Dharma Realm Buddhist University

General discussions concerning institutions and degree programs.

Dharma Realm Buddhist University

Postby Hungry Ghost » Mon Jan 22, 2007 8:05 pm

DRBU is one of the most interesting and unique of the CA-approved schools. There's nothing else quite like it and it probably wouldn't even exist if it weren't for state-approval.

WASC is friendly enough, but they've expressed discomfort with the DRBU model. They suggested that DRBU might be better off applying to a religious accreditor like ATS or TRACS (?! yeah, right). ATS won't accredit non-Christian schools, but they have voted DRBU affiliate status.

The school's niche is trying to reinterpret the traditional Chinese Buddhist monastic discipline into Western degree form. Old wine in new bottles. Here in America, in order to be recognized as an educated person, you need to have a big shiny degree. That's how it works. Unfortunately, Buddhism is an experiental and practice oriented subject and when it's translated into to an arm's-length classroom approach, something vital seems to be lost. That was the fear and it's why DRBU exists.

The Talmage campus is primarily a large monastery and DRBU students join the monks and live pretty much as they do. The biggest differences are the addition of university courses and the fact that the students don't take the full vows and precepts of the traditional monastic vinaya. Nor do they shave their heads or wear monastic robes.

It's probably not for slackers. Students begin at 4:30 AM and their day continues until 9:30 PM. Every day.

http://www.drbu.org/students/studentlif ... hedule.asp

I imagine that one of the things that made WASC nervous is the fact that ceremonies are an integral part of students' activities:


As it is with the monks, manual and intellectual work (farming, translating sutras, cooking) is an important part of the program:


Most classes are held in this building, the former Mendocino State Hospital guesthouse:


The university library:


A classroom scene:


DRBU is also active about 100 miles south in Berkeley. That's where their Institute for World Religions is located.


(Here's its journal)

along with the associated Berkeley Buddhist Monastery


and DRBU's Berkeley MA program, which seems rather more conventional than the offerings up in Mendocino:


Ok.... if I had to state my two biggest reservations about this place, they would probably be:

1. A rather home-grown faculty at the Talmage branch. But seeing as how most of the teachers with DRBU degrees are monastics, that might be kind of inevitable with this model. The inbreeding problem doesn't seem to exist at the Berkeley branch, where the monastic emphasis is a lot less.

2. More fundamentally, the free-inquiry question. How can a school that exists to initiate students into an ancient tradition in ways that go well beyond the purely intellectual, simultaneously stand apart from all of that and subject everything to Western-style academic questioning?

It's easy enough to see what might worry an accreditor like WASC. But they are legitimate questions and they would never have even arisen if the state approval process hadn't provided a space where educational experimentation was possible.

And it's a question that could really be asked of every religious school. Tradition shapes and transforms its practitioners, while academia shapes and transforms received traditions. There has to be a dynamic balance, I guess, but it's not a trivial problem finding it.
Hungry Ghost
Senior Member
Posts: 2598
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2006 1:46 am

Postby Hungry Ghost » Tue Jan 23, 2007 9:11 pm

I my last post, I said that DRBU students' days start at 4:30 AM. Oops, my mistake. They start their days at 3:30, awakened by monks clapping two boards together in the dorm hallways. The morning ceremony begins at 4 AM.

Students shouldn't complain about their austere lives though. According to tradition, the monks don't eat after noon, but the students get dinner. Some of the monks have taken vows of silence. They have little signs hanging from their neck saying 'silence' and they never speak.

At DRBU, everyone is supposed to feel that everyone else is their teacher, that everyone has something valuable to teach. Nobody and nothing is too humble. That extends to work tasks, DRBU is perhaps the only university in the world where students cleaning toilets is an important part of their program.

As for unique CA-approved features, NTPS has supersonic jet airplanes. Well, DRBU answers right back with... peacocks. Lots of peacocks, tame ones, roaming the property unafraid of human beings.


This is the DRBU dining refectory that doubles as a hall for various assemblies.


The university library again:


An aerial view of the Talmage operation. The property is 488 acres, of which about 80 acres are gardens or buildings. The other 400 are natural hillside and meadows.

Hungry Ghost
Senior Member
Posts: 2598
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2006 1:46 am


Postby SteveFoerster » Tue Jan 23, 2007 11:47 pm

Hungry Ghost wrote:Well, DRBU answers right back with... peacocks. Lots of peacocks, tame ones, roaming the property unafraid of human beings.

Oh god, the reminds me of an apartment I used to have next to a farm that raised peacocks. There's nothing worse than the sound of yowling peahens. Plus, they're big suckers, and whenever an escapee was in our parking lot, I'd avoid it.

BS, Information Systems concentration, Charter Oak State College
MA in Educational Technology Leadership, George Washington University
PhD in Leadership, U. of the Cumberlands (in progress)
More about me at my site
Senior Member
Posts: 2352
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2006 8:41 pm
Location: Northern Virginia & Dominica, West Indies

Postby Hungry Ghost » Wed May 16, 2007 8:01 pm

For an inside view of what might well be America's most unusual college, here's a student's blog that I stumbled upon.


He's got more pictures of the peacocks!

It seems that DRBU had a rare albino peacock (an absolutely dazzling display of pure white feathers!) until about a year ago. Everybody loved it, but a local wildcat from the Mendocino hills jumped it and ate it.

...Nothing is permanent...

Hopefully this will lead to a photo of it:

http://paramita.typepad.com/.shared/ima ... eacock.jpg

And here's another DRBU blog, by one of its faculty members. This gentleman has all the accoutrements of a university professor, including a nice MA in Oriental Languages from UC Berkeley and an attractive Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Union. But what makes him unusual, in the peculiar DRBU style, is the fact that he took the monastic precepts 31 years ago.

You may have seen him in the news in the late 70's, when he progressed from LA to the DRBU campus in Ukiah, by taking three steps and then bowing (I believe they were complete prostrations), then another three steps and... for the whole 600 miles. It took him two years to complete the journey, maintaining complete silence the whole way.

(That's why DRBU students shouldn't complain about being awakened at 3:30 AM. DRBU isn't for wimps.)

Hungry Ghost
Senior Member
Posts: 2598
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2006 1:46 am

Postby nosborne48 » Thu May 17, 2007 8:45 pm

I am thrilled to add "big shiny DEGREE" to "lower tier slums" in my collection of HGisms! :lol:

nosborne, J.D. (b.s.D.)(l.t.s.)
Senior Member
Posts: 4158
Joined: Tue Jan 17, 2006 12:42 am

Re: Dharma Realm Buddhist University

Postby Hungry Ghost » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:54 am

Ten years later, an update on this place. It's still around and is currently a WASC candidate.

https://www.wscuc.org/institutions/dhar ... university

In order to qualify, it had to redesign itself pretty dramatically. It's no longer a cross between a monastery and a university that tries to teach Buddhism in the style of a Chinese Ch'an (Zen) monastery. Its programs are far more conventional and classroom centered than they were during the school's first 30 CA-approved years. No more getting up at 4:30 AM, no more ceremonies and no more manual labor. It still shares space with a monastery and the monastics are still around, the students just don't live as they do. (You gotta do whatever WASC says you gotta do.)

It currently only offers two degrees, a BA in Liberal Arts and an MA in Buddhist Classics.
Hungry Ghost
Senior Member
Posts: 2598
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2006 1:46 am

Return to General Discussions

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests