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The Challenge of Academia

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Having only received traditional scholastic teachings on the dharma, I had a challenging experience studying at RYI in the beginning. Before coming to RYI I have received numerous teachings from different lamas, khenpos and rinpoches, always in the traditional way, sitting in a low position in a temple and receiving the instructions and teachings as the nectar that will guide you to liberation. Thus, when I first came into a classroom with a western Buddhist scholar talking about Buddhism from an etic perspective, I was basically shocked and puzzled. Initially, I thought it was interesting to look at the whole picture of Buddhism from another perspective than the one I was familiar with. However, I also had to write academic papers with my own opinions on the different subjects we were studying in class; and to express my thoughts in English, which is not my native language. This was even more challenging, since I had never written an academic paper before. Therefore, I felt like someone who is thrown in the middle of the ocean, but who does not know how to swim. In that sense, the Academic English class taught by Jae Pi in my first semester at RYI was like the savior who rescued me from drowning into the ocean of academic papers. Jae taught me how to relate to the different topics with a critical approach so that my ideas become clear to be expressed precisely and coherently in my writings.The process of learning these skills has been and still is painful somehow, but it has definitely been productive. In retrospect, I see how much I have learnt as well as how much this field of academic Buddhist studies has enriched my own personal view and engagement in Buddhism. Consequently, since without a doubt challenges make you grow, I now feel fortunate and grateful for having met this world of academic studies of Buddhism and look forward to keep learning from it.

Maite Castellano

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