Asian Studies lunches choose Tibetan Buddhism as focus for discussion

Emily Craig, Crier Staff

The Asian Studies lunches, a lunch and reading group focused on Asia, once again invites students to participate in a discussion with faculty and staff. This year, the lunches will focus on Tibetan Buddhism as the group will read John Makransky’s Awakening Through Love.

The proposal for a renewal of the Asian Studies lunches began last year at a Conversatio faculty meeting. Professor Nicole Leapley, Ph.D., of the Modern Languages department, spoke up at the meeting and said she had a student interested in having extracurricular discussions. This student had been particularly interested in Buddhism, and Professor Leapley had recalled that there had been a series of discussions titled Asian Studies lunches in the past.

Professor Leapley had described the previous lunches as featuring a group that read a book together and met every so often throughout the semester to discuss it. She had reached out to Professor Bede Bidlack, Ph.D., of the Theology department and asked him if he would be interested in putting something such as the Asian Studies lunches together.

“This was before my time here, so I hadn’t heard of it before,” said Professor Bidlack. Even so, he took charge and began doing some research on the previous lunch series on Asian Studies.

Professor Bindu Malieckal, Ph.D. had been one of the many faculty in charge of coming up with the previous lunches, as well as Brother Andrew Thornton, O.S.B. Those involved in the past had written to and received the Star Grant, which funded the lunches.

“I had asked if that grant was still available to see if we could put something like that together,” Professor Bidlack said. “But the criteria have changed, so I wasn’t sure if this would fit [for the new lunches program].”

Professor Bidlack then presented the idea of the lunches to the Dean’s office, where the program received the majority of its funding. The rest of the funding emerged from a handful of departments that were interested in participating in the program. Thus, the new Asian Studies lunches are sponsored by the Theology, Philosophy, and History departments, as well as the Office for Diversity & Inclusion.

The Asian Studies lunches offered an invitation to the entire Saint Anselm community, including faculty, staff, and students. In the previous lunches, only faculty was involved in the discussion. Now a maximum of 15 students are to be accepted into the program to participate, and more than enough have already showed interest.

The book the group will be reading, as mentioned before, is Dr. John Makransky’s Awakening Through Love, which is “his proposal for a way in which any person of any religion (or none) can grow in love through the wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism.” The group will discuss the “theological basis for Dr. Makransky’s claims and why many Tibetan Buddhists find his theory controversial.”

An Associate Professor of Theology at Boston College, Dr. Makransky was one of Professor Bidlack’s own academic professors at the college, where he received his Ph.D. in Comparative Theology. Dr. Makransky is also a lama, meaning he is a “recognized teaching authority,” in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He not only holds various positions at Boston College, but also holds the position of a lama, lecturer, and advisor at a Buddhist center affiliated with Khatmandu University in Nepal.

The Asian Studies lunches’ group will meet on Sept. 22 and Nov. 10 this semester, and Feb. 7 in the spring. Those meetings will be located in the Dana Center seminar room. The group’s final meeting on April 6 will be held in the President’s Dining Room and the faculty, staff, and students participating will have the opportunity to host Dr. Makransky and include him in the discussion of his book.