Mission and Educational Objectives

Mission Statement

Dharma Realm Buddhist University is a community dedicated to liberal education in the broad Buddhist tradition—a tradition characterized by knowledge in the arts and sciences, self–cultivation, and the pursuit of wisdom. Its pedagogical aim is thus twofold: to convey knowledge and to activate an intrinsic wisdom possessed by all individuals. Developing this inherent capacity requires an orientation toward learning that is dialogical, interactive, probing, and deeply self-reflective. Such education makes one free in the deepest sense and opens the opportunity to pursue the highest goals of human existence.

Institutional Learning Outcomes

As an institution aiming at educating the whole person, DRBU strives to nurture individuals who see learning as a lifelong endeavor in the pursuit of knowledge, self-understanding, and the creative and beneficial application of that learning to every sphere of life. The following three institutional learning outcomes further elaborate the aims set forth in the mission of DRBU:

• A liberally educated person will develop and practice skills for lifelong learning, which encompass sound judgment; the flexibility to constantly assess evolving internal and external conditions; and accordingly, the ability to reconsider, adjust, alter, or even abandon his or her course or stance.

• A liberally educated person will appreciate the methods of inquiry and insights suggested by the primary texts, particularly in the study of human nature, the workings of causality, and the complex interconnections among the personal, the social, and the natural worlds.

• A liberally educated person will communicate in a clear, nuanced, candid, and skillful manner.

Program Learning Outcomes

Based on DRBU’s institutional learning outcomes, the following program-level student learning outcomes have been developed for DRBU’s Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts and Master of Arts in Buddhist Classics programs.

DRBU’S INSTITUTIONAL LEARNING OUTCOMESBA IN LIBERAL ARTS PROGRAM LEARNING OUTCOMESMA IN BUDDHIST CLASSICS PROGRAM LEARNING OUTCOMES
A liberally educated person will develop and practice skills for lifelong learning, which encompass sound judgment; the flexibility to constantly assess evolving internal and external conditions; and accordingly, the ability to reconsider, adjust, alter, or even abandon his or her course or stance.
  • Demonstrate ethical awareness.
  • Cultivate a flexibility of mind to adapt to evolving conditions.
  • Demonstrate critical thinking skills.
  • Exercise quantitative reasoning skills.
  • Exercise ethical sensibility.
A liberally educated person will appreciate the methods of inquiry and insights suggested by the primary texts, particularly in the study of human nature, the workings of causality, and the complex interconnections among the personal, the social, and the natural worlds.
  • Appreciate and defend different systems of thought as conveyed within the primary texts in the curriculum.
  • Demonstrate fluency in the use of tools and methods of inquiry from different traditions and disciplines presented in the curriculum.
  • Assess and articulate major Buddhist methods and practices.
  • Explain insights gained from close reading of texts and their implications for the personal, the social, and the natural worlds.
A liberally educated person will communicate in a clear, nuanced, candid, and skillful manner.
  • Practice thoughtful and probing dialogue combined with close listening to assess the context and the character of the audience.
  • Compose coherent arguments and narratives.
  • Evaluate and responsibly use and share information resources.
  • Create sustained, coherent expositions and reflections for both general and specialized audiences.

“Wisdom,” which the DRBU mission identifies as a high-level marker for the University’s vision of Buddhist liberal education, is a word many Western scholars use to translate the Sanskrit word prajñā (Pali: paññā), to distinguish it from “knowledge” or “understanding” that is limited to an object or a subject. It can be rendered loosely as “the act of knowing or understanding.” Some classical analogies for prajñā are a “bright light,” a “sharp knife,” and a “perfectly reflecting mirror.”

