Student Development and Services

Source: 2005/2006 IBC Annual Report (Issue 2)

The Office for Student Affairs facilitates a balanced development of the students in intellectual, spiritual and personal growth in addition to helping them achieve their educational goals.

The office is run by the Director for Student Affairs, assisted by male and female student leaders. Together with the students and staff, they endeavor to create an international home away from home.

In seeing to the welfare and balanced development of the students, the Office improved on a number of services in the second year of operation of IBC. The services include those that promote a spiritually self-sustaining and harmonious community living:

Spiritual cultivation and personal Growth

  • religious services and practices in daily life;
  • religious counseling
  • engaged Buddhism

Four requisites for daily life

  • right accommodation
  • foods;
  • Robes;
  • medicine
    • Metta Treatment Room
    • Regular medical consultative service

Educational materials and services

  • books and stationary
  • access to information technology facilities - internet and library

financial assistance programs; and

other miscellaneous services.

Nurturing a Spiritual and Learning Community

IBC is a residential college whose temple accommodates the full assembly of Buddha’s disciples of monks, nuns, lay men and women of three major Buddhist traditions from eight countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand and United States of America). Such is the diversity of the community. While the multi-traditional and multicultural diversity is enriching, it is challenging in that there are not only language and therefore communication barriers, but also differences in foods, cultures and traditional practices in daily living. IBC community can be said to be a microcosm of the larger society out there with all its potential for conflicts and vibrancy in enriching life.

The difference IBC has with the larger society out there is the pillar of Buddhist faith and training IBC constantly instills in its residents. This pillar of faith and training helps diminish or transform the potential of conflicts into strength to overcome divisive issues arising from cross-cultural misunderstandings. Given such a challenging living environment, the students mature faster spiritually with better understanding of the applications of Buddha’s teachings in everyday life, particularly in reducing conflicts through ethical living, resolving conflicts through Brahmavihara and thus the appreciation of the need to cultivate and nurture Brahmavihara – compassion, loving kindness, sympathetic joy and equanimity.

Compared with the first year, there was greater harmony and greater appreciation of the richness in the diversity of cultures and traditions present in this international community. Factors contributing to this improvement were many. Among these were the continuous reminders and inculcation of Buddhist values in daily living and working through formal education, religious services and admonitions in regular Dhamma talks. Patience and perseverance of the leadership in tirelessly guiding and motivating the students in their pursuit of right spiritual life and physical growth was one factor. The greater spiritual maturity, leadership and caring friendship of the senior students shown to the newcomers were also a significant contributing factor to the major improvement observed. Greater understanding of one another’s traditions and cultures further contributed to the success of community living at IBC.

Spiritual Cultivation and Personal Growth

IBC operates with the guiding principles that skills for modern living can be obtained from formal education, but wisdom for skillful living comes from spiritual cultivation. IBC is an institution that ensures students imbibe Buddhist values and ethical living with wisdom in the process of acquiring knowledge through formal learning. At IBC, there are obligatory morning and evening religious services that every student should participate. There are services of the Theravada and Mahayana traditions. Students of either tradition are free to participate in either or both of the services. Each service includes chanting and meditation, which sometimes ends with a Dhamma talk given by the Abbot or Director of Students Affairs and/or the wardens. The Abbot, Director of Student Affairs and/or wardens hold regular meetings with the students individually or in groups to counsel, motivate and encourage them.

In their daily living, they made their contributions to the College and the society at large when opportunities arose. As in the previous year, they participated in daily chores of cleaning the IBC temple and campus. They helped in landscaping. They carried out similar tasks in the monastery where they visited and stayed for meditation retreat over the semester breaks. Engaged in a more formal way, IBC students gave dhamma talks to devotees during the Dhammaduta tour of Malaysia this year. They and the devotees benefited from the interaction. The students gained more experience in their roles as missionaries in foreign lands. The devotees learned about the differences in the styles of chanting and delivery of dhamma talks among different cultures of different Buddhist traditions from different countries.

The cultural and traditional diversity present in IBC offered the students the rare opportunity not available elsewhere to learn about one another’s countries, cultures and traditions and in the process broadened their minds to see beyond the boundary of their own cultures and traditions. Each enriched the other’s life with the best from each tradition and culture. Evidence of such mutually beneficial enrichment could be seen in the culturally different ways of greeting (in Thai, Korean, Bangladesh, and Chinese) that the students had learned and adopted. They learned to speak one another’s language and in so doing understood more deeply one another’s cultures and values. More significantly but less obvious was the mutual understanding of one another’s tradition of Buddhism and the respect for one another that went with that understanding. The Theravada students could now appreciate the Mahayana’s ways and vice versa. For instance, while there were often argument in jest on the ways and goals of practicing Buddhism among the different traditions, the Theravada students now had a better understanding of the Mahayana’s pursuit of the Bodhisattva ways while the Mahayana students could better appreciate the Theravada emphasis on the various means for the attainment of liberation by the individuals. These were some examples of the little steps the students progressed in spiritual cultivation and personal growth at IBC.

