Tibetan Studies I - Understanding Tibetan Culture: Video Transcript

Geshe Kalsang Damdul [Institute of Buddhist Dialectics]: The Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, where Miami University students come over to study, was founded by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1973. It's a very, very unique institution in the sense that it's set up for, not only for the monks and nuns, but also it is set up for the lay community where these students, without any discrimination, could learn Buddhist philosophy, Buddhist culture, Tibetan language, literature, like that. And, after that, they get to go out to serve the community in so many different levels, according to their best use.

Deborah Akers [Assistant Professor]: Students also take anthropology classes. ATH 411, which is applied anthropology, offers a different experience in that students become involved with the community. They are expected to do what is known as an assessment brief. They go out into the community. They find out what the needs of the community are and then they write up a report and, within that report, they will detail what needs to be done to meet those needs. And then they offer that report up to community members at the end of the program.

Geshe Kalsang Damdul: The students from Miami University stay in two stages. At first they stay at the branch Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, which is called the Sarah Tibetan Studies. After that they move up to McLeod Ganj, where they study at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics but stay with Tibetan families. And this is a very, very nice setting in the sense that they get to see what is actually going around within the Tibetan community with their own experience because they get attached to a particular family.

Justin Landers [Class of 2010]: Before going on this trip, I didn't know much about Tibetan culture. I didn't know much about their struggles. I hardly knew anything at all. We had a lot of guest speakers that taught us about everything that’s happened since — struggles in Tibet, struggles in India — and I was fortunate to learn some of the language. They have great teachers for that over there. I learned a lot of the culture.

After graduation I'm sure that a lot of employers will take into consideration that I've traveled abroad, especially with my field of anthropology. That's something that people are very interested in: your cultural experiences. If you're an anthropology student and you haven't traveled abroad ever in your life, then you really need to because it's something that can really define you and can help you to understand everything that you've been studying. I've been accepted to a grad school largely based on my experience there.

Geshe Kalsang Damdul: I think one thing the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics and Miami University are mutually working towards is a really, really important project — that is, to bring in students in making them more responsible, more caring, and more sensible to the world at large.

[March 2010]