Beginner's mind is a special BDG project of insightful essays written by American students who have taken experiential learning courses related to Buddhism. Some authors identify themselves as Buddhists, for others it is their first encounter with the Buddhadharma. All share their thoughts and impressions on what they have learned, how it has impacted their lives, and how they could continue to be involved in teaching.
Farisha Sultan wrote this essay for her course in Buddhist Modernism at the University of Southern California (USC), a private university in Los Angeles. Farisha holds a double major in Religious Studies and in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. After graduating, she plans to conduct research for a year before attending medical school to become an emergency physician.
Meditate on the path of life
Now that the semester is coming to an end and I am finishing this reflection essay, I wanted to take a look at my initial survey to see the growth that has occurred over the past 14 weeks. When initially asked Why I chose this course and what I wanted to learn, I said, “I chose this course as a course to learn more about Buddhism, because I have never learned Buddhism in any context. As a religious scholar, Muslim and of Hindu origin, I have always been interested in taking courses that expose me to different points of view. I have already taken several courses on Judaism and Christianity, so when I saw this course offered, I knew it was something new that I would like to explore at USC during my last semester. .
Along with gaining academic knowledge about Buddhism, I also gained insight into my daily practices and values in life. The meditation journal that is part of our weekly activities has helped me integrate this practice into my daily life. If I'm being honest, I struggled to do meditation outside of the 10 minutes we would do in class for the first 2 months of the semester. It was hard for me to integrate something into my life that I didn't understand or recognize as important.
What changed for me was that this semester overlapped with the religious month of Ramadan. Thanks to this month and its practices, I was able to integrate daily meditation into my daily prayers. Because I had time set aside daily for the prayer I needed to do, it was easy to continue this activity for a few extra minutes to include my daily meditation. Recently, I was able to combine prayer and meditation into one (as I felt it best suited my needs), and I really feel like I've reached a new stage of spiritual enlightenment. For this form of meditation/prayer, I reflect and feel grateful while focusing on my breath. I know it will be difficult to continue after the month of Ramadan because I will be graduating and applying for medical school. However, I hope the habits instilled in me this month will make me disciplined enough to continue.
I also hope this habit continues because with so much uncertainty in my life over the next few months, it's nice to take the time to just reflect on my existence and remind myself of the reasons why I enjoy life so much. which I led. given. It seems crazy to me that a few months ago I didn't really know what meditation was or how to practice it, and it's something that I figured out how to do (in the best way for me) and I practice it almost daily.
For my future interest in Buddhism, I would like to explore the subject of karma and the communal culture promoted by Buddhism. I would like to learn more and research how we can apply the positive aspects of this communitarian culture to individualistic societies like the United States. Beyond the course and meditation, I hope to practice mindfulness and the concepts of Buddhism and health in my future life. I want to be able to take care of my body and my health as I should. I also want to practice mindfulness in order to become a more empathetic person.
I think future Buddhist Modernism courses should be delivered in the same way, but could include more hands-on activities and workshops to immerse students in Buddhism. Instead of weekly readings, other media such as movies, TV shows, and news channels could be incorporated to give students a different perspective on the content being taught. Also, I wish the students had asked more questions and had some sort of weekly Q&A session. This would be a few minutes of allotted time during which students would have the opportunity to ask their questions on a given topic and the whole class would try to answer the question for them. I believe this would encourage greater sharing of knowledge and active participation in the classroom.
If I had to describe this course and my learning experience in one word, phrase or sentence, then I would say this course is: an area where I can really focus on learning and not regurgitating information to get a good grade. I felt I was able to complete my homework and take my time to learn the valuable content, instead of feeling overwhelmed and pressured to learn everything discussed in class/readings for an exam that would determine my whole note. I appreciated and enjoyed being able to take a course at USC where, above all else, learning and experiences were valued. It made me appreciate being at USC and adding a religion major to my senior year. Thank you for all this semester!