I have plenty of theological studies, mostly practical or commonly knows as pastoral studies. I am a westerner who has not travelled to Buddhist countries and certainly never been on retreats or experienced monasteries.
I have jumped in the deep end, considering minimul cultural studies and no Buddhist friends. This is a completely new discipline at a postgraduate level.
What was I thinking some may wonder? Well, I have no clue but I just decided from basic self-taught meditations and reading about Buddhism it would be fascinating to learn more. Typical for a westerner, knowledge is our first stop and let’s be honest, it’s a respected approach that most of us take. Some cultures, as I have learnt about Buddhism, they value experience highly and possibly more than knowledge. Knowlege of Buddhism is not much use without practising it in terms of meditations and lifestyle choice.
When I arrive on the first day after my first night in my little campervan, that I hired and drove nines hours in order to participate. I was surprised at the modern facility and the huge temple across the road. The course is face to face learning. I had forty hours of lectures to get through before I made my long drive home. I split the drive in half and stayed overnight at a caravan park. There were twenty students and all from diverse backgrounds. However, mostly Australian with a couple of Asian overseas students. Some had professional jobs and other retired.
The lecturer was a fascinating guy, with a New Zealand up bringing. His story is long, but in brief it spans over forty years in Asian countries, often living with monastics and learning the cultural differences and studying and speaking languages. His speciality was understading “Sanskrit is the primary liturgical language of Hinduism; a philosophical language of Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism; and a literary language and lingua franca for the educated of ancient and medieval India and Nepal.”
Here I am with a bunch of people I have never met in a different state listening to a lecturer talk and teach all day about a religion I have no understanding. Not just any lecturer this guy is a specialist on the Buddhist traditions. His knowledge is profound and his experiences span over four decades. What made his lectures awesome, he liked some humour and accepted questions ninety percent of the time. He had a schedule and had only a week but the amount of engagement was incredible considering what we achieved in course material.
I am thankful I made the trip and will be doing a minimum of two units a year. However, three would be great and four even better. It’s a long way to travel and not cheap. Its a matter of saving up and doing it when I can. It does not matter when because I am doing it for pleasure and have six years to complete the Masters or I have options to drop out at graduate diploma and graduate certificate.
I have added a timeline of Buddhism for over 2500 years.