My class had everyone from just about every walk of life and quite an age range: from recent college grads to a fellow who quietly but proudly proclaimed he graduated from college in 1952...do the math. He is my hero. I hope I'm still pursuing my curiosities and questions when I reach the same age-Inshallah!
Taking classes for a teacher has a dual advantage. For me, I think it keeps me in touch with my "beginner's mind" as the Zen masters would say. I hope that it helps me stay more thoughtful and sensitive to my students' needs and perspective. Watching others teachers teach is the second benefit. I learn so much about different pedagogies, styles, and approaches.
Basic Buddhism was a wonderful insight into the spiritual context that has shaped Asia. In returning to school to study Eastern Classic, this was one of my primary goals: to gain a deeper understanding of the mind set and perspective of the artists who created so many great masterpieces. I think the main thing I learned is there is nothing "basic" about Buddhism. And like the texts of other religions, there is historical context and the varying interpretations and insights into each work. Stylistically the detailed imagery of each story appeals to me artist's eye greatly, for the lesson of the Buddha and his followers, like those prophets and great thinkers of the West, are more often than not told in the form of a story. Stories that you glean new, and different wisdom and lessons from each time you visit them because we all grow and change throughout our lives.
I truly learn the meaning of Aristole's quote, "The mark of the educated mind is to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it" in our class discussions. I have seen this quote many times in our faculty mail room. Initially, I interpreted it to mean that you could think about something you didn't agree with. But, I think Eastern thought is good for me, it's taking the "I" out of my thinking. The educated mind (that I aspire to) can look at a thought without passion, without commitment, can turn it around, and consider it from all perspectives without espousing belief, just thinking. There is a freedom in this, a letting go that every intellectual act is performance for evaluation. I could let go of having to have or form an opinion and give my mind and heart time and space to listen, absorb and consider quietly. I know I learned more this way because quite honestly I was listening better, frankly because I got my own voice in shut up in my head. All in all a good class.
My next week was a dive into one of my favorite subjects, the world of Tang Dynasty poets (8th century CE). This is way I've included my favorite poet of this periods portrait here, Du Fu. Translation is a powerful tool for poetry, I've learn it can reveal nuances of social and historical context, subtleties of the poet's perspective and personality. In other words, it allows you to step into another world. A world that for me prior to this past year was completely curtained off by the translations of others. You can imagine my excitement. It was a profound artistic experience for me for I became a true fan of Du Fu a poet who can touch the sky yet has his perspective about how to live one's life grounded in realism with a touch of humor. If you haven't read him, please do. I discovered too that Du Fu and Li Bai, another great Tang Dynasty poet, were great friends and I was reminded of Coleridge and Wordsworth. Certainly a doctoral dissertation there for someone to write.
I'll write again shortly, to update you on my summer reading and latest creations!