'you are somebody,' 'You have a tradition,' and we celebrated that.” Jan Willis
    “Those teachers were practicing ‘fugitive pedagogy,’ what Jarvis Givens calls it, because it's an education that's meant to uplift the spirit as well as to uplift self-esteem.” Jan Willis
    “I don't want to convert those students, but I want those students to find their true selves, which I think are compassionate and capable. I want to help them discover that.” Jan Willis
    “My mission turned out to be helping them discover what they knew and helping them find the tools to research it further.” Jan Willis
    “Culturally, I'm African-American, but if I want to solve a problem, Buddhism has a lot of answers.” Jan Willis
    “I say, '10-20 years from now you won't remember all these dates, and this, that, the other. What do you think you'll carry forward as the most important teaching of the Buddha?' I think early on they're saying things, they come into the class some of them might say 'wisdom,' 'emptiness,' they don't understand any of that, but they've read it somewhere in there.” Jan Willis
    “Dhammapada 183, which says 'Do no harm, practice virtue, discipline the mind. This is the teaching of all the buddh

    • 48 min
    Todd Lewis: Social Context and the Power of Imagination

    Todd Lewis: Social Context and the Power of Imagination

    In this episode Professor Todd Lewis discusses the importance of reaching students where they are, of unsettling their assumptions, and of teaching broad religious literacy in a world where much religious illiteracy prevails. He centers ritual and art in much of his teaching, wanting to balance the focus on elite and textual arts with popular practices and an awareness of the diversity of practitioners. He also communicates the complexity of different types of Buddhism through the use of diagrams like ones he has made that show different methods between Theravada and Mahayana understandings of the Buddhist path. Lewis is a Distinguished Professor of Arts and Humanities and Professor of World Religions in the Religious Studies Department at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester MA. He teaches and publishes research on Buddhism, Hinduism, East Asian religions, anthropology of religions, modernization, ecology and religion, and he has won numerous awards for both his teaching and his research. This episode was recorded in December 2020. 
    “I think the bell curve is essential for studying all religions. There are really dedicated followers who may become monks and nuns, in the case of Buddhism, and there are people who barely show up or don't show up or who don't even believe this stuff unless they're pressed on the other tail of that. Then you have people in the middle, and every religion in every place can maybe be filled out in terms of the way these are specifically fulfilled.” Todd Lewis 
    “You can't essentialize Buddhism as any part of that bell curve.” Todd Lewis 
    “All social life is based on exchange.” Todd Lewis
    “Not all monks are virtuoso meditators.” Todd Lewis 
    “You need to show students Buddhists doing rituals. You need to show them gathering on full moon days and circumambulating stupas by the tens of thousands today.” Todd Lewis 
    “I don't want to get too sidetracked with the students about how some of these museums actually got their art but that's how we circle back to Orientalism.” Todd Lewis 
    “You want to make students aware and think about what their biases are as they enter in.” Todd Lewis
    “I want to provide a social context so that Buddhism doesn't just float out in our imaginations as something that exists without being grounded in particular places and times.” Todd Lewis 
    “We're going to disproportionately study the intellectuals and the philosophers, but I am trying to have them read and describe and see rituals, to see how Buddhism is lived in different times and places.” Todd Lewis
    “Museums are not the place to really understand the fullness of art, you have to see how it works.” Todd Lewis 
    “The context of our teaching is a huge part of how we should teach... I think you have to really meet your students where they are, and every institution has a slightly different culture.” Todd Lewis 
    “I want them to just see how they may have seen Buddhism dismissed as something that's flaky or not to be taken seriously. But there also is this hyper-idealizing of Buddhism in which Buddhism is accepted uncritically.” Todd Lewis 
    “We are still dealing with some of the distortions and misconceptions and stereotypes that Westerners brought to Buddhism.” Todd Lewis 
    “Religion always has to take into account both the transcendental elements and the pragmatic elements. If you neglect that, you're really missing something.” Todd Lewis 
    “We have religious illiteracy as a problem.” Todd Lewis 
    Links and References
    8-fold path schema of Buddhaghosa Link on Teaching Buddhism website 
    Todd Lewis, College of the Holy Cross, Department of Religious Studies faculty profile page
    Stolen Images of Nepal, Lain Singh Bangdel, purchase book here
    Encyclopaedia of Buddhism, Robert Buswell, purchase book here
    Pancha Raksha, link to website
    "Transcendental and Pragmatic Aspects of Religion,” David G. Mandelbaum link to article
    Buddhist Nuns, Monks, and

    • 1 hr 10 min
    Susie Andrews: Building Others Up

    Susie Andrews: Building Others Up

    This conversation with Susie Andrews (Mount Allison University) highlights how she uses creative and hands-on approaches to teaching Asian religions. Susie talks about the importance of building a culture of support and shared success in her teaching—and in academia more broadly. An inspired teacher who has her students build models of ancient Chinese burials using cardboard boxes and who regularly brings homemade playdough to her University classes, she will expand your thinking about the possibilities of embodied and creative practice in all stages of learning. This interview was recorded in the summer of 2021 and released in the Fall of 2021.

    • 1 hr 1 min

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