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Integrating Contemplative and Ignatian Pedagogies in a Buddhist Studies Classroom

The Religious Studies Department, Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA 99258, USA
Religions 2020, 11(11), 567;
Received: 13 September 2020 / Revised: 21 October 2020 / Accepted: 23 October 2020 / Published: 30 October 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Teaching in Buddhist Studies)


The burgeoning application of contemplative pedagogy (CP) in Buddhist studies courses has been widely discussed; yet, how educators incorporate it with other teaching strategies has not attracted much scholarly attention. Drawing from the author’s teaching experience at a Jesuit University, this article demonstrates that integrating CP’s first-person, second-person, and third-person approaches with the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP) will create a multidimensional environment in learning Buddhism in higher education. This article first argues that the issue of avoiding even implied proselytizing can be successfully overcome, as it is related to the application of Buddhist-inspired contemplative practice, such as Cognitively-Based Compassion Training®, in class. Next, based on the principles of CP and the IPP, this study shows specific examples of multisensory contemplation activities that expand students’ ways of knowing about Buddhist practice and foster their consideration for others. Third, to complement the Jesuit educational purpose of students’ spiritual growth, and the CP’s advocating for inner growth, this research navigates these concerns in a way that also enhances students’ learning in the course content. In conclusion, a combination of CP and the IPP facilitates the whole-person development as well as deepens students’ understanding of Buddhism.

1. Introduction

While contemplation has existed in various religions throughout history, it has been only approximately during the past twenty years that contemplative science and the integration of contemplative practice into education have inspired the interdisciplinary field of contemplative studies. Academia has developed significant programs to explore this field through diverse approaches.1 Contemplative pedagogy (CP) in higher education, a burgeoning subfield of contemplative studies, has stimulated workshops and conferences, and it has been analyzed in scholarship on teaching (e.g., Jacoby and Tinklenberg 2019; Byrnes et al. 2018; Barbezat and Bush 2014; Gunnlaugson et al. 2014; Zajonc 2013; Simmer-Brown and Grace 2011). Using CP to create an effective classroom for Buddhist studies has helped initiate and remains part of this wave of contemplative studies in academia (e.g., Brown 2011; Fort 2013; Roth 2014). Through my experience in a Jesuit university conducting a compassion contemplation research project and teaching courses on Asian religions and on Buddhism, I have found that CP aligns well with the Ignatian-Jesuit distinctive “care for the whole person” (cura personalis) learning style, which develops students intellectually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually (ICAJE 1986, pp. 180–83; Geger 2014; Morelli 2002). Importantly, there is much common ground between CP and this signature pedagogy, the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP). Given that the IPP is derived from the Spiritual Exercises, a contemplation guide composed by the founder of the Society of Jesus, Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556), the IPP can be broadly regarded as a Jesuit contemplative pedagogy.2
Utilizing CP in a Buddhist studies classroom has been widely discussed; yet, how educators integrate it with other pedagogies has not attracted much scholarly attention. Drawing from the author’s teaching experience at a Jesuit University, this article demonstrates that combining CP with the IPP will create a holistic and effective environment in learning Buddhism. Such integration can also be adapted to a class that values students’ reflection on their first-person experience. I first introduce the tenets of CP’s inclusion of first-person, second-person, and third-person approaches, followed by the IPP’s five elements: context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation. Next, this research demonstrates that pairing a policy of transparency with the IPP’s aspect of context allays the possibility of proselytization inherent in instructing Buddhist-inspired contemplation in class. Third, based on the principles of CP and the IPP’s elements of experience and reflection, this study documents the examples of leading multisensory contemplation activities, including a focus on CP’s second-person aspect, to expand students’ ways of knowing about Buddhist practice and to foster their concerns for others. Finally, I explain how to enhance students’ learning in such a way that includes students’ self-knowledge cultivation, which parallels CP’s advocacy for inner growth and the IPP’s concern for spiritual growth. Broadly, this research contributes to a larger conversation about how educators can facilitate multidimensional learning by integrating specific pedagogical approaches in a Buddhist studies classroom.

