[Blog] Doing Buddhism at Brandon University

By Alison Marshall, Professor, