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Stories from Our Students

Confidence in myself as a scholar of religion

Sitting in a shared Jeep, nearly thrown out the back with every turn, I held onto a metal bar to steady my body and sanity as we wove up a dusty mountain. I wondered, “What on earth am I doing in Sikkim?” Conducting my own research was not something I expected to be doing during my university career.

From Buddhism to bioethics

Alongside beginning a career as a bioethicist, I have interviewed people from Buddhist Jain, and Hindu traditions for my dissertation research. I am investigating end-of-life decision-making and the effect of migration, gender and vulnerability on healthcare access.

Life in a nunnery

I lived for nine months in a Buddhist nunnery in Myanmar, conducting research on nuns’ training. Around Mandalay we met with locals and astrologers to ask how rituals adapt to current conditions. I miss the simple things we did there, like taking walks with the nuns to the river each evening and joining the nuns chanting Paṭṭhāna.

Friends in high places

On the way to Myanmar I stopped in Japan to meet with scholars there studying Southeast Asia, Burmese Buddhism and Pali philology. In Myanmar I studied Burmese and also acquired numerous new materials crucial to my research, including an invaluable anthology of twenty-first century interpretations of Ū Nārada’s controversial writings.

Traveling through a valley of flowers

I have the sense in Tibet that the land is alive. It reads like a manuscript punctuated with white Buddhist stupas and illustrated with painted rocks and caves high in the mountainside. Triangles and circular structures made of prayer flags mark where the local gods inhabit the mountains and lakes.

Connecting art and religion

We visited caves at the Mogao and Yulin Grottoes, many of which are rarely open to the public. Dunhuang was a perfect site to negotiate issues of global vs. the postglobal. Interdisciplinary collaboration between international scholars of history, art, and religion should be encouraged.

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