2. Contemplative Pedagogy and the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm

Derived from the Latin word contemplatio (“look at; observe”), contemplation denotes activities in which participants continually focus or reflect on an object, such as a concept, a text, physical sensations, certain actions, etc. Contemplative practices in religious traditions include Hindu mantra recitation, Chinese gongan (“public case”), Tibetan Buddhist guru yoga, Catholic holy reading (lectio divina), Ignatian Examen, etc. The format can be attentional, devotional, or analytical, to name a few categories (Komjathy 2015, pp. 4–6).3 Today’s contemplative practice has been evolved broadly beyond religious traditions. For example, Maia Duerr’s tree diagram illustrates different groupings, such as activist, creative, generative, movement, relational, ritual, and stillness types (Center for Contemplative Mind in Society 2020). In her diagram, attending vigils and marches is considered to be “activist”; having dialogue and deep listening with others to be “relational”; music and singing to be “creative”; labyrinth walking and dance to be “movement.” For the sake of discussion and comparison, this article employs the general term meditation to refer to Buddhist-based contemplative practices, such as those related to sati in Pali, dhyāna and bhāvanā in Sanskrit, chan and dazuo in Chinese, sgom pa in Tibetan, and so forth.
Derived from teaching contemplative studies, the most discussed CP characteristic is its inclusion of first-person, second-person, and third-person approaches for teaching. CP particularly recognizes the importance of critical first-person inquiry, which is often paired with a third-person approach and also integrates a second-person perspective. CP’s critical first-person inquiry encourages students’ participation in contemplative practice and acknowledges their experience as a valuable subject of their inner research. It cultivates students’ ability to look inward and pay attention to their cognitive, emotional, and sematic reactions in their learning process. CP tries to eliminate the taboo of subjectivity, which refers to the idea that subjectivity may interfere with the acquisition of objective knowledge (Sheehy 2019, p. 36; Wallace 2000). To address this concern, CP not only emphasizes the critical aspect of the first-person inquiry but also connects it with the third-person, “objective” approach, which is typical in the humanities and sciences. In other words, CP balances objectivity and subjectivity. This combination requires, for instance, educators to contextualize a contemplative practice before leading it, such as presenting its cultural and doctrinal backgrounds. Moreover, educators stress that students experience the practice without embracing a particular worldview or belief in certain effects. Students use their contemplative experience as empirical data for comparing and contrasting their practice with the version they have read about in relevant texts or research in neuroscience, psychology, or other disciplines. They keep a critical distance and reflect objectively on their experience (Roth 2006, pp. 1789–93, 2014, pp. 98–100; Komjathy 2011, pp. 101–2). Adding a valuable nuance to critical first-person inquiry, Judith Simmer-Brown suggests that teachers guide students to maintain openness and curiosity when they attend a contemplation activity without immediately offering them a judgement from the relevant discipline (Simmer-Brown 2019, pp. 41–43). This strategy gives students more time and space to investigate how their experience has changed during and after the activity. Later, CP came to recommend incorporating the second-person approach into this mixture of first- and third-aspects. This approach features both an interpersonal and a relational dimension, which invite students to examine their relationships with their peers, teachers, family, environment, etc. An application of the second-person encourages students to reflect on their experience in a conversational setting. Deploying the concepts of Martin Buber’s interhuman, Thich Nhat Hahn’s interbeing, and Christian De Quincey’s intersubjectivity, Olen Gunnlaugson advocates the importance of “critical second-person perspective” in CP (Gunnlaugson 2009), noting that it is worthy of specific pedagogical development.
As discussed above, CP’s connection with first-, second-, and third-person modes, as well as its broad array of contemplative practices, stimulate multidimensional teaching and promote a holistic learning experience. This union encourages teachers to support students’ whole-person development, which is valued by many types of institutions besides Jesuit ones. For instance, both public universities (Sheehy 2019, pp. 40–43) and private ones (Sarbacker 2011) make this principle part of their curriculum. CP corresponds to the IPP method because of their main commonality in cultivating a whole student. The IPP involves five key elements: context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation. This particular combination creates a unique dynamic. First, educators need to be acquainted with who, or the contexts of students, so they can design a course more in tune with students’ backgrounds. Second, teachers devise learning experiences, or what, that enhance students’ learning in the subject matter. Third, educators instruct students to reflect on why and how their experiences foster new insights. Fourth, teachers facilitate students’ reflections in a way that will drive them to action, or what next they will do inwardly or outwardly. Fifth, educators evaluate how well students follow their experiences, reflections, and actions.4 This way of proceeding can be applied to various disciplines, such as to compassionate character formation (Chien 2020), Spanish language and literature (González-Aller and Hernández 2017), accounting ethics (Van Hise and Massey 2010), social justice in teacher education (Chubbuck 2007), or paired with feminist teaching strategies (e.g., Copeland 2012; Crabtree et al. 2012; Lakeland 2012).
In addition, the scope of the IPP and Jesuit education includes character formation, ethics, global awareness, and commitment to dialogue. These concerns are also addressed in the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) (Nowacek and Mountin 2012, pp. 129–30). For instance, an AAC&U survey about trends in general education design and learning outcomes lists data about the “Proportion of Institutions That Have Learning Outcomes for All Students That Address Specific Skills and Knowledge Areas.” The survey gives data from 2015, the most recent year available, and demonstrates that schools are interested in cultivating areas of knowledge that align with the IPP values. For example, 89 percent value knowledge of global world cultures, 79 percent emphasize intercultural skills and abilities, 75 percent care about ethical reasoning skills, and 63 percent recognize the importance of civic engagement and competence (Association of American Colleges and Universities 2016, p. 4). As this survey was conducted among 325 chief academic officers or designated representatives at AAC&U member schools (p. 1), which include public institutions, nonsectarian private institutions, and religious affiliated institutions,5 instructors may find that the IPP’s pedagogical concerns are applicable to settings beyond the Jesuit context.
While the overarching purpose of the IPP is to cultivate a moral person from the Jesuit perspective, it can be adapted to promote academic excellence and an intellectual understanding of ethics. In this way, the IPP’s way of proceeding might be tailored to religiously diverse, secular, and public school classrooms. The IPP’s distinctive interrelated process invites instructors to teach through a set of ongoing elements from experience to evaluation. Each element can be adjusted to the subject matter, including the fifth element, evaluation, which specifically addresses students’ moral and spiritual growth (DeFeo 2009, pp. 52–53). To adapt the IPP to a non-religious setting, for example, the element of experience would inspire instructors to engage students’ senses. If students reflected on what they saw, heard, smelled, or sensed in an English poetry class versus in a biology laboratory experiment, they would have different insights related to the subject matter. Based on their insights, they would act accordingly. The students may improve their understanding of poetic styles by composing their own poems. The students in a lab may correct the way they conducted the experiments to reduce mistakes. In a follow-up, teachers can coach students to evaluate how they completed their tasks, what enabled them to finish the project, how they dealt with difficulties they encountered during this process, etc. In such a manner, teachers can adapt the fifth element of the IPP, evaluation, without addressing spirituality. Furthermore, the IPP would inspire educators to combine other pedagogies in order to further support each element. For instance, adopting the behaviorist pedagogy, which focuses on students’ learning through small and quickly attainable tasks and immediate feedback from the teachers (Gin and Hearn 2019, p. 34), would enhance the application of the IPP’s experience principle.
The discussion above suggests how educators can adjust the IPP’s way of proceeding and use it across disciplines without embracing a Roman Catholic worldview. A similar concern is faced by CP advocates, who need to employ CP without implying an acceptance of Asian religious cosmologies. Section 3 of this article details strategies for tackling this issue for CP. Moreover, this article acknowledges the challenge of adapting the IPP to topics related to spiritual growth, which can overlap with students’ religious affiliations. Even though the research data collected by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) shows high curiosity in spiritual issues among students enrolled in public colleges or universities (Astin et al. 2005),6 teachers in public institutions may hesitate to address students’ spirituality due to the potential sensitivity issues. This study shares a similar consideration, even though this analysis was conducted in a Jesuit university. As my Buddhist studies classrooms have students from diverse backgrounds (atheist, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, etc.), I have redirected the IPP’s facet of spiritual growth to focus instead on students’ self-knowledge, such as their awareness of their mentality and emotions. Section 5 of this article discusses this adaptation. To put it simply, it is up to my students, if they decide on their own, to relate such self-development to either a sacred or a secular dimension.
It is noticeable that both CP and the IPP emphasize experiential learning. CP’s critical first-person inquiry is related to contemplative experience and parallels the IPP’s element of experience. The IPP’s aspects of reflection and inner action embrace CP’s emphasis on inner investigation of sensations and perspectives. The IPP’s five elements function together as “a way of proceeding” that values a student as a developing subject and aligns with CP’s concern of processing lived events (Klein 2019). Cultivating students is a raison d’être in higher education. To achieve this goal in my Buddhist studies classroom, I employ both the IPP and CP to create an effective environment in which students can study Buddhism as a whole-person learning experience. The combination of the IPP’s aspect of context and CP’s three-person approach shapes my design of contemplative practices conducted in class. The following section demonstrates how I use both CP and the IPP to deepen students’ learning in my new course, “Buddhist Meditation and Practice,” and to tackle a highly discussed issue in leading Buddhist-inspired contemplation in class: the possibility of proselytization.

