Five Mountain Buddhist Seminary
Since this last Spring, I’ve been working with the Five Mountain Buddhist Seminary (FMOBS), taking classes as programs began to get underway there and helping work out kinks in our program. The FMOBS is a new non-denominational Buddhist seminary, working within the larger Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, founded by Rev. Jiun Foster. Rev. Jiun also happens to be my primary Buddhist teacher and I’ve been working with him for a few years now. The original impetus of the program at FMOBS was to find a way to educate members of the Five Mountain Order, the Buddhist organization to which we belong. This was especially necessary in order to train our priests and because our membership is scattered in a variety of physical locations. This focus has since been broadened to embrace those who are not necessarily part of our own immediate tradition of practice but who wish to study, train, and practice as Buddhists. Along with a distance-based curriculum of study, participants can (and are encouraged to) participate in retreats with the Five Mountain Order. R and I attended one of these retreats last year, which was our first attempt at this model for gathering our distant members together.
The classwork had initially started with a few of us who are members of the order and has expanded with the addition of a number of practitioners of other traditions as well. On a practical level, the classes work just as well for those of other Mahayana schools or lineages as they do for those of us in the Five Mountain Order. I expect that as things develop, the number of students from many different schools will continue to expand. Additionally, there is the goal of having the teachers represent the same diversity so we are not limited to one particular way of looking at things or of practice. Eventually, we will be seeking some form of recognized accrediting for the program. Most of the other educational programs of this sort have a Tibetan Buddhist focus, usually primarily around one particular teach or lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. There are few resources available outside of these unless a student happens to be fortunate enough to be near a Dharma center or sangha with an ongoing program of study as well as practice. For many people, this is simply not the case.
Today, the website for the seminary was refreshed and a lot of additional information was made available with this update. I’ve been wanting to mention the program for quite a while and this seems to be a good time to do so. The updated website has the following to say about the program:
Five Mountain is the only non-denominational Buddhist educational program of its kind. Its mission is to prepare students who wish to become ordained Buddhist priests, lay teachers, or simply well educated practitioners. The program’s curriculum is rigorous and many faceted. It enriches students by widening their perspectives. It provides structure by keeping in balance its three major areas of concentration: study, practice, and theory/application. The program also integrates the interaction between these three areas: study enhances individual practice, which then enhances the ability to teach others. Philosophy of Learning Five Mountain Buddhist Seminary was founded on the principle of active self-learning and designed to allow members to balance personal lives and careers with a rigorous education experience. With the Internet, providing educational convenience is fairly basic. The challenge for 5MOBS was to make sure this convenience was part of a genuinely educational, intellectually enriching experience. These are the essential aspects of 5MOBS's philosophy of education: Distance Learning Online distance learning occurs when the student and teacher are not in the same location and depends on the Internet to facilitate communication. At 5MOBS this is an asynchronous process — there are no set times for classes; you learn according to your own schedule. Active Self-Learning Learning is an individual process, and Learners have different needs and require different styles to facilitate successful learning. The 5MOBS graduate gains full exposure to the fundamentals of the Buddhadharma and a firm grasp of current research and best practices. One-on-one Faculty Mentoring At 5MOBS the teaching process does not take place in a large lecture hall or even around a seminar table. The teaching at 5MOBS is a one-on-one process, and that is why it is called Mentoring
I encourage interested parties to write to the FMOBS through the site an people should feel free to ask questions here if so inclined. I’m a participant in the program and have a pretty good idea of how we do things, both within the seminary but also in the order in general.