Don’t Miss Philosophy Field Trip to Buddhist Center!

Mattea Vecera, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

On April 26, Mr. Gray’s first-year philosophy students went on a field trip to the Deer Park Buddhist Center and Monastery in Oregon, Wisconsin, just outside  Madison. Despite the 2 ½ hour bus ride each way, the two hours spent there was well worth the drive.

Upon arrival, the students learned a brief history about the structure of the building. The exterior of the Temple is covered in incredible artwork, which has all been hand-painted. Shortly after conversing with a monk outside, the students headed inside of the temple.

The interior of the temple is even more breathtaking than the exterior. The main area is a large open room with paintings on the walls and a large altar at the front. The altar is covered with Buddha images, offerings and Tibetan Buddhist scriptures.

The best part of the trip, however, would have to be the conversation with the Abbot Emeritus and founder Ven. Geshe Lhundub Sopa. In philosophy, we have been spent the last few weeks learning about Tibetan Buddhism and the topic of emptiness.

Mr. Gray had asked Geshe Sopa to reflect on the topic for us, and it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

All of the students gathered on small mats in rows on the floor, sitting cross-legged. Then, the discussion began. Geshe Sopa speaks little English, so he had a talented translator translate his words. He would go on for minutes at a time before the translator could interpret for us, yet she translated everything to near perfection (rather, it seemed that way to us).

Geshe Sopa encaptivated us all with his endless knowledge of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy just in time for our IB exam.

After speaking, he opened the floor up to questions from the students. Three questions were raised, the first having to do with a topic we learned about in class, another on his background in Tibetan Buddhism. I asked a question along the lines of “What is our purpose in life? Rather, what is our motivation to live?” I can not even begin to give his answer justice, but in short, he answered: happiness.

Geshe Sopa then left, while the students got a closer look at the altar and explored the grounds of Deer Park. Another gorgeous area was the Stupa, where Buddhist prayer flags were showcased around the exterior of the garden.

After this, it was time to head back to Notre Dame Academy. The students entered the bus and anxiously awaited the results from that day’s class elections.

This field trip was one of the best I have ever attended, and it’s just another reason to take philosophy (what I believe to be the most rewarding and eye-opening class that the school offers). Mr. Gray takes his first-year students on this field trip every year, and if given the opportunity, you definitely don’t want to miss it.