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Alex Davis '21

Sterling, Illinois

Major in Creative Writing

Alex is spending his summer as an intern studying Chinese Mahayana Buddhism at Fa Yun Monastery in Taos, New Mexico.

Alex Davis '21

What is a day like at the monastery?

This summer has been filled with outdoor labor, cooking, intense (and not intense) discussion, Dharma talks, meditation, and chanting. A typical day goes as such:

  • 3:30 a.m.: Wake up
  • 4:00 a.m. - 6:00 a.m.: Chanting & meditation
  • 6:30 a.m.: Offering to the Buddha & breakfast
  • 8:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.: Work (typically gardening, weeding, carrying buckets of water, etc.)
  • 11:30 a.m.: Offering to the Buddha & lunch (diverse assortment of Chinese vegetarian dishes, the food is truly outstanding)
  • 1:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.: Back to work. Mondays we have class at 2:00 p.m. where we discuss Dr. Walpola Rahula's What The Buddha Taught quite thoroughly.
  • 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.: Chanting & meditation
  • 9:30 p.m.: Lights out. Typically preceded by a spot of tea.

Days can be stressful here. The teaching is, for lack of a better word, intensely profound. Isolation from the outside world (i.e. few people, no phone signal, no wifi, etc) paired with a meditative practice focused on calm insight into oneself can breed perspective-shattering revelations, to put it dramatically.

So, why the monastery?

I chose to pursue this path out of a desire to better understand the meditative practice and way of life from an exclusively Buddhist point of view. I strongly hold to the positive mental health benefits of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation, and, wishing to continue to improve my own mental health, this pursuit presented itself as the most promising.

How do you anticipate that your experience will alter your plans for the future?

My utilization of “perspective-shattering,” despite the drama, isn’t too far off in my case. Certain things that were obstacles before simply don't seem to have substance anymore; thus, pursuing a new career path appears both preferable and possible.

Tell us about your favorite moment at Knox.

Most definitely eating in the Gizmo with friends. Something about grinding late into the night and chowing down a vegetarian breakfast burrito with a good companion is entirely fulfilling to me. Not to mention that exhausted walk back to my car, always great for reflection why I keep my bedtime at 11 p.m.

Why is Knox important to you?

I’ve struggled a lot in my academic career. The resources at Knox, from the HOPE Center to the Dean of Students, have always made me feel thoroughly supported. There’s also a great diversity of cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives present. It makes for a healthy challenge against comfort zones and ideas.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Knox’s offering of education through the “power of experience” has always felt cheesy to me. Yet, in the middle of this experience, it all makes sense. Experience has outstanding power. Also, I hope all members of the Knox community are safe and healthy both mentally and physically.

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Printed on Sunday, July 14, 2024