Four Requisites

Accommodation

IBC is a residential college. All students were accommodated in the IBC Temple in dormitories that were fully furnished with beds
and beddings for rest, and tables and chairs for study. Living arrangement accorded with the Vinaya. Monks, nuns, novices, female and male lay students were in separate dormitories in different floors of the Temple. Temple rules based on the Vinaya applied to help foster a systematic and disciplined living necessary for maintaining harmony. Students learned to be considerate and caring as good spiritual friends for one another.

Meals

Students came from seven different countries in Asia, with the Theravada component from Thailand, Bangladesh and Cambodia, and the Mahayana component from China, Korea, India and Malaysia. Each culture and tradition had different cuisines, rites and rituals of partaking meals. At IBC, the interplay of mutual understanding and magnanimity led to the acceptance of vegetarian meals typical of the Mahayana tradition. During the partaking of meals, Theravada rites and rituals were followed before and after each meal. Each meal time offered an opportunity for all to recollect and contemplate on importance of practice, the teachings of Buddha, and expression of gratitude for the offerings one received.

In an international community like IBC, it was inevitable that the students and staff would take time out to prepare and display one’s own cuisines and cooking skills. During the year, students and staff of different nationalities worked together to prepare ‘shuijiao or dumplings and steamboat’ under the direction of the Chinese students; roti (Indian bread) and dal (lentil curry) under the direction of Malaysian and Indian students; ‘kimchi’ or Korean pickled vegetables under the guidance of our South Korean lecturer; and of course the Thai salads. Preparing meals were also a good time and a good opportunity for students and staff to build up comradeship and understanding among one another in an informal but effective way.

Robes

Robes were donated to the faculty and student monastics once a year while toiletries were supplied to all monks, nuns and lay students regularly.

Medicine and Health Services

IBC maintains a treatment room (sometimes called Metta Clinic) in which Chinese herbal medicines and emergency kit are stored. It is managed by a volunteer physician of traditional Chinese medicines from Malaysia who visits IBC regularly. During the past year, he was assisted by one very caring nun. The volunteer physician gives free consultative medical services and treatment including acupuncture and physical therapy to the students and staff.

Student monks and nuns are also registered with the Hatyai Hospital where they could consult and get treatment at minimal cost if any.

Educational materials and support

Students were given assistance with educational materials such as texts for the courses they took, photocopying and printing service. Occasionally, students received stationary materials donated by well wishers. To help them with their research and studies, students were given access to internet and a well-stocked library at IBC. Teachers, who also resided at the College, often gave extra classes or tuition to the students.

Financial Assistance Scheme with Recognition of Achievement

Scholarships and bursary are awarded based on necessity/hardship, merits and performance of the students. In the first year of operation of the College, all students, whether lay or ordained were recipients of full bursary for tuition, food and lodging from Than Hsiang Temple (Malaysia). This form of assistance continued into the second year.

New financial assistance scheme that incorporated recognition of student performance in terms of academic achievement and/or personal discipline and conduct was introduced at the end of this year. As in the previous year, the financial assistance scheme is funded and managed by the IBC Founding Organisation, Than Hsiang Temple of Penang, Malaysia. The new three-tiered financial assistance scheme consists of the IBC Scholarship Award as the top award, next is the Full Bursary Award, followed by the Metta Bursary Award. The IBC Scholarship Award is recognises excellence in both academic performance and conduct. The Award consists of monthly educational allowance, living and tuition allowance for a whole year. The Full Bursary Award awards those showing excellence in either academic performance or conduct. It consists of a book allowance and full assistance for tuition, food and lodging for one semester. The Metta Bursary Award is a form of financial assistance given to those with satisfactory academic performance and conduct. This bursary pays for 90% of the tuition, food and lodging fees of one semester. There is work program at IBC in which students could participate.

Academic & Religious Counseling

Students generally sought academic advice from their lecturers or tutors directly. For religious advice and counseling, the students approached the two wardens in the Office of Student Affairs. The Abbot, Director of Student Affairs and the wardens, in their formal or informal meeting with the students, also counseled the students regularly.

Student Centre and Recreation

Student Centre was another venue for meetings, gathering of the students for serious debates on philosophical issues or viewing educational videos for relaxation. Board and educational games for light recreation were available at the Student Centre. In addition, facilities for light physical exercises like martial arts such as Taichi and table tennis for those less oriented towards martial arts.

Summary

During its second year of operation, the innovative change in the structure of IBC into the Temple and College components significantly facilitated the administration of student affairs so that a vast improvement in community living was possible and observed. The l international community of students was more successful in harnessing the strength and richness of a diverse community to nurture a harmonious and productive life at IBC. They worked harder in their pursuit of their educational goals; at serving the College during the semesters and the monasteries where they went for retreat during the semester breaks; and sharing Dhamma knowledge with devotees of the community wherever they entered during field trips and the Dhammaduta Tour of Malaysia. While pursuing formal education in classes and serving the needs of others, the students had time to spend in retreats in meditation for spiritual growth. The students at IBC continued to have another year of balanced growth personally, socially, intellectually and spiritually.

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