3. First-Person Contemplative Practice as Informed by Transparency and the IPP’s Context

Ironically, the concern of proselytization partly arises from CP’s distinctive character of having students perform a religious-inspired contemplative practice, the secular nature of which can be contested. This critique occurs especially when such practices are inspired by Hinduism or Buddhism (Brown 2019). While many CP supporters advocate for combining the critical dimension in first-person inquiry with a third-person objective approach, there is still a risk of crossing students’ spiritual or religious boundaries. To alleviate such concerns, I have framed my contemplative activities within a policy of transparency and the IPP’s aspect of context. My school already has a contemplation-friendly culture;7 the administration supports the usage of Buddhist-inspired contemplation in my class. This study acknowledges that there is a spectrum of how acceptable educators find the secular versions of contemplative practice, so the strategies discussed in this section may be only partially applicable in some public institutions, which require the complete separation of religion and state.
I have been teaching my new course, “Buddhist Meditation and Practice,” since the fall of 2019. The class draws upon my 2018 research project of teaching Cognitively-Based Compassion Training® (CBCT®), a contemplation program developed by Emory University (Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics, Emory University 2020a). The College of Arts and Sciences mainly funded this work, including the purchase of twenty-five cushions and mats. The grant parameters included using that equipment for my “Buddhist Meditation and Practice” course. As part of my preparation for this new course, I cooperated with the Office of Mission and Ministry to use the “Interfaith Space,” a room that is large enough to accommodate our contemplation activities and other class events. The course proposal, which mentions the usage of different contemplative activities and describes CBCT®’s secularized nature (Ozawa-de Silva 2014; Dodson-Lavelle 2015, pp. 88–100), was approved by two Core Curriculum committees: World/Comparative Religions and the Global Studies Designation. This class is an intro course for twenty-five undergraduates. It examines the history of Buddhism and includes a focus on Buddhist meditation. We first discuss how Buddhism developed in India and the role meditation plays in Buddhist cosmology, philosophy, and ethical principles. Then we move to investigate the evolution of Buddhist meditation practice in China, Japan, and Tibet. The third part of the course analyzes how contemporary Buddhist followers and Buddhist-inspired contemplation programs have adapted Buddhist principles and meditation techniques to tackle issues related to emotional well-being, hospice care, therapy, and social justice. The class is lecture-based, mixes discussions and contemplative activities, and assesses students according to their attendance and five assignments.
The syllabus clearly states that we will have contemplative practices, such as those based on the aspects of CBCT®. These practices do not require students to embrace Buddhist beliefs. The class does not aim to produce what some students assume to be Buddhist meditation effects, such as feeling happy, relaxed, or enlightened; of course, Buddhist meditation is more complicated than these impressions. I explain to students that our contemplation sessions are intended to promote their critical first-person and experiential learning. If they have pleasant sensations after our contemplation practice, that is a positive side effect, not a goal. The teaching approach is critical because we will examine sources from the third-person perspective. It is experiential because we actually will do contemplation that is related to texts we are studying. I announce multiple times that a contemplative practice is not a one-time activity, so students can drop the course if they think that such experiences may violate their personal spiritual or religious affiliations. I agree with Candy Brown’s important explanation of the ethics of transparency for employing secularized techniques (Brown 2016, p. 6). Accordingly, I notify students that each activity is associated with the Buddhist background, and that I have designed them in a way that we can do them without needing or evoking a belief in Buddhism. In other words, the class does not adopt contemplative activities as a skillful proselytizing tool to insinuate “stealth Buddhism,” as Brown has pointed out happened in some cases (Brown 2016, p. 7). The following section shows how I have framed those activities within the IPP’s element of context to further avoid even the implication of proselytizing.
The IPP element of context includes both students’ personal backgrounds and the society in which they are situated. These concerns urge educators to consider their teaching in light of students’ own life situations, which include their self-identity, interests, life experiences, economic pressures, relationships with others, and so on. The broader dimension of context encourages teachers to refer to the larger environment surrounding the student, such as local, national, or global issues (ICAJE 1993, pp. 380–82).
To align with the IPP’s aspect of considering the larger context surrounding the student, the class investigates the American cultural forces that have stimulated the development of Buddhist-inspired contemplation programs, such as CBCT® and Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (Dodson-Lavelle 2015; Wilson 2014). When we arrive at CBCT® in class, I clearly explain how it is inspired by Tibetan Buddhist lojong (mind training) meditation techniques. Students also learn CBCT® educational goals for ethics, as well as the research associated with it that has been conducted in neuroscience, psychology, public education, and so on (Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics, Emory University 2020b). In other words, before we start CBCT® sessions, my students have been well informed of what kind of contemplation exercises I will instruct. Moreover, prior to their CBCT® practices, we have finished the Indian Buddhism section, so students are aware of Buddhist cosmology in the Agganna Sutta (On Knowledge of Beginnings), the Four Noble Truths, and the role of meditation in Buddhist soteriology (Prebish and Keown 2010). In this way, our contemplative practices are not decontextualized.
When integrating the IPP’s concern for including personal context in teaching, I have designed contemplation activities that relate to students’ different backgrounds. Taking my reading assignment on Anapannasati Sutta (Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing) as an example,8 one of the essay questions requires students to reflect on their CBCT® foundational and Module I practices. The foundational contemplation session invites participants to visualize a nurturing moment, when they experienced a feeling of security. This step aims to create a comfort mentality, which prepares participants for Module I. This module cultivates their attentional stability through teaching them to focus on their breathing (Ash et al. 2019, p. 11). Because of the IPP’s emphasis on individual context, this class does not assume that all students can immediately recall a nurturing moment or that they even have had such an experience. To take that into consideration, I have asked students to bring an object or a picture that represents their source of comfort. We shared how their items gave them positive sensations of any kind, not exclusive to the feeling of support, kindness, or security that CBCT® originally assigned to the moment of nurturance. This increased inclusiveness has not only further enlivened class discussion, but has also engaged students even more with their practice. Furthermore, when we moved to the Module I session, the aspect of context reminded me that, even as a certified CBCT® instructor myself, I should not presumptuously think that contemplation is pleasant for everyone. Those who have had adverse experiences may find focusing on their breathing uncomfortable (Compson 2014, p. 286). To prevent this potential issue, this class has integrated the tracking and resourcing exercises drawn from the Trauma Resiliency Model (TRM) (Grabbe and Miller-Karas 2018; Compson 2014, pp. 279–80).9 I directed students to try various postures that worked for them, such as standing or leaning against the wall. I suggest that they can pay attention to other physical sensations, keep their eyes open, etc., if those actions resonate more with them. The importance of being aware of students’ contexts is applicable in teaching other Buddhist topics.10 It is particularly crucial for instructors who employ Buddhist-inspired contemplative practices because they may accidentally spark an overwhelming memory that could be too much for a student’s nervous system to handle (Compson 2014).
After students practiced in class and followed my recording of guided contemplation at home,11 they wrote a reading response essay. They examined how their contemplative experience shaped their understanding of Anapannasati Sutta. Their experience served one of the learning outcomes: to critically reflect on how Buddhist meditation as presented in Buddhist texts and communities is different from their presumptions. The statement below reveals one of my students’ assumptions about Buddhist meditation related to breathing:
Reflecting back on my week of personal module one practice, I felt that I did not fully realize how difficult it would be to maintain focus on just my breathing. I was struck by the section in the Anapannasati Sutta that states “breathing in, he knows he is breathing in; breathing out, he knows he is breathing out ...” Prior to my personal meditation practice, this sentence would have seemed overly simple … However … I know that the sentiment behind this sentence is easier said than done … especially with my “puppy mind” doing its best to think about anything but my breathing …
This response demonstrates that the students’ contemplative experience helped them not to overlook the “basic” techniques described in a Buddhist meditation text. Another essay question prompted students to reflect on how our contemplative practices differed from the ones mentioned in the text. Here are two examples:
The practice outlined in the Anapannasati Sutta focuses more on… the dharmas of Buddhism… This is observed when it says “I am breathing in and observing the impermanent nature of all dharmas”… Our practice in class focuses on ourselves and our own experiences which is much different…
Module 1 is meant to help you focus and pay attention to your mind and body, but it does not state that it includes the Four Establishments of Mindfulness, the Four Right Efforts, or Four Bases of Success.
Those statements show that connecting their experience with the reading increased the students’ attention on the complexity of Buddhist meditation, as mentioned in the Anapannasati Sutta. My grading rubrics say:
Demonstrate knowledge by answering questions with a thorough and logical explanation. You are graded on how well you explain the way you connected your practice to the readings. You are not graded on your practice itself… Use quotations in an effective way.
This grading policy clearly points out that their knowledge of the subject matter, which mainly is about Buddhist meditation as mentioned in Anapannasati Sutta, is the key factor in my evaluation.12 The students’ contemplative experience adds a dimension to their critical thinking. Similarly, when we scrutinized “On Some Definitions of Mindfulness” (Gethin 2011), students analyzed how their CBCT® Module II practice informed their understanding of this assigned reading. They studied the concepts of sati (“mindfulness”) as they have emerged in various Pali texts, as Gethin mentions. In Module II, students tried to observe their sensations while retaining a nonjudgmental awareness (Ash et al. 2019, pp. 11–12). They connected their experience with the popular understanding of “mindfulness,” as shaped by interpretations and translations of sati among prominent meditation teachers in the West. They compared and contrasted the aspects of sati among the Buddhist texts, their experience, and scholarly discussions. As a result, students saw the rationale of how their contemplation practice was situated in the course setting. This fact aligns with the policy of transparency articulated above.
Employing Buddhist-inspired contemplative practice in a Buddhist studies classroom is a “good trouble” because it requires teachers to design the relevant assignments carefully to avoid the possibility of even inadvertent proselytization.13 This study has suggested that pairing a policy of transparency and the IPP’s aspect of context helps resolve that issue. The essential factors of transparency include clearly presenting students with the relevant scholarship that addresses how contemplation activities are contextualized, and how their contemplative practices will help them learn. The IPP’s element of context encourages a design of those activities that can be more inclusive and relevant to students’ life experience. Furthermore, an underlying assumption of proselytizing is that it is instructor-centered. In this scenario, students, parents, or other faculty members suspect that instructors may intend to secretly convert their students to Buddhism, and that they are using a method stripped of fundamental Buddhist doctrines as a skillful means to open an easy portal to dharma. To avoid even the implication of covert proselytizing, this research reveals that employing the IPP’s context element allows educators to teach contemplative practices in a way that enhances students’ learning and does not permit educators’ private concerns to intrude. At the same time, the secular nature of contemplation activities, such as some aspects of CBCT® presented in this section, is still contested. Most schools that integrate contemplative practices inspired by Asian religions in the curriculum are private institutions. Noticeably, in the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), during the Buddhist Pedagogy Seminar and Teaching Buddhist Contemplation in Higher Education Workshop, most presenters who examined the application of contemplative practices from a Buddhist or Hindu landscape in their courses do not teach in public institutions.14 At the workshop, some colleagues did mention the issue of separation from religion and state, even though they appreciated the effectiveness of employing Buddhist-inspired contemplation in class. Candy Brown suggests that omitting such practices from any required class activities and adopting a voluntary, opt-in basis for participating would help public institutions completely avoid potential legal pitfalls (Brown 2019, pp. 297–302). Alternatively, for educators who teach in a more flexible setting and have more legal latitude, pairing the policy of transparency and the IPP’s context can mitigate those concerns.

