A Tuesday afternoon at Institute buddhist streetstudies (IBS) in Berkeley, California, Dr. Nancy Lin leads a discussion on the Bodhicaryāvatārathe founding eighth-century Buddhist text of Shantideva known in English as the The Bodhisattva Path, Guide to Bodhisattva Practice, and other translated titles. Alongside Dr. Lin is Amy Shoemaker, a Master of Theology chaplaincy student from El Cerrito, and Ven. Miaojie, a Buddhist nun from Taiwan is also studying chaplaincy at IBS. Students unable to attend in person joined via Zoom, their faces projected and their voices amplified by the latest in distance learning technology.
The lesson begins with attention to the mental and psychological state of the student, while Professor Lin checks the stress levels mid-course. She listens deeply to each student and takes into account their emotional experience. Soon, however, they move on to a rigorous discussion of the Bodhicaryāvatāra, covering themes of mindfulness and mindfulness within a framework of compassion and wisdom, as well as the literary qualities of the text and its place in historical and contemporary Buddhist traditions. This week, students were assigned a chapter of A flash in the dark of night, a commentary on the Shantideva text by His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, in addition to selections from the main text. In Lin’s class, it is clear that students study Buddhism through both textual analysis and embodied experience and reflection.