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Students Learn About Buddhism From Visiting Scholars

Worcester State students recently learned about Buddhism from masters of the ancient philosophy—four visiting scholars from the Namdroling Monastery in the settlement of Bylakuppe in South India. The two-week visit was a part of a cultural exchange that began in May 2017 when Assistant Professor Cleve Wiese, Ph.D., and 10 Worcester State students visited the refugee settlement in Bylakuppe. The group stayed at the Namdroling Monastery, home to a major Buddhist university.

“As a reciprocal aspect of that cultural exchange, my counterparts at the monastic university and I really wanted to bring some scholars from Namdroling to WSU, as well,” says Wiese. “Through a crowdfunding campaign, a couple of generous non-profit grants, and support from the Worcester State Honors program, we were finally able to make it happen this semester.”

The visiting scholars included two nuns, Thiley Chachung and Karma Yangu, who are both originally from Nepal; and two monks, Pema Wangdak and Cheki Dorje, both originally from Bhutan. All four of them have the title of “lopon” or master, indicating completion of the traditional nine-year philosophical curriculum at the monastic college.

During their visit at the end of February, members of the group:

Wiese says the scholars also presented during several class sessions of a special English course that he is teaching this semester “focused on using Tibetan philosophical debate to develop skills of creative thinking and critical writing.”

The group also visited the Buddhist Digital Resource Center, the largest digital library of Buddhist—mainly Tibetan—texts, and Wisdom Publications, a major publisher of Buddhist books, both in Cambridge. They also participated in a class at Harvard Divinity School taught by the widely respected Buddhist studies scholar Dr. Janet Gyatso.

In addition, they toured the Worcester Art Museum and took a trip to Western Massachusetts to celebrate Losar (the Tibetan New Year) at some Buddhist centers there.