4. Multisensory Reflective Learning and the Second-Person Approach

The second IPP element, experience—which uses experiential learning to stimulate both cognitive and emotional engagement (ICAJE 1993, pp. 383–86)—works well with CP’s value of creating learning experience through different types of contemplative practices. To encourage learning beyond intellectual thinking, the IPP’s element of experience challenges teachers to construct assignments that help generate a direct experience for students, such as through conversations, labs, field trips, sports, etc. IPP educators also attempt to engage students with vicarious experience through simulations, imagination, use of the senses, role-playing, and audio or visual materials. From the IPP’s perspective on experience, having students practice CBCT® can arguably be regarded as a simulation of a breathing exercise that does not embrace a Buddhist worldview. Furthermore, both IPP and CP educators point out John Dewey’s philosophy of stressing the effectiveness of experiential learning in different areas. For example, IPP advocate Joe DeFeo highlights the Jesuit educational goal of moral growth and the IPP’s attention to students’ affective domain by referring to Dewey’s statements concerning the significance of students’ affective experiences and cultivation of their moral habits (DeFeo 2009, pp. 54–57). CP scholar Harold Roth values CP’s promotion of students’ first-hand experience in contemplative practice, connecting it to Dewey’s claim, which emphasizes experience as a vital factor in achieving the goals of individuals and society (Roth 2019, p. 34).
Building on CP and the IPP’s prioritization of experiential learning, my “Buddhist Meditation and Practice,” and “Buddhism” courses deploy many activities that explore students’ sensory experiences to provide them with epistemic diversity. This variety also corresponds with the IPP’s element of context, which reminds teachers to facilitate different ways of knowing for students’ learning styles. For example, in a session on Japanese Zen tea ceremony (chanoyu), the class had a contemplative drinking and eating event. At this point, students have learned about the integration of tea in monastic life. They see how the wabi (“simple and unpretentious”) and sabi (“austere and tranquil”) aesthetic ideals have influenced the design of the garden, teahouse, and tea utensils (Sen and Yamaguchi 1979). I clarify that while for Zen masters, like Sen Rikyu (1522–91), the tea ceremony is a spiritual practice (Wilson 2018, p. 39), our event is not intertwined with a Buddhist worldview. It aims to foster experience in some essential components in the tea ceremony, such as harmony, reverence, and calm. This activity complements these abstract concepts by attaching them to a concrete event. Depending on the weather, we hold it either in the classroom or on the lakeside on campus. After we have a silent moment of focusing on breathing, other feelings in the body, or sounds in the environment, student volunteers and I serve hot green tea and vegan cookies. Students have the repast quietly, pay attention to its smell and taste, and eat as slowly as they can. In the discussion that follows, some students have felt surprised that the sense of being soothed or relaxed arose from this simple eating/drinking; some have felt a little bit strange due to being purposely silent; some have felt gratitude even with being served little; and still others have found that this is very different from their habitual way of having meals, during which they are usually doing something else and are rarely aware of the taste of food. This event attempts to mimic, rather than replicate, a scant portion of a Zen tea ceremony, so students can recognize some key notions through a lightly flavored version.
Similarly, the class incorporates a kinesthetic dimension through contemplative walking and movement activities. In a session on Chinese Chan Buddhism, I choreograph movements to go along with the poem I composed based on my inspiration from Huineng’s (638–713) and Shenxiu’s (600–706) verses, as mentioned in the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch (Liuzu Tanjing). To introduce this activity, I first have students study their legendary poem contest to determine the sixth patriarch of the Southern school (McRae 1988). Then, students discuss which poem resonates most with their own preference. Finally, I share my field observation of a “Chan dance” (chan wu) workshop in Yutian, China, in the summer of 2018.15 The workshop speaker, Anzi, intended to have participants experience calmness of mind and some aspects of Buddhism through dance, poetry, meditation, gong music, and lecture. The “Chan dance” is a developing and interesting phenomena in China.16 This rising cultural movement integrates the instructors’ personal appreciation or understanding of Buddhism with choreography. It is different from walking meditation in a monastic setting, and is led by laypeople with music and dance costumes. The Chan dance is a spectrum ranging from art performance to Buddhist practice. Whether it is entertainment, spiritual, or religious depends on the participants’ backgrounds and motivations. To begin this activity, I explain the relationship between my poem and the choreography, and then I solemnly lead students through the dance accompanied by sedate music for five minutes. In the journal entry that follows, students reflect on their feelings and what they have noticed about themselves. Some have felt calmed; some have felt innovative; some have already sensed soreness; some have paid particular attention to follow my movements; and still others have found they prefer this exercise to develop concentration over doing breathing exercises. In addition to bringing awareness of their body, performing contemplative movements gives students a somatic dimension in a way that provides them with a glance of contemporary uses of dance and poetry to approach Chan. This activity is particularly relevant because the Chan tradition prioritizes non-conceptual realization over intellectual discernment.17
The contemplation activities presented above are utilized for comparison with the assigned readings, and are also paired with reflection, which is the third IPP element. The IPP’s aspect of reflection requires teachers to coach students through investigating their own learning experiences. This principle aims to help students gain insights into the subject matter, their self-identity, and relationships with others. CP’s combination of critical first-person inquiry with the third-person approach corresponds to the purpose of the IPP’s area of reflection because this blend asks students to look inward and investigate their experience. The previous sections of this article have illustrated this combination through the examples of students’ response essays on Anapannasati Sutta and their CBCT® Module I practice, as well as through the discussions of the multisensory experiences of tea ceremony (taste) and contemplative movements (kinesthetic). The following section focuses on how the integration of CP’s second-person approach, a hearing exercise, and the IPP’s reflection element expands my students’ learning.
The CP’s second-person aspect directs students’ attention to others, who can include family members, friends, society, the natural environment, etc. This approach is often embedded with the concept of interdependence and particularly suits subjects related to ethics, social justice, and ecology. The second-person perspective was applied directly in courses such as “The Seminar on Compassion” (Grace 2011a), and was implicitly employed in “Religion and Ecology” (Patterson 2011) and “Philosophy, Religion, and Environment” (Compson 2011). To use this approach in a session on Buddhist ethics today, the class had a dialogue activity to foster students’ nuanced perception of Thich Nhat Hanh’s reinterpretation of the fourth Buddhist precept:
