Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation and True Buddha Foundation co-sponsored the 2010 Lotus Scholarship, a special project, to support Buddhist Studies. We are featuring each scholarship recipient here and in True Buddha News. Joseph Marino is pursuing a Master’s degree in Comparative Religion, focusing on Buddhist studies at University of Washington. He has been practicing Buddhism for nine years and is passionate about teaching Buddhism to undergraduates at the university level, believing that teaching Buddhism, and religious studies in general, can open a student’s mind to news ways of seeing the world. Joseph’s research focus is Esoteric (Vajrayana) Buddhist literature, art, and ritual performance, and he has studied living practice in China and Tibet.
1. Question: What inspired your decision to study Buddhism?
Joseph’s answer: My first religious studies teacher, a practicing Tibetan Buddhist, was a great influence on me. He gave all of his energy to his students. Shortly thereafter I had an opportunity to study Buddhist art in China and the images and temperament of the temples left an indelible impression on me. Perhaps most importantly, the peace that comes with studying Buddhist ideas has been helpful in my personal life.
2. Question: Describe your greatest accomplishment so far while in pursuit of your degree in Buddhist Studies.
Joseph’s answer: My teachers have been generous and have given me many opportunities to learn. While my most favorite accomplishment is completing a pilgrimage across the Kumano mountains in Wakayama, Japan, I am most proud of the language study I’ve done, as it has opened lots of doors for me. Particularly, I am studying Japanese and Sanskrit. Reading Buddhist texts like the Divyavadana in Sanskrit has been greatly rewarding.
3. Question: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Joseph’s answer: Perfect happiness for me is to be fully present and to want nothing. I still have a long way to go!
4. Question: In your next life, who or what would you like to be?
Joseph’s answer: Anything that allows me to learn lessons I have not yet learned.
5. Question: What impacts have the study of Buddhism had on your life?
Joseph’s answer: The impact has been huge. I have begun to approach study in general as a kind of meditation. It is also very humbling to be reading about selflessness during the day and then to realize that I might make very selfish decisions right after I put the books down. Studying Buddhism forces me to be aware of how my actions impact everything around me.
6. Question: How has the Lotus Scholarship helped your study of Buddhism?
Joseph’s answer: The Lotus Scholarship is allowing me to spend this entire summer studying Sanskrit Buddhist texts and writing my Master’s thesis on Buddhist pilgrimage in Japan. As someone who has always had to work or teach to fund my studies, this scholarship has given me the freedom – for the first time in ten years of studying Buddhism at universities – to focus all my attention on study. I am very grateful for it.