Pre-emptive sit-down strike

Article published in the magazine for my former university.  I wish I was still in school. 🙂

Class participation: Lecturer Sarita Tamayo-Moraga, center, with students in the St. Francis de Asís Chapel. Those practicing Buddhist meditation take the floor, while those practicing Christian centering prayer use the chairs. Photo: Charles Barry
Class
participation: Lecturer Sarita Tamayo-Moraga, center, with students in
the St. Francis de Asís Chapel. Those practicing Buddhist meditation
take the floor, while those practicing Christian centering prayer use
the chairs.
Photo: Charles Barry

Look at religions in
practice across the globe today, and too often the outcome of faith
traditions at odds seems to be mayhem and terror. But juxtapose that
with the writings of Trappist monk Thomas Merton: “Solitude and silence
teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.”
Therein resides some hope that religious practice can in fact overcome
violence.

Sarita Tamayo-Moraga and Philip “Boo” Riley,
respectively lecturer and associate professor of religious studies, saw
students’ frustrations with an increasingly violent world and answered
it by creating an experimental course in Buddhist and Christian
meditation. In addition to classroom study, the course offers
techniques that give students a hands-on (or rather, mats-on)
experience.

After teaching two spring courses in conjunction
with SCU’s Local Religion Project, Tamayo-Moraga, along with a Zen guru
and Catholic teacher, will give a final course this spring. Students
read works by Merton and Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the best-known
Buddhist monks in the West, as well as others. But it’s clear in this
class, Tamayo-Moraga says, that students are walking away with a better
understanding of these religious traditions through active engagement.

Does
this mean students are trying to pray their way to world peace? Not
exactly. While meditating, students reflect on real world issues both
large and small: the war on terror, what it would be like to live in a
war zone, acts of compassion and generosity, or conflict with a friend
or family member. This being college, students’ coursework and
participation in upcoming sporting events get attention, too.

In
both Zen and Christian traditions, the outcome of this kind of
contemplation is supposed to lead to action, transforming suffering in
our world by creating more mindful, self-aware, and compassionate
people—while issuing a call to action to help those in pain.

The
majority of students say they have left the class seeing their
contemplative life as a resource for making difficult decisions in a
non-reactive way, especially when it comes to making choices that might
be unpopular, such as supporting (or not supporting) the war in Iraq,
personal issues such as going against the wishes of a loved one—and
even centering themselves before taking tests come finals week.—EE 

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