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering.
I intended to give students a taste of “deep listening” and how that would alleviate others’ suffering. To assist students in experiencing deep listening to others without accepting the concept of dukkha (“pain,” “unsatisfaction,” “suffering”) as mentioned in the First Noble Truth, I led a “mindful listening and speaking” exercise. In this exercise, students form a two-person group, which has a role of speaker, Person A, and a role of listener, Person B. For one minute, Person A tells B their worries, anxieties, or annoyances. Person B keeps silent and tries to listen with the concentration principles that they have cultivated in their practice of CBCT® Modules I and II. In the second minute, Person B tells A what they heard and does not offer any suggestions or comments by beginning with the statement, “here is what I heard from you…” During this time, Person A only talks if they want to correct B’s description.
In our discussion after this exercise, informed by the IPP’s element of reflection, I first ask Person B to reflect on the extent they paid attention to Person A’s story, and whether they recognized that they judged or empathized with Person A’s problems. Usually, Person B shared with me that they found this was very different from their habitual way of listening, in which they were often distracted or thought about how to respond in the middle of the conversation. In other words, they focused more on themselves instead of on the other person talking to them. In contrast, this class exercise “forces” them not to give an immediate reaction and requires them to be mindful of what Person A says. In this way, they can relate to Person A’s thoughts and emotions more, try to suspend their personal judgment, and feel less concerned about when to jump into the conversation. For Person A, most of them commented that they were relieved, and some of them had a feeling of being understood after this exercise. The sense of relief was partly from revealing their stress to Person B. Person A’s feeling of being understood came from Person B’s summary of their stories, when A sensed B’s empathy. Some shared that it just made them feel good to know that Person B was really paying attention to them. After our discussion, we move to the next page, when Thich Nhat Hanh states how he practices deep listening:
Whenever we want to inspire ourselves… we recite this verse: We invoke your name, Avalokiteshvara. We aspire to learn your way of listening in order to help relieve the suffering in the world. You know how to listen in order to understand.
Due to our contemplation exercise, students have a better understanding of how ethical concerns for others are embedded with the listening from Avalokiteshvara (“the Lord who looks down”), as it is related to the Mahāyāna bodhisattva ideal of acknowledging and alleviating others’ suffering in samsara. This activity does not attempt to encourage students to act upon or embrace the idea of helping others in a Buddhist sense. Instead, it utilizes students’ sense of hearing to confirm the other’s humanity through interpersonal learning. Because it emphasizes the other’s personhood and responds to it with attentional listening, this strategy parallels Olen Gunnlaugson’s use of Martin Buber’s I-Thou mode of relationship as a theoretical foundation for CP’s second-person approach (Gunnlaugson 2009, pp. 28–29).
Because this CP approach is infused with concerns for others, it complements the IPP’s main educational goal, which endeavors to make students grow as “persons of competence, conscience, and compassion” (ICAJE 1993, p. 249). Related to this end, I guide a “cup visualization” activity as part of a Tibetan Buddhist lojong (mind training) compassion meditation session. At this point, students have learned about visualization meditation in Tibetan Buddhist guru yoga and deity yoga practice (Sherab et al. 2010, pp. 93–101; Germano and Hillis 2005; Huntington 1995).18 To introduce the cup mental exercise, I first lecture on the meditation principles mentioned in the Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s book The Path to Bliss: A Practical Guide to Stages of Meditation; I focus on the chapter “Equalizing and Exchanging Oneself with Others” (Gyatso et al. 2003). Then, I explain that the design of this exercise is inspired by three resources: this reading, CBCT’s® Module IV practice, and Levine et al.’s study (Levine et al. 2005). Levine et al.’s findings show how one’s altruistic behaviors are influenced by one’s identification with others depending on their ethnicity, religion, or even their allegiance to athletic teams. Our class activity intends to have students experience the idea of the “similarity between others and I,” as addressed in the assigned reading and Levine et al.’s research. The commonality we discuss is humanity’s tendency to avoid difficulties and to pursue well-being.19 The contemplation activity invites students to examine their common humanity with people they feel close to, indifferent to, and a little bit annoyed with. For the “annoying” group, I instruct students to only envision people they personally know who have caused minor irritation because strong negative emotions may distract them from their practice. To facilitate students’ visualization of those people, this contemplation activity uses beautiful, plain, and “ugly” cups that represent those three categories, respectively, and put them on a big plate that symbolizes our commonality. Each cup holds notes on which students have written the people’s names whom they associate with those three groups. In oral presentations they give later, students compare the concept of “common humanity” as explained in the Dalai Lama’s writing and in our “cup visualization” activity. As Beverley McGuire points out in her usage of analogous activities for students’ comparative studies of Asian religions, comparison in this field implies three things: a concept, analogue, and an emic/etic recourse (McGuire 2019, pp. 118–19). In my case, students compare the concept of common humanity with the interpretation in the emic resource, the Dalai Lama’s work, and with the analogue, cup visualization. The comparison makes students pay more attention and better comprehend the rationale of compassion as addressed in the reading. Furthermore, I ask students to reflect on their physical sensations when they recalled those three people and how they felt differently when they imagined putting them on the same plate. A student comments:
For the cup contemplation activity… it gave a great visual explanation to how we feel about the people around us… thinking about the person who brings us joy, I felt a sensation of comfort and security… For the third person… brought tension and discomfort to me… I think adding the plate element was super important… Each one of these people are probably more similar to me than different. Especially for the person who brought tension to me, I might be better off finding a commonality and welcoming her with compassion and understanding.
The statements indicate a shift of perspective. This change is related to the IPP’s element of action, which will be presented on in the next section.
In short, this section details how the integration of CP and the IPP elements of experience and reflection facilitates a multisensory and reflective learning environment, and suggests that this combination deepens students’ learning in Buddhism. When the students use their sensory experiences of taste (tea ceremony), kinesthesia (contemplative movement), hearing (mindful listening), and visualization (cup) to reflect on the relevant concepts or practices, they expand their ways of knowing beyond intellectual understanding. When a contemplation activity is informed by the CP’s second-person approach, it helps foster students’ concerns for others.

