Buddhist nuns return to Univ of Dayton to teach another mini-course

by Jessica Parker, Flyer News, Vol 53, No. 27

Dayton, Ohio (USA) -- The University of Dayton says a lot about “community,” but recently the campus welcomed two members of a very far-away community. Venerable Sisters Molini Rai and Dhammavijaya, Buddhist nuns from the country of Nepal, are currently teaching a mini-course called “Women in Buddhism” Tuesday nights.

They were here two years ago to teach a course for business majors who were planning a trip to Southeast Asia. Unlike the large number of students then, which required the class to be expanded to two nights, the class now has about 20 students. Though the class format has changed, the women feel just as welcome as ever.

?The first time we were not very familiar with the university,? explained Sister Molini.

?Now we are like sangha?community,? added Sister Dhammavijaya.

The nuns, who are from the Theravada school of Buddhism (the tradition of the elders), feel the meditation they teach can help students let go of the stress and problems that come with everyday life. Sister Molini called it ?teaching for the practical, daily life.?

?Buddhism is not religion,? she said. ?It is the way to live.?

The mini-course addresses issues of inequality between men and women, particularly in relation to the role of monks and nuns in relation to Buddhist monastic life. The nuns wrote their doctoral theses on women?s ordination in Buddhism, which they hope to reinstate in the Buddhist tradition. This class gives them an opportunity to provide a unique perspective to students.

?We like to share our knowledge,? Sister Dhammavijaya said.

Though the women?s tradition does not permit them to ask for a salary for teaching, they accept the money given by the university for their project in Nepal called Dhamma Moli, which is aimed at preventing the trafficking of young girls. When they started out, they did not have any kind of shelter to house the girls they saved from prostitution. Now, Sister Dhammavijaya explained, they have small shelters and are collecting money little by little to expand them.

?This is our main starting point,? she said, speaking of the teaching they have done in the United States.

The Sisters were originally introduced to the university by Dr. Judith Martin of the Religious Studies department. Her friend at Antioch College, Professor Robert Prior, had met the nuns on a study abroad program India, which he leads.

?He had the idea that they should come and teach,? Martin said. ?I thought this was such a great idea.?

Martin brought the nuns to her own sangha, the Sisters of St. Joseph in Buffalo. In what she called a ?kind of ecumenical breakthrough,? Sisters Molini and Dhammavijaya were invited to do meditation following communion.

The nuns repeatedly expressed how happy and thankful they are to be at UD.

?We are very satisfied to teach to the students,? Sister Molini said. ?We are very grateful to the university and to our Sister Judy.?

Martin believes that this mini-course provides a rare and valuable opportunity for exchanging religious ideas and experiences.

?Instead of trying to convert each other, what we have here is someone to share the wisdom of Buddhism with Christians,? she said.

Students are welcome to stop in to the class in HM 112 on Tuesdays, 6:10 to 8:15 p.m.