The perfectly reflecting mirror analogy describes a highly refined state of wisdom where the mind reflects the objects of its consciousness free from distortion and retains no trace of them after they pass. The knife and the bright light analogies point to the aspect of wisdom as a tool or skill of inquiry and learning. These two aspects of wisdom form a virtuous cycle: a wisdom more developed is a more effective tool on the path of learning and inquiry; the use of this more effective tool leads to further penetration into the nature of things and ultimately leads to a liberated mind accompanied by “perfect-mirror” wisdom—the ability to truly see things as they really are.

The philosophy, goals, and visions, which are encapsulated in DRBU’s institutional learning outcomes (ILOs), guide the meaning of the university’s two degree programs. The programs’ design follows closely and represents what the community deems the best vehicles to advance the DRBU mission and ILOs.

A pursuit of wisdom is an important endeavor identified in the university’s vision of Buddhist liberal education. DRBU faculty encapsulated several important attributes associated with this endeavor, each of them appropriate in the context of today’s higher education, in the first of three DRBU institutional learning outcomes (ILOs):

  • A liberally educated person will develop and practice skills for lifelong learning, which encompass sound judgment; the flexibility to constantly assess evolving internal and external conditions; and accordingly, the ability to reconsider, adjust, alter, or even abandon his or her course or stance.

How does a classics-centered program like the ones offered at DRBU help students’ growth in the intellectual skills and abilities outlined in this learning outcome? Classical texts in the broad Buddhist tradition have pointed to a cluster of well-known conceptual tools often referred to as “the soil of wisdom.” The cluster consists of conceptual structures and frameworks for analyzing and evaluating information and personal experience that, when deeply engaged with, lead to insights and changes in one’s course of action or stance.

Thorough and careful study of these structures has been a standard component of training for generations of Buddhist learners. A strong intellectual grasp and mastery of these structures is often considered to be a precursor of, if not a prerequisite, to advancement in the pursuit of wisdom. The examination of the soil of wisdom, which requires applying and developing one’s intellectual skills and capacities, is thus well suited to the arena of higher education.

Further, the domains of the soil of wisdom—including the nature of human existence and consciousness, the workings of causality, and the interconnections between the personal, the social, and the natural worlds—are recurring themes that can be found in many seminal and abiding works from different classical traditions. These recurring themes help to define the scope of DRBU’s second ILO, as well as to inform the criteria for selecting texts to include in the two curricula:

  • A liberally educated person will appreciate the methods of inquiry and insights suggested by the primary texts, particularly in the study of human nature, the workings of causality, and the complex interconnections between the personal, the social, and the natural worlds.

Accordingly, in selecting texts for the curriculum, members of DRBU’s teaching faculty look for works that continue to shed light on the persisting inquiries, challenges, and possibilities of human existence, as well as works that are embedded with sophisticated methods of deep questioning, testing, and affirming. While a direct encounter with primary texts possessing these qualities is essential for achieving these desired outcomes, it is not in itself sufficient. Students’ dialogue with the demanding classical works can be one-sided, because the authors cannot furnish further clarification and arguments regarding what they wrote. DRBU’s mission states that “an orientation toward learning that is dialogical, interactive, probing, and deeply self-reflective” is needed to accomplish the aim of activating an “intrinsic wisdom possessed by all individuals.” A dialectical instruction method conducted in a small group, then, is an aspect of DRBU’s programs as important as the deeply self-reflective activities of reading and writing about classical primary texts.

DRBU’s small seminars driven by discussions of the texts in the curriculum both demand and serve as opportunities to cultivate communication skills: listening, expressing, and assessing information. These skills are also important in the building and maintenance of a learning community in and out of the classroom, which is how DRBU envisions itself in its mission statement. Therefore, the last of the three DRBU ILOs is the following:

  • A liberally educated person will communicate in a clear, nuanced, candid, and skillful manner.

The mission statement and the three institutional learning outcomes are the basis of all subsequent developments at DRBU—including program and course learning outcomes—and serve as a guide in all DRBU’s activities. They are published in the DRBU Catalog and in key institutional documents and outlets such as the charter, the bylaws, and the DRBU website.