5. Cultivating Self-Development without Being Buddhist

The fourth IPP principle, action, refers to “internal human growth based upon experience that has been reflected upon as well as its manifestation externally” (ICAJE 1993, p. 389). Thus, the IPP’s principle of action has both internal and external aspects. The internal action is related to an interior choice, such as making a decision or changing a certain perspective. Outward action occurs when that new attitude is externally performed. IPP teachers intend to transform students’ habitual patterns of thought “through a constant interplay of experience, reflection, and action” (ICAJE 1993, p. 372). In addition, the IPP’s pursuit of transformation is ingrained in the Jesuit emblem of whole-person development, which includes students’ spiritual growth. While keeping potential problems under consideration, CP supporters also advocate for students’ pursuit of personal meaning and spirituality with or without religious affiliation (Barbezat and Bush 2014, pp. 16–17), and character formation (Zajonc 2014, p. 26). As an educator at a Jesuit university, I have purposely and cautiously included this aspect in my Buddhist studies classroom. I was inspired by Alexander Astin, Helen Astin, and Jennifer Lindholm’s work (Astin et al. 2011), which involves presenting comprehensive data about college students’ spiritual cultivation relevant to whole-person learning (Astin et al. 2011, pp. 28–29), emotional well-being (Astin et al. 2011, pp. 57–60), and ethical concerns for others (Astin et al. 2011, pp. 48, 63–67). Their research helped me navigate the challenge of encouraging students to grow spiritually without embracing any Buddhist doctrines. I view their spirituality to be their own inner inquiry and self-development as related to understanding their emotions, caring for others, being aware of their perspective and reactions, etc. The pedagogical purpose resonates with Fran Grace’s use of contemplation for cultivating self-inquiry skills, which help induce students’ life-long learning about themselves (Grace 2011b, p. 116). The following section offers two examples that indicate how my class integrates these concerns in a way that also enhances students’ learning in Buddhism.
First, in a session on “The Eightfold Path and Meditation,” we study the concepts of “right mindfulness” (samyak-smṛti), and “mindfulness,” which is a Buddhist technical term translated from the Pali word sati, or smṛti in Sanskrit. The reading defines right mindfulness as: “This is awareness of what is going on in the physical, [and] emotional and mental experience…” (Shaw 2009, p. 10). To clarify this idea of awareness of mental experience, I point out an analogy that compares sati with a king’s treasurer, as it is presented in Milindapañhā (The Questions of King Milinda, I. 12):
…the adviser-treasurer of a Wheel-turning King knows what is beneficial and what is detrimental for the king and thinks: “These are beneficial for the king, these are detrimental, these are helpful, these are unhelpful,” and then removes what is detrimental and takes up what is beneficial, removes what is unhelpful and takes up what is helpful, even so, sire, when mindfulness is uprising one examines the qualities of mental states that are beneficial and detrimental… and takes up helpful mental states…
To give students experience with how this analytical dimension of meditation may work, we do a contemplation journal entry after watching an eight-minute video clip of “The One with the Male Nanny,” from episode 6, season 9 of the American sitcom Friends. This episode portrays how Ross’s decision not to hire the male nanny, Sandy, is influenced by his perspective of gender and his dislike of Sandy’s “too sensitive” personality. His discrimination was shaped by his father criticizing him for not acting like a real boy. After Sandy lets Ross vent and helps him accept himself as both a “real boy” and a “sensitive man,” Ross is more comfortable with Sandy. I explain to students that this episode indicates the issues of projection and self-acceptance. Because Ross cannot accept himself as a “sensitive guy,” he projects this negative judgment of “sensitivity” onto others. As a result, he cannot accept Sandy as a sensitive man. Similarly, when one dislikes certain qualities other people have, that could show one’s projection of qualities one does not like within oneself. I humorously call those disliked qualities our “hidden side.” On the contrary, when one is more willing to accept certain qualities (the hidden side) within oneself, one will be more willing to accept other people who have similar qualities. The journal entry prompts students to:
  • Contemplate a similar situation in which you experienced projecting your hidden side, or traits you were suppressing, onto other people.
  • Write down when and how you projected certain qualitie(s)/trait(s) you do not like about yourself onto other people.
In the class discussion following this assignment, a student shared that their hidden side is laziness and reached a deeper realization of why they easily felt annoyed with people with a lazy character. In this case, I acknowledged their self-discovery and also emphasized that acceptance of one’s laziness does not mean self-complacency, but rather shows a more understanding attitude toward others whose character is similar to their hidden side. I point out to students that, when they are contemplating on what to write, their analytical contemplation is similar to “the adviser-treasurer of a Wheel-turning King,” who reminds the king (students) of the detrimental things (the judgmental mentality that they project onto others) and the helpful mentality (curiosity with their discrimination). This contemplative writing exercise deepens their understanding about the awareness of mental experience and the analogy mentioned in Milindapañhā. Using an American sitcom to illustrate the Buddhist concept of sati also demonstrates that feeling relaxed is not a main goal of Buddhist mindfulness, as most of them have assumed. Furthermore, this contemplation activity offers students an opportunity to gain a new perspective about themselves. The insight of self-knowledge will help them shift their old perspective and behavior (immediate reaction of criticizing others for certain traits similar to theirs), take a contemplative pause, and suspend negative projection. Such change is an example of the IPP’s element of action (both internal and external), as well as a method of self-cultivation in which students reflect on how their attitudes are informed by their contexts. This cultivation parallels CP educators’ valuing the benefits of contemplative practice because it strengthens students’ introspective ability, which enables them to “gain insight into how their perspective has been shaped and see new possibilities, both noticing and going beyond prior thought patterns” (Fort 2016, pp. 8–9).
The second example of combining students’ self-development with the course material is from a session on Buddhist film. We watch the spring section from the 2013 Korean film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring, directed by Kim Ki-duk (2013). The film is about a novice Buddhist monk’s life as it is woven in with Buddhist teachings and as it passes through four seasons (Green and Mun 2019; Cho 2017, pp. 27–47; Conroy 2007). The spring part portrays how the old master gives the little Buddhist apprentice a lesson about his actions of harming animals for fun. The in-class journal entry prompted students to answer to what extent that little boy’s story is related to their life experience, to a time when they unintentionally hurt a person, an animal, or a plant. They also wrote a brief letter of apology to those they hurt either physically or emotionally. I felt touched when the only sound in the room came from their writing during this contemplative exercise. I sensed that my students took this seriously, even though they knew that their journals were only graded by themselves.21 Upon finishing this journal entry, students shared their feelings (not what they wrote) or insights. Some mentioned feelings of relief, and others talked about how their apology letter made them think about being more cautious with their future actions. We also analyzed the dialogue in the spring section, which shows a contemporary interpretation of karma as more of a psychological burden, in contrast to the assigned reading’s explanation of karma’s ties to Buddhist cosmology. Moreover, I told my students that this entry prompt was framed by the “confession of misdeeds” mentioned in the Mahāyāna text The Vow of Benevolent Conduct (Lewis 2017, p. 16). I then built on this activity by describing some Buddhist confession rituals performed in Asia today. This assignment aims to create a contemplative pause in which students are encouraged to reflect on their unintentional behaviors and the unexpected negative impact they have on others. Composing an apology letter is not equal to practicing a Buddhist ritual, but it is an analogous activity (McGuire 2019) that resembles some aspects of a lived Buddhist community practice. This exercise does not attempt to train my students to be Buddhist. On the contrary, this writing task is connected to students’ own contexts, and they can integrate their own religious or spiritual affiliations into it without accepting the concept of karma and rebirth.
The aforementioned examples intend to connect Buddhist studies with students’ inner growth in order to support Jesuit whole-person development. The interest in fostering students’ self-development also exists in the vision of many CP educators. In a 2019 workshop led by Vijay Kanagala at the “Summer Session on Contemplation Learning,” organized by the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, faculty across disciplines in higher education wrote down the skills they wanted their students to obtain. Examples include: generosity, compassion, openness, acceptance, reframing perspectives, gratitude, active listening, communicating needs, taking care, learning gifts from discomfort, centering, justice, etc. It is interesting to notice that these abilities are related to certain character traits or attitudes, and that they can be a lifelong pursuit. CP educators believe that contemplative practice will help students to acquire those skills. Although data analysis suggests that contemplation enhances students’ spiritual quality and their interests in pursuits of the similar areas listed above (Astin et al. 2011, pp. 77, 138, 148–55), it is worth mentioning Kathleen Fisher’s reconsideration of how successful applying contemplation to cultivate students’ spirituality is. She offers a critique that students’ “spiritual hunger” could be imputed to them by researchers, and that they might be presented a set of life questions not yet relevant to their experience (Fisher 2017, pp. 7–9). Fisher’s reminder—not to assume that all students are interested in their inner lives—correlates with the IPP’s emphasis on context. That is, educators need to pay attention to students’ backgrounds so they can motivate students’ spiritual growth accordingly.

6. Conclusions

This research examines much common ground between CP and the IPP, as well as how these two pedagogies complement each other to support a whole-person learning experience in a Buddhist studies classroom. CP’s combination of critical first-person inquiry with the third-person approach deepens students’ intellectual understating of course content because it asks students to compare and contrast their learning experience with concepts mentioned in the scholarly reading or Buddhist texts. While CP has first- and third-person modes, this link is still not completely immune from the issue of proselytization that may occur when educators conduct Buddhist-inspired contemplative practice. This study argues that connecting a policy of transparency with the IPP’s element of context helps resolve this issue. A policy of transparency requires teachers to clarify the relevant background and scholarship of the proposed contemplative practice and the pedagogical purposes for such usage. The IPP’s element of context emphasizes the variety of students’ learning needs, so it promotes a design of contemplation activities that can be more inclusive. To fulfill this end, I have framed my CBCT® teaching with the grounding exercise drawn from the Trauma Resiliency Model and other strategies. At the same time, due to the contested nature of secular contemplation, this research acknowledges that the avoidance of assigned (or encouraged) Asian religious inspired-contemplative practice circumvents potential legal pitfalls for institutions that require the complete separation of religion and state.
Both the IPP and CP value the significance of experiential learning and how it stimulates different forms of experience. This article documents specific examples: the tea ceremony activity (taste) for having a flavor of Japanese Zen, contemplative movements (kinesthetic) for having an echo beyond intellectual discernment in Chinese Chan, mindful listening (hearing) to classmates’ difficulties in the reinterpretation of Buddhist ethics, and cup visualization for recognizing the common humanity of others in the Tibetan lojong tradition. Mindful listening and cup visualization activities particularly correspond to CP’s second-person approach and foster students’ ethical concerns for others. I also show that the IPP’s element of reflection highlights the teachers’ role of framing questions that assist students’ critical analysis, which helps them obtain insights from those learning experiences. This IPP aspect supports CP’s goal to facilitate students’ inner investigation related to the course content, their emotions, and other areas in life. Moreover, when students change their habitual way of thinking or behaviors due to their insights, this achieves the IPP’s element of action. Through the examples of being aware of their “hidden side” and of writing an apology letter in sessions on the concept of sati and Buddhist film, respectively, this analysis presents how my class contemplation activities not only improved students’ learning about Buddhism but also situated them in their given contexts so they could investigate how their perspectives shaped their interactions with others. Cultivating this self-development complements Jesuit whole-person learning and also aligns with CP’s advocacy for inner growth.
In conclusion, this study indicates that incorporating CP and the IPP in a Buddhist studies classroom facilitates multidimensional learning experiences from which students can grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. For educators in Jesuit higher education, this article offers an example that suggests combining the IPP and CP creates a more reflective and rigorous learning environment. For those who conduct contemplation activities in their class, this research demonstrates how the IPP can be utilized as a critical lens and as a complementary toolkit to further the efficacy of teaching. For educators in higher education, this analysis presents an integration of specific pedagogies that support the design of a collaborative and holistic classroom.


