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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Class provides ‘window’ into Buddhist history

    Jiang Wu
    Jiang Wu

    Tired of the same general-education classes? Consider a course that doesn’t fall into the norm.

    Jiang Wu, an assistant professor in the department of East Asian studies, discussed his Buddhist Meditation class and why students may be interested in it.

    Arizona Daily Wildcat: What is East Asian Studies (EAS) 333, Buddhist Meditation?

    Wu: It is a course that treats meditation as the window into the nature of Buddhism. It is a Tier Two course and it is cross-listed with Religion (REL) 333.

    Wildcat: What does the course focus on?

    Wu: The course focuses on a historical survey of Buddhist tradition. Students learn about the nature of Buddhism by learning how Buddhist meditation is used in several “”cultural zones.”” The first zone focuses on Southeast Asia tradition, and the second zone focuses on East Asia. The focus on different areas allows justice to the different meditation traditions.

    Wildcat: What will students take away from this class?

    Wu: Students leave the class with an understanding of meditation vocabulary, meditation techniques and a scientific understanding of meditation. It is important students know that this class does not teach the practice of meditation, but a way to study the mind and how meditation is practiced. It does not focus on the scientific view of Buddhism.

    Wildcat: What is the scientific aspect of Buddhism?

    Wu: Scientists study how Buddhists control their mind. My class doesn’t go to the field and observe, like scientists do. There are a lot of phenomena that occur during the process of meditation, and we don’t study those. For example, when Buddhists reach a certain state of meditation they report near-death experiences. They see a light and they feel extreme heat.

    Wildcat: What do most students assume this class is about?

    Wu: Some students come in the class thinking I am going to teach them how to meditate, and I am not qualified to teach a student how to meditate. Meditation is very hard, and most of my students agree. In class we do a 10-minute meditation exercise so students can learn firsthand that meditation is not easy. The first step you take to learning how to meditate is breathing. Students don’t last the full 10 minutes because they get bored with it.

    Wildcat: How can students learn how to meditate?

    Wu: On the first day of class I give out a list of Buddhist temples students can go to so they can learn how to meditate.

    Wildcat: Who should take this class?

    Wu: Anyone who is curious about Buddhist meditation. They will get a basic framework on what Buddhist meditation, even though we don’t emphasize on how to practice meditation.

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