After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in International Business Administration from Tilburg University, Netherlands and Masters’ Degree in Finance from Erasmus University Rotterdam, Sjoerd decided to step out his comfort zone and study abroad in Beijing, a mysterious destination abounded with exciting traditions and cultures. Sjoerd first heard about Buddhism in high school, during his world religion class. But he mentioned that his interest in pursuing the Buddhist faith didn’t arise until 2016—when he met a Woodenfish alumna, Sarah Rose. Sjoerd confessed that he absolutely enjoys the insightful and enlightening language of Buddhism. For example, a statement that truly touched him is “nothing exists eternally in this world.” Beyond his appreciation for the language, Sjoerd believes that Buddhism has helped him formulate and improve his standards of living. The hands-on cultural experience at HMBLP also helped him develop some healthy habits, for instance, sitting and standing with an upright posture. In addition, studying the history of Buddhism highlighted some intersection as well as disparity between Buddhism and other religions. He thinks, “Buddhism is more accepting in the regard that different believers are granted different degrees of freedom in practicing, unlike Catholicism, which simply categorizes people into believers and non-believers.
Trisha comes from Mumbai, India, currently a college sophomore majoring in psychology. Because of her interest in traveling and observing people’s behavior, Trisha decided to study psychology. At her university, Trisha participates in a meditation club called “Pradja,” which was founded by a former HMBLP alumnus, Sankalp. With her friend’s recommendation, Trisha decided to apply to the program. At HMBLP, Trisha expressed an immense interest in meditation and the fundamental principles of Buddhism, such as emphasis on non-violence. An interesting comparison she made was that “meditation is a form of mental and spiritual weightlifting.” According to Trisha, she has undergone very serious stress in college because of the tight schedules, and she also had to stop her frequent visits to the gym. After a few months into college, she started to experience problems with focusing. Even though at the end of the school year she earned good grades, but her physical performance began to deteriorate. After being introduced to meditation, Trisha was amazed to discover that meditative practice has helped her to “drop” many unnecessary concerns and gain more self-control and self-confidence, eventually feeling happier when facing the challenges.
As Trisha said, she appreciates the fact that “Buddhism accepts and embraces all beings, regardless of who you want to become, as long as you follow the dharma.”
Madeleine grew up in Wisconsin and is currently studying religion, sculpture and photography in New York! Once during her visit to the Main Hall of a temple, she became fixated on the decorations and paintings. After taking a course on East Asian Religions, Madeleine made an important decision to switch her major to religion. Born to a Catholic family, though, Madeleine said that she became a firm atheist at the age of 12. However, perhaps in light of her intricate relationship with the faith of Buddhism, Madeleine has longed for this opportunity to fully immerse herself in a Buddhist environment. She thinks one of the main reasons is the coincidental consistency between her personal beliefs and the dharma. After becoming more and more familiar with different Buddhist principles, Madeleine could already sense a trend of positive change occurring within her. She is very inspired by the rituals and traditions in the temple, specifically after witnessing the Ceremony in Commemoration of the Enlightenment of Bodhisattva Kuan-Yin. Madeleine said that she has perceived some aspects of adaptation involved in the process of enlightenment, and she was fully prepared to embrace the challenges to come. Because of the comprehensive, supportive learning environment that Woodenfish has provided, Madeleine wants to encourage those—who are still debating whether to attend HBMLP or not—to apply next year. “We’d better express our humbleness and gratitude through immediate action.”
Anand hails from Arizona in the United States, and he is a junior at Yale University, currently studying Ethics, Politics and Economics. Because of HBMLP, this became his first time to visit China. Raised in a Hinduist family, Anand has gone to both Christian and Catholic schools. His interest in Buddhism arose from his meditative practice, which helped him alleviate stress and relax.During his freshman year in college, Ananda attended a six-hour retreat organized by an on-campus club. Since last winter, he delved into the studying of more texts centered on Buddhism. In comparison to Western philosophy, Ananda thinks that Buddhism proactively addresses the means to achieving happiness and fulfilling traditions. After arriving in Ningbo—the temple site of this year’s HBMLP—Anand was glad to find that the agenda consisted of myriad activities and lessons: Buddhist studies, meditation, Chinese culture. He was a little surprised to find that the living condition was quite modern; however, Anand actively decided to turn off his phone for the entire duration for the program. Even though the students didn’t have a great degree of freedom, Anand did appreciate the busy schedule and the emphasis on placing collective benefits over individual interests.
Artur was born in Rio, Brazil but has moved to a couple different places, including St. Paulo, New York, and California. After finishing high school, Artur started his undergraduate study at Southern California University.
During high school, Artur took a class on religion and developed immense interest in Buddhism and Taoism. In college, Artur decided to further pursue his interest by taking classes on Chinese studies and religion, and since then, his passion grew. Artur’s Chinese teacher—who recommended him to apply to HBMLP, is also a friend of Ven. Yifa. He feels extremely glad to have this privilege to study Buddhism in a more systematic manner and through hands-on experience.
Svetlana comes from Russia, a Ph.D candidate in Philosophy. She has always believed that she wanted to become a philosophy teacher, so she decided to come to China and further her studies. As her dissertation focuses on the intersection and comparison among Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity, Svetlana treasures this opportunity and takes it as a time for personal growth as well as academic enrichment. As she said, she will put in maximum effort to participate and experience. “Carpe diem!”