This research was funded by Gonzaga University’s Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of Mission and Ministry, and the Center for Teaching & Advising.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest. The funders had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to publish the results.


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For example, see the Contemplative Studies Initiative at Brown University, the Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics at Emory University, the Contemplative Education curriculum at Naropa University, Contemplative Studies at Rice University, Contemplative Education at the University of Redlands, and the Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia. For a case study of creating a contemplative studies program, see (Fort 2016). The American Academy of Religion has a Contemplative Studies Unit. For examples of programs and institutes, such as the Fetzer Institute and the Mind and Life Institute, see (Komjathy 2018, pp. 29–36).
For a succinct elucidation of the IPP’s relationship with the Spiritual Exercises, see (ICAJE 1993). For a concise explanation of contemplation practice in the Spiritual Exercises, see (Liebert 2009).
see Figure 1.3 for a list of major religious-based contemplative practice in (Komjathy 2015, p. 8). For dimensions of contemplative practice, see (Komjathy 2015, pp. 62–63).
This research acknowledges that Kristine Hoover presented the IPP in this format: context (who), experience (what), reflection (why/who), action (what next), and evaluation (how well) in a teaching workshop on 6 August 2020 at Gonzaga University.
HERI’s report “The Spiritual Life of College Students” summarizes findings in data collected in the late summer and early fall of 2004 from a national sample of 112,232 first-year students attending 236 colleges and universities across the United States of America. Two-thirds (66 percent) of the fall 2004 freshmen attended public colleges and universities (Astin et al. 2005, p. 23). HERI’s questionnaires did not draw a sharp line between spirituality and religion (such a distinction is another prominent research topic in religious studies, and it is beyond the scope of this article). HERI uses twelve scales to measure students’ interests in spirituality. For example, the “spiritual quest” scale includes students’ concerns about the meaning and philosophy of life (Astin et al. 2005, p. 8). In their responses related to the “religious engagement” scale, 64 percent of the students agree that “most people can grow spiritually without being religious” (Astin et al. 2005, p. 4). Partly based on the findings of this survey, the leading researchers published a book that examines how colleges can enhance students’ inner lives (Astin et al. 2011), which helps shape the discussion in Section 5, “Cultivating Self-Development Without Being Buddhist,” of this article.
For example, the Office of Health Promotion holds weekly campus-wide “Mindfulness Monday” sessions at noon. This event guides participants to increase their awareness of various sensations in order to help reduce their stress. In addition, the Office of Mission and Ministry organized an interfaith vigil to commemorate the death of George Floyd (1973–2020), and it conducts the Spiritual Exercises retreats that welcome participants from diverse faith traditions.
The first six skills in TRM are called the Community Resiliency Model (CRM). CRM can be practiced and instructed by non-therapists. CBCT® has worked with CRM since 2020. After participating in TRM training, I found that the first three skills—tracking, resourcing, and grounding—particularly paired well with the CBCT® practice of the nurturing moment. For TRM training, see (Trauma Resource Institute 2020). Moreover, Brown University has training workshops that are trauma-informed to teach meditation safely. See (Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory, Brown University 2020). For a discussion of trauma-informed pedagogy, see (Stephens 2020).
Teaching other Buddhist topics in a way that is relevant to students’ contexts can be addressed through a personal level or a larger cultural setting. For example, in a session on the Buddha’s life story, we discuss the character Māra in Buddhist literature and the character Satan in the Bible (Boyd 1975). I do this comparison because many students mention their Catholic upbringing. In a session on the issue of the Buddhist nuns’ full ordination, we review Title IX, as defined in the Education Amendments of 1972, because both full ordination and Title IX concern women’s rights to education free from discrimination. In a discussion on socially engaged Buddhism, I connected my students’ participation in a climate strike with the organization Earth Sangha’s programs, which are related to ecological restoration, improving small-holder incomes, and conserving native forests (Earth Sangha 2020a, 2020b).
My guided contemplation recording is around 10–15 min long. Students have two weeks to complete their own daily contemplation session for seven days in a row.
Presenting the connection between their own experience and reflecting on the reading counts for 70 percent of this essay assignment; grammar and format is 30 percent.
Another significant trouble concerns obtaining a credential that qualifies educators to lead Buddhist-inspired contemplation in class if they do not have long experience in doing so. Some contemplation exercises need more than a one-day or week-long workshop (Simmer-Brown 2011, pp. 111–12). If one endeavors to become a certified contemplation instructor, because of the time and funding demanded, it likely will require institutional support. If this is not an option, there is a variety of contemplation activities and relevant resources that will help students learn. Faculty can choose and adapt accordingly to fulfill their teaching goals.
In the 2019 AAR conference, there were six presenters in the Buddhist Pedagogy Seminar, and five in the Teaching Buddhist Contemplation in Higher Education Workshop. In the seminar, Anna Lannstrom at Stonehill College and Julie Regan at La Salle University mentioned how contemplation assignments have engaged their students. In the workshop, Karma Lekshe Tsomo at the University of San Diego and I shared our experience in using contemplation practices in classroom. Namdrol Adams introduced the contemplation curriculum at Maitripa college. Amelia Hall demonstrated a contemplative activity called the “Warrior Exam,” which is utilized at Naropa University. A common ground among these presentations was CP’s experiential learning aspect and the relevant reflection that promotes students’ learning.
The Yutian County I visited is the one in the northeast of Hebei province, China.
The Chan dance teachers are laypeople and are not affiliated with a monastery. Chan dance is a research topic worthy of further pursuit.
For an example of a course about contemplative movement, see (Fort 2016). For the integration of dance into contemplative education, see (Naropa University 2020).
My inclusion of a visualization activity was partly inspired by research in Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises and Christian visualization contemplation practices. For example, scripts from the Middle Ages have techniques that facilitate visionary experience by gazing at specific objects, such as at a part of nature, an illuminated book, a crucifix, a consecrated host, or an internal image constructed by the mind (Newman 2005, p. 15). Franciscan spirituality emphasizes the imagination of gospel events in order to evoke affective devotion and identification with Christ (Despres 1989, pp. 5–6). The Franciscan tradition helped widely disseminate Christ-centered devotion in Europe. Under this cultural influence, some devotional texts integrated visual contemplation, such as Nicholas Love’s (c. 1410) The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ, which is a translation and adaptation of Meditationes vitae Christi attributed to pseudo-Bonaventure. The Imitation of Christ, attributed to Thomas à Kempis (c. 1379–1471), is another such example, even though it is not affiliated with the Franciscan tradition (Lane 2004, p. 117). The instructions on generating contemplative images in Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises descend from these relevant medieval devotional prayers and techniques (Newman 2005, p. 3; Despres 1989, p. 148).
This article acknowledges that the perspective of pursuing well-being as a universal concern does not resonate with all.
Students grade in-class journal entries themselves.
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