On Thursday, the Center for Religious and Multicultural Life and student club Mindfulness Over Matter began an eight-week program focusing on the teachings of Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
Although conceptualized over the course of the fall semester, the workshop now comes in the wake of Thich Nhat Hanh’s death, who passed on January 22nd. Benjamin Felser ’22, co-leader of Mindfulness Over Matter, says that the program will acknowledge Hanh’s death, as well as celebrate his life, while also promoting the importance of meditation and community, as was originally intended by Hanh.
“Meditation is beautiful to help deepen communities because you’re all sharing an experience together,” Felser said. “You’re all sharing the same experience, even if your eyes are closed. You get to comment on that and talk about it.”
During the workshop series, students will have the opportunity to listen to lectures from Thich Nhat Hanh. The lectures will cover different topics each week, ranging from the “path to liberation” to “interbeing.” Students will share their own thoughts about material that resonated with them with the hopes of building community with one another.
“After I left, I felt so calm and serene,” Ridhika Tripathee ’22, an attendee of the first event of the series, said. “I think it’s hard to feel that way at Bowdoin when things are very fast and you have to think all the time. So, having a moment to just be aware of yourself is so rare and so sought-after for me personally.”
Weekly on Tuesdays, the Mindfulness Over Matter club, co-led by Felser, Aadhya Ramineni ’23 and David Yang ’22, holds 45-minute to hour-long meditation sessions, coupled with “awareness checks” of the body and mind. However, the Thich Nhat Hanh series seeks to dive deep into Buddhist beliefs and meditation practices from an expert.
“One of the things I’m most excited about is just to learn with everyone else because he’s someone that once you hear and are exposed to more of his ideas, they start to settle in different places,” Felser said.
Felser believes that spirituality is rarely taught academically and that this project will allow people from various backgrounds to learn what they can from Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings, hopefully incorporating them into their own lives.
“I am not leading this,” Felser said. “I am not a teacher in this. I really am just … trying to mainly [create] an environment for us to engage with Thich Nhat Hanh and his work.”
The Thich Nhat Hanh series will take place Thursdays in the Center for Religious and Multicultural Life at 30 College Street. Since a focus of the course is on building community, the number of attendees will be limited to those who attended the first session. Facilitators asked that attendees commit themselves to at least six of the eight weeks in total.
“I really want this to stay with me forever,” Tripathee said. “I don’t want the things I learn from this to just go away once I’m done with this course. I hope incorporating [the lessons of the workshop] and having someone keep me accountable, and for me to keep them accountable, I hope that makes it so I can take this with me.”