"Service learning is
important for anyone to take part in. It doesn't have
to include just one religion, or race of people; it is
important for all of us to help each other at least once
if just for the experience. I felt it was important for
me to take part in the service learning as I had never
experienced any other religion outside of Christianity."
~ Brian Ridge
"We got to work and
just enjoyed the each other's company, as well as the
company of the beautiful outdoors. I felt very reverent.
We were told to focus our attention on the task in order
to fully meditate and also to be mindful of every living
thing.... The work was fun and I felt good about the job
we had done, but the best thing was the food. The Buddhists
are vegetarians. And we did not expect the food to be
appetizing, but boy was it. We went in for lunch around
one o'clock after being out in the smoldering heat and
the aroma was intoxicating. There was a large selection
of healthy and fabulously delicious food to choose from.
I had these curried potatoes with tofu and spinach roles.
They were fantastic. We also gave thanks and meditated
before we ate. I felt so thankful that they would accept
all of us so willingly and be so hospitable.... The whole
experience was extremely eye opening. I feel like I learned
how to be more mindful of my surroundings and the things
that live in my environment. I've learned to be more respectful
of the things I share this world with. Every living thing
has a soul, no matter how small. And we should learn to
utilize all of our resources to their fullest potential
so as not to harm these other beings. We have the opportunity
to live in this world, so we should try to take care of
it as best we can.
I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn
from the Buddhists and not only get a better understanding
of their religion, but also realize more about my world,
and also eat some great food. I went into the experience
with an open mind and left with mindfulness and knowledge.
I have no regrets and I enjoyed the experience to the
~ April Nelson
"This service learning
project at the Buddhist Mind Monastery helped me to understand
the Buddhist people better by being around some of them.
I never understood how they could have all vegetarian
meals, but then seen the tofu and understood. Just a few
days a week.... This amazing experience had helped me
to better understand Buddhism, and being able to talk
to some monks helped answer some of my questions about
Buddhism. I never plan on being a Buddhist, but it intrigues
me to learn about them and know more about their religion.
I think it makes it a little easier to learn about the
religion while practicing the meditation or whatever it
may be because it helps it stay in your mind better. I
believe that it was a very good experience and helps out
in life by making me more diverse and understanding about
other religions, other than my own. It also helped create
a group effort and see other peoples reactions and thoughts
about the religion side by side."
~ Cody Booms
"Here, I was able
to walk around on my own and really focus on what I was
doing. Once I found this solitude, I really began to enjoy
the working meditation. Half-way through the day, we stopped
and had a delicious vegetarian meal provided by the monastery.
They really emphasized eating everything on your plate.
I even observed one of the patrons struggle to pick up
a single grain of rice so it would not be wasted. After
lunch, we went back to work for a few more hours. A couple
of girls and I were given a quick tour of the property
near the end of the day by a lovely man who introduced
himself as "Te, like the drink!" We walked on
the meditation path, and Te told us about all the wildlife
that was living on the property. The monastery is such
a beautiful place and I was so happy to be given a tour
of the property! At the end of the day, we went back to
the meditation room and participated in the nuns saying
a thank-you or prayer of some sort to the Buddha.
Because of having taken world religions and learned at
least a basic understanding of Buddhism, I felt far more
prepared going to the monastery that I would have without
the class. Even though I didn't know the specifics of
their customs, I understood enough to realize the significance
when we were taught their traditions. There were also
several phrases the nuns used (such as "monkey mind")
that I would have had no clue about with out having taken
the class. By doing this service learning project, we
were able to learn about the religions by almost being
thrown in the midst of it.... Since our service learning
project I've started attending different churches with
different denominations, experiencing each and again taking
note of how my mind and body react. This service learning
project has been one of the most valuable things I have
done for the understanding of my own faith.
Overall, I found our service learning experience to be
enjoyable and informative. Since we had covered Buddhism
in class, I understood the basic principles of the religion.
But it wasn't until going to the monastery that I really
grasped the religion in practice. It is impossible to
cover every daily practice of the major religions in a
semester long class, so going to the monastery offered
an invaluable first-person learning experience. Through
our service learning project, I've been able to start
on my own path of self discovery while helping another
community as well. I've gotten to learn first hand about
a culture that I would have otherwise only been able to
read about in textbooks. I've learned the value of my
own beliefs and the value of other's beliefs. And most
importantly I've learned that people, no matter what culture
or religion, all want basically the same things."
~ Caitlin Wees
"We had learned about
Buddhism in class and it was great to be able to view
it up close and to see a lot more of what this religion
is like.... Personally, I loved the food, but others were
not as fond of it. This was definitely a different culture's
food and not everyone was used to it. Trying new things
and viewing things openly and acceptingly seemed like
a great concept to apply while viewing different religions
and cultures of the world, so I was open and benefitted
from this new experience while a few others held back....
The trip was actually enlightening, so I hope that the
Buddha would be proud to read that. To be in a new place
and to experience another culture and religion was refreshing
and opening. I had never been around Buddhists, to my
knowledge, and it was nice to be around something different.
Though it did not change my view on my own religion at
all, I felt like I would like to practice the walking
meditation! I truly did connect with that method in particular.
... This project lent me an opportunity to be able to
go into a new religion's way of life and to see the world
from a different perspective-from the inside. Never had
I been around any other religion's temples, churches,
or monasteries besides Christian and Jewish ones. I felt
that it was great being able to meet new people and to
come together to unlock our minds and understandings."
~ Hannah Cooper
"The project was very
tiring at times, but the experience is one I am extremely
appreciative for having had because it not only got me
out and active it expanded my mental perspective. Working
with my group of peers to help the Buddhist nuns create
their walking meditation paths enlightened me to a few
different ideas about myself, the religion, and group
dynamics. I initially went into the day feeling very nervous
about having to work with a group of individuals I did
not know very well, but (to my complete amazement) it
did not take me as long as usual to warm up to my group
which helped boost my confidence in my ability to make
friends even in semi-unusual circumstances. I also gained
new insight into the Buddhist religion during this experience
such as coming to appreciate the difficulty of clearing
one's mind and the use of the arts in the religion. As
for group dynamics, I discovered that strenuous physical
labor seems much more enjoyable and passes more quickly
when you are working alongside a cooperative and fun group
of people. Furthermore, the trip to the monastery provided
me with new principles and practices that I believe furthered
my views of my own religion and applications that I feel
will help me to grow in my faith. When comparing my experience
at the monastery with my own faith traditions, I noticed
that many of the Buddhist practices, if put into play
with my own faith, would greatly benefit my spiritual
life like meditation, taking only what I need from the
Earth, and mindfulness. While these are not things my
faith tends to focus on in its Sunday lessons, they are
practices that I believe would assist us in accomplishing
our ultimate goal and refocus us into remembering what
that goal is. My personal experience greatly demonstrates
the importance of participating in service learning. The
value in participating in a service learning project lies
in experiencing another religion in an extremely hands
on way because participating in some of the practices
and spending time with those who practice it gives a student
a new and richer insight into the religion as well as
helping them understand themselves and their own faith.
Although I learned quite a bit during my World Religions
class, the hands-on experience of this project greatly
contributed to my understanding of the Buddhist religion
because is it excruciatingly difficult to really understand
someone or a group of people unless you spend time with
them and get to know them rather than depending solely
on the read text. What we learned during class gave me
a basic understanding of the practices and terms of the
religion which kept me from saying or doing anything that
may make me seem ignorant or rude when I met the nuns
at the Buddhist monastery. The hands-on experience also
greatly assists in dispelling some tragic misconceptions
and biases that I, and I am sure several of my class mates,
believed to be true. Going into this project, I believed
that I understood the Buddhist religion very well, but
I found that there was quite a bit I did not really know
such as the story of the person searching for the bull
and how it symbolizes a person's journey on the Buddhist
path and discovering themselves. I did not realize how
the Buddhist religion and life of a Buddhist is so integrated;
in fact, the Buddhist religion seems to be more of a way
of life. I also assumed that the nuns would be quite closed
off and stand-offish, but they were actually very lovely
and open to sharing their religion and lifestyle with
any curious students. Not everything about that day was
just learning through mulch shoveling and mind blowing
perception changes. In general, this project helped me
understand the importance of focus and patience in the
Buddhist religion. For Instance, it was exceedingly difficult
for me to simply sit and clear my mind when I first began
the meditation exercise, but with patience and focus I
finally managed to get past my restless legs and the homework
I needed to do when I got back to school and just allow
my mind to be clear. I also gained a deeper understanding
of the Buddhist appreciation of even the smallest beings
such as wasp who finds himself stuck in a young man's
shoe by watching a Buddhist layman reach his hand in to
save the wasp from being squished....
My inward perspective of myself, my feelings towards groups,
and my feelings towards certain aspects of my own faith
were greatly improved and broadened along with my worldview
and my general view of the Buddhist religion. This is
certainly a result that accompanies almost all service
learning adventures, so it would likely be immensely beneficial
for all courses to have an aspect of service learning
to them so that schools can give back to their surrounding
communities and give their students a perception broadening
experience similar to the one my fellow Oklahoma City
University students and I had."
~ Kayln Holmes
"This class forced
me to think about things that I had been too afraid to
think of or consider. I wish that I could take every concept
that I agreed with from every religion and just use it,
but to society that might seem wrong. I may be Christian,
but I love the Jewish concept of heaven, The Buddhist
approach to life, and Rumi's poetry. I guess I am a jack-of-all-trades....This
was an awesome experience, and I even put my name on their
email list so I can take meditation classes. I am always
so busy and stressed out and I really wish that I took
the time to just calm down and find inner peace. My problems
seem trivial and small compared to the weight of the world
and I believe the first step in changing the world is
to be aware of it. I have really enjoyed this class and
I hope to continue to take classes like this and be culturally
involved for the rest of my life! The most important thing
I have learned is that everyone on this planet is equal
and we all are ultimately united in our belief of a supreme
being and in the end we will all go to the same great
~ Kate Shiels
"Overall, the experience
was quite enjoyable. We got to learn a lot and observe
Buddhism first hand. We made lots of new friends with
the workers at the monastery and other students from OCU.
It's amazing how work, dirt, and sweat bring people together.
Since this was such a great learning opportunity, I think
it would've been good to practice a form of service learning
or even just a field trip of some sort to various temples,
mosques, etc. It would obviously be very difficult to
take several of these all-day trips, but if we shortened
the time of each service event, and offered more and other
places, I believe this might help us and provide a more
rounded view of the different religions we study. There
is much that can be learned about other cultures from
hands-on projects such as service learning projects and
they also help contribute to the community."
~ Kate Adams
"Overall my service
learning experience is one I won't forget. We ended our
session with paying our respects to the Buddha, by reciting
the three refuges and the four noble truths. Volunteering
my time to the Buddha Mind Monastery was fun and educational.
I learned more in depth about the ways of meditation and
other stories. My religious sensibilities are open. I
love my faith tradition and wouldn't switch. But learning
about other religions was interesting and enlightening.
I had fun during this semester and during this experience."
~ Keisha Worley
"I will be 100% honest,
when I first learned that I would have to work at a Buddhist
Temple for 8 hours on a Saturday in the blistering heat,
I wasn't exactly enthusiastic. This lack of enthusiasm
did not last for long. When I read the requirements for
the service learning project in this class one quote in
particular caught my eye. "Love thy neighbour and
learn from doing it." After reading this quote it
really hit home that working at the Temple would be such
a great opportunity to help others and learn something
new.... This class prepared me very well for the service
learning project. I kind of knew what to expect after
learning about Buddhism and when things occurred at the
Temple I knew the reasoning behind it, for example, the
bug. I learned a lot from the service learning. I learned
about meditation and getting in the right frame of mind
to work. It would have been better if the Temple was closer
to campus for students who don't drive. In my opinion,
the purpose of service learning is to help others and
develop a better understanding of different cultures and
religions. To learn about Buddhism I feel we needed to
spend more time in the Temple and less time working also.
I understand that these places mostly rely on volunteers
for help but they can also take advantage of these volunteers.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed my experience at the Buddhist
Temple and I would do it again. I enjoyed the meditation
and try to meditate whenever possible and I really feel
like it helped me to calm down a lot. I enjoyed tasting
new foods and learning about what a routine day is like
for someone who is Buddhist. I think that service learning
is a great requirement for a class."
~ Laura Jones
Mind' Buddhist monastery opened my mind to new ways of
living and a new culture. I do not believe that everyone
enjoyed our service-learning project as much as I did.
I could not think of anywhere else I would have wanted
to be that Saturday. Everyone we met treated us with respect
and kindness. Nick, our fearless labor leader, was especially
helpful in demonstrating the connection between a young
adult's world and the Buddhist world. Learning the doctrines
and ideals of Buddhism from the nuns was very valuable,
but learning from a peer puts everything relating to life
into perspective.... I enjoyed every part of the experience,
even the hard work. I felt that during the "service"
component of our trip I got to know classmates and Buddhists
on a different level. While still being mindful of our
project, we were able to discuss our hopes and dreams
for our lives. I feel this is part of every just religion.
Discussing my dreams with others, while concentrating
on being mindful, has helped me realize that my new vision
for my future is much more thoughtful than that of a few
years ago. Everyone was so generous, kind, and accepting
at Buddha Mind monastery.
I felt as though our World Religions course had a great
impact on my enjoyment at the Buddhist monastery. The
course itself has been well designed to emphasize how
important service is in terms of religion. Because I knew
what to expect, I was not in culture shock the whole time.
I felt like I had so much to learn from the experience.
I always had a question to ask.
We, as students and mostly non-Buddhists, were well informed
about Buddhism and the culture associated with it. I felt
at home and welcomed at the monastery. Within our class
I did not see any obvious biases that anyone had against
Buddhists or that the Buddhists had against us. I believe
that having time to learn about Buddhism put us in the
right mindset to be open to the lifestyle, leaving us
Visiting the Buddhist monastery opened my eyes to a different
way of life. I was able to actually be around Buddhists
and see their world. Seeing how the nuns live helped me
understand why they decided to take that path in life.
It is simpler, more conscious, and subtle. Learning and
living the ways that Buddhists strive for enlightenment
has influenced me to live my life differently.
The service-learning experience helped me realize that
meditation and letting my mind be free is far more spiritually
beneficial to me than most Christian worship methods.
Christian ideas and teachings are what I have been surrounded
by my entire life. I feel like I need to experience every
religion that even slightly interests me so that I can
make the right decision for who I am currently.
Through the experience at Buddha Mind monastery, I remembered
my love for doing service work. In high school, I attended
a weeklong mission project in the summer helping people
in the Ozarks and Delta make their homes more livable.
A one-day experience is a bit less involved and exhausting.
Service becomes more of a cleansing practice than feeling
rewarded for doing something of worth for someone else.
Buddhism is a more internalized religion than most that
I have been exposed to. Discovering and battling one's
ego is the first step to becoming more mindful. Once the
ego is eliminated, one can focus on the task at hand.
From what I understand, eliminating one's ego is an ongoing
battle. That was especially difficult when working in
a group of fellow college students. Learning about their
lives became very enjoyable and interesting; but reflecting
on my own life was unavoidable. Then again, reflecting
on how I am living my life and what my goals are is important
to me. Our group seemed to work very well and smoothly
together with the exception of a lollygagger or two.
Service-learning is more than doing something of worth
for another person. The experience cleanses the soul and
spirit, leaving me feeling refreshed, open, and inspired.
In our project, we were able to learn more about how people
with a very different lifestyle and culture live their
lives. In fact, we were able to live like them for a few
hours. No better way exists to learn about someone than
to live in his or her shoes for a while."
~ Layne Lewis
"I had always
been curious about other religions, but my father was
a pastor so I never really explored other religions, and
therefore I never realized that most of religions share
a lot of the same characteristics and principles of Christianity.
This class was an excellent addition to my education because
what it essentially taught me is not to judge other people
for their religion. I could no longer judge them in a
negative way because as I learned more and more about
each individual religion I discovered that each religion
is meant to minister to a different type of person and
each of those followers are people too. However, from
that realization, I learned to better appreciate volunteer
work because I started to see it as more of a gift than
It was this aspect of service that I now associate with
Buddhism. One of the beautiful things about the nuns was
how selfless they were. A common symbol of their selflessness
was their shaved heads. It was apparent that they were
intent on keeping all parts of themselves in a constant
state of reflection and meditation.
Meditation was something not entirely new, but it was
something wonderful to revisit, especially in a room with
such wonderfully free and pure energy. Another thing I
noticed about the monastery was how the "clergy"
were adamant about not injuring or killing any living
thing. There were even wasps living all over the place.
