Wednesday, July 27, 2011

VSA’s Got Talent

Today, our professor taught us two major aspects of Buddhism. The best way to learn a lesson is through experience, and that’s exactly how we learned about meditation and a certain rule of Buddhism.

Two students in our class were given an exotic African horned melon called a kiwano. No one had ever tasted or seen the fruit before. They were asked to try it and explain it to the class. However, they couldn’t find the right words to describe it. And when they found something to say about it, each had a different description of it. We eventually each got a piece of the mysterious fruit, and tried to explain it to our own selves. Some said it was like an un-sour lemon, some related it to a banana, some said pumpkin, and I and a few others said kiwi. The moral of the fruit tasting, was that just like Buddhism, you can’t just teach how to reach enlightenment and realization. Everyone has their own way of reaching realization. You can’t just describe how to do it flat out.

The second teaching was meditation. We were to sit anywhere we wanted on the field outside and list 5 items of the 5 senses list in our heads. So you would name 5 things you see, 5 things you hear, 5 things you feel, etc. After 5, you would start all over again with 4 each, then 3, and so on. We learned how calming and aware we are when our mind is cleared of all worries and other thoughts, and only focused on our surroundings. We saw insects on the blades of grass we wouldn’t have noticed before. We appreciated the sounds of the birds and heard the loud buzzing of cicadas in the trees. We heard the commotions of the world around us and the sound of the wind blowing the leaves in the trees. We felt the heat of the sun and the itchiness of the grass on our legs. We only tasted the remnants of the strange fruit and smelled grass for the cycle of the senses. Meditation can be so relaxing and so liberating. To only focus on the now frees the mind from negative emotions and thoughts. Everything is nice. I can appreciate the monks who dedicate their lives to meditation and learning of Buddhism.

Fencing today was intense. We played a game called Castle, which is like capture the flag, but with kings and pointy weapons. Our team barely won, since it was a long and hard battle. I found out that I’m great at defending myself with the saber, but not so fantastic at attacking my opponent. However, the boys of the group loved to heartily attack their opponents and became extremely overly-competitive, as boys normally do. Regardless, we all had a lot of fun.

Tonight VSA hosted a talent show. It was actually a hilarious show, with acts like: solving a Rubix Cube in 1:17 seconds; singing Pi Day, a parody of Katy Perry’s TGIF song; a Bollywood dance to the song Jai Ho (one of the performers was from my proctor group. Go Mashal Mirza!); a bagpipe and tuba duet; ballet; singing; and storytelling. Hilarious acts included a group of boys (the Testosterones) singing A Thousand Miles and a group singing to Backstreet Boys - I Want It That Way. There were no prizes awarded, it was all just for fun.

I can now talk about the surprise our proctor group gave to our proctor! We bought a basket at CVS yesterday and ran through the aisles finding things she would like. We bought tons of nail polish, some soap, tea, gummy worms, a bag of dum-dums, a horrible tabloids magazine, and a duck hat. We also bought a poster board and everyone wrote a message to her. We printed out group pictures and put it on the card and on the basket. She absolutely loved the gifts and could not stop smiling.

We’re such a loving group!


As I sat on the fresh-cut grass that was moist from the morning dew, I breathed in deeply and began to slowly take in my surroundings, utilizing one of the five senses at a time.

Dr. Dunn had ushered us outside to the large expanse of green lawn and instructed us to spread ourselves out and simply sit and observe: What are some of the things we see? Hear? Feel? And so on.

This was part of our lesson on Buddhism; when one sits in peace to find mindfulness in the present, he may finally learn to live with a new awareness.

It was no doubt a refreshing experience, and I noticed things that I usually would not have, such as a fly darting between the blades of grass, and the sound of an airplane soaring high above. My body and mind was at peace, and the light feeling lasted quite a while after the activity.

I feel as though out of the five religions we have studied and analyzed so far, Buddhism is the one I feel a connection to the most. Perhaps it is because of the fact that my grandfather is Buddhist (Pure Land, to be exact—I learned that while researching for our last project of the course earlier today).

We were assigned an Intra-Religious Diversity Project. Aiyana and I are to research and prepare a presentation comparing two different sects of Buddhism to one another: Pure Land Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism. After much research, I learned plenty of new and fascinating material about Pure Land Buddhism, such as the fact that it is one of the most straightforward forms of Buddhism—followers must chant the name of the Amitabha Buddha as many times as possible in order to reach the Pure Land, a Heaven where one goes after death in order to work to attain Nirvana free of distractions.

Dance class today was very entertaining. Although I absolutely cannot line dance or Bollywood, I can, however, ballroom dance. It was tons of enjoyment waltzing gracefully around the room. If only school dances were balls instead—I would no doubt have fun spinning and prancing around.

Tonight was the VSA Talent Show, showcasing the many wonderful talents of the diverse amount of students here at Vanderbilt. From intricate dance routines to bagpipes and tuba playing, the show definitely outdid my expectations. It was very enjoyable.

Tomorrow is our last full day here at Vanderbilt, and we will be spending the earlier part of it visiting a Hindu temple, our last field trip for our World Religions course. I am of course excited; every holy place we have stepped foot on has been more than rewarding on so many accounts.