I witnessed one of the nuns pick up one of the wasps from
a music stand and place it back in its nest. At first
I was horrified! But then I really thought about what
the nun had demonstrated about Buddhism, and I continued
to be impressed by more and more throughout the day.
I would love to see this course become a more concentrated
class of study. It would be wonderful to focus on only
three religions a semester rather than six or seven. It
just makes it really hard to completely get a feel for
any religion. There are so many more complexities that
we would get to explore if the amount of religions were
lowered. Another problem with speeding through the religions
is that by the time we reached the monastery, I had forgotten
a ton of really interesting information about Buddhism.
The experience at the monastery could have been improved
placing the service learning at the very end of the Buddhist
unit. It had been several weeks since we had covered Buddhism.
We had, in fact, already been tested on all the material.
There were several concepts that the nuns mentioned over
and over again that I simply couldn't remember. If learning
about the religion had been closer to the service learning,
I feel like I could have learned more from the Monastery.
Buddhism is such a beautiful religion, but one thing I
am not a fan of is their food. I never want to switch
to eating all vegetarian food. There is just something
about the texture of meat that I love a little too much
to give up. However, I did meet a very interesting man
who worked at the Monastery, but was not one of the nuns.
He was the main person who organized where everyone was
going to work after the sitting and walking meditations.
He told us that he was a current graduate student in meteorology
and storm tracking at the University of Oklahoma.
He was also a wonderful representation of Buddhism because
he did fit the visual stereotype of someone who went a
Buddhist temple. He told us a lot about healthy dieting
which was extremely interesting. He told us that pretty
much all he ate on a regular basis was fruit. When asked
about eating meat he explained that he used to love and
enjoy meat just like me, but he discovered how unhealthy
it is to gorge one's self with meat while not supplementing
fruits and vegetables to the diet. He told us that he
was a recovering addict of over-indulgence which I thought
was a little on the funny side because he had three massive
plates of the food at the monastery, but apparently at
one time he was not only eating too much, he was also
weighing too much. Before altering his diet he weighed
236 pounds at 6 feet tall. He is now much leaner and weighs
~ Michael Schafer
"Going to the
Monastery helped me better understand Buddhism. I got
an idea of what the religion was from the text we read
and through the discussions we had in class, but no class
discussion can teach you as much as meeting with people
who practice the religion and participating in different
religious practices. I found a lot of what we read about
in the textbook to be rather accurate about Buddhism,
but I found it to mean more when I heard the Buddhist
nun talk about the same things I read in the book. When
we talked about walking meditation, I thought it was something
that some Buddhists do, but only a few. I still saw meditation
as only sitting with your legs crossed. After spending
a day with the nuns at the Monastery, I learned much more
about meditation.... I personally learned a lot about
Buddhism from spending a day working at the Monastery.
I found that the people were not significantly different
from me or most other Americans. I found that although
Buddhism seems so foreign to our way of thinking, it really
wasn't much different than the religions I do know. I
feel that by spending a day with the Buddhist community
I have a better understanding of what the religion means,
and possibly more importantly what it doesn't mean....
I think that service learning projects are very important
to learning. I enjoyed that we were able to discuss Buddhism
in class and then take the little knowledge we had of
the religion and visit a Buddhist Monastery for a day.
I will retain much more knowledge about Buddhism from
my time at the Monastery than I would have just from my
experience in class. I think that having an opportunity
to gain knowledge first hand is much more valuable than
anything you can read from a book. Another valuable aspect
to service learning is that I had a chance to experience
a different culture for a day. Although it was Americanized
Buddhism, it still had a much different culture than I
was used to. Overall I was very pleased with my experience
at the monastery and would recommend to others that they
also take a day out of their lives to learn about another
culture's outlook on life."
~ Michael Williams
about Buddhism in class broke the majority of my misconceptions
and presumptions about Buddhism, the service learning
project reiterated all of that for me as well. It was
a lot more comfortable and a lot less stressful than I
thought it would be. I felt welcomed, accepted, and not
at all resented. I was even extended several opportunities
to return, including for their celebration of Buddha's
Though I never believed this before the project, I do
not feel that my being Catholic interferes or conflicts
with the activities I performed on Saturday. I was never
asked to worship anything other than what I choose to
worship, though I'm very universalist in that sense. And
to be honest, I thought their meditation space very much
resembled a traditional Catholic Church. The statues of
the different Buddhas reminded me a lot of the statues
of the Saints. Everywhere there was decorative cloth and
ornamented furniture, it just looked a little more Eastern.
I even had a thought that even the Nuns' garb looked similar
to the Sisters I encountered in Catholic school. And even
though their heads weren't covered like a Catholic nun,
they were shaved, which I wondered whether was meant to
capture a similar idea and sacrifice.
I was pleased to have opened my mind early on in the day.
I think with a worse attitude I wouldn't have learned
nearly as much. The only wish I did have is to know a
little more on what to expect. I did feel a bit like I
was walking in there blind. Learning about people in books
is one thing, but it's a whole different ball game when
one is asked to interact with them. Being a person who
likes structure, I wanted to be a little surer on how
to more appropriately behave with them.
I appreciated the experience. It's a learning experience
from undergrad that I know I will remember for quite sometime.
And, in all honesty, it has allowed me to be more open
to new experiences, not just in theory, but in practice.
And who knows, maybe someday I'll be living off eggrolls."
~ Rachel Drozda
"I do not mind
the work. Unlike so much of what I do in my normal activities,
the work here grants immediate satisfaction; the result
is physical. After a few hours, we see the pile is now
half its original size and that we have extended the completed
path threefold. Altruistic rewards aside, I am ready for
lunch. We are corralled into a smaller room beside the
sanctuary where aluminum trays filled with various cooked
vegetables crowd the tables. We dip circles of rice paper,
a translucent, plastic-like sheet, into water and fill
them with noodles and the vegetables. We are asked to
take only what we can eat, which causes me a great deal
of embarrassment as I refill my plate a second, third,
and fourth time, eating nearly twice that of the others
around me. A second sort of embarrassment?a shame felt
for being young, American, white?soon follows as I see
some of my classmates, disgusted by the offered food,
ridicule the nuns under their breath. Aside from the meditation,
this experience was the most memorable of the day. To
see such a sharp juxtaposition of two cultures in this
way was much more effective than any side-by-side analysis
in class could ever be. For this, and the opportunity
to support a worthwhile cause, I am very grateful, and
only through the practice of documenting these experiences
and writing these final words have I realized that."
~ Sheridan McMichael
"Growing up in the
Bible belt of the United States is like living life with
a pair of thick sunglasses permanently set upon your face.
Outsiders appear dim and hazy, foreign beings moving about
in a dark world. It is not until one removes these so
called sunglasses that humans can be understood more fully.
Visiting the Oklahoma City Buddhist Mind Monastery was
a chance for me to remove my sunglasses that had previously
shaded my eyes from seeing how a Buddhist might live their
life. I came to fully understand the Buddhist's love of
nature, peace, and simplicity.... I stopped shoveling
for a moment and looked at the huge trees that covered
the land. I imagined them in spring, blooming and beautiful.
This is when I realized that the Buddhists were not actually
worshiping a god. They were just trying to make the most
of the life that they had been granted. I don't agree
with all of their views on religion and the world, but
I do admire their desire to live simply. They strive to
hurt people and nature as little as possible. They preserve
rather than destroy. They are all-around good people and
I admire their devotion. I am thankful that I was given
an opportunity to view another way of life, rather than
sitting behind my sunglasses, judging without knowing.
That was the true reward of the day."
~ Dann Clinton
"From my experience,
service-learning enhances learning through action. It
provides students with concrete opportunities to use information
learned in a classroom setting and acknowledge real-life
situations in different cultures and experiences. These
experiences instill values of service in the lives of
the students. This helps by developing a commitment to
making a difference in the community. Many people stand
by the importance of service and the responsibilities
taken to improve and develop our communities and our future
of peace and prosperity. Service learning could definitely
show young people new experiences and philosophies to
experience. They also serve to promote certain feelings
of loyalty, helpfulness, and commitment to all the people
of our nation and beyond. These experiences serve to strengthen
education in this country. Working in these ways will
improve experience and material in schools."
~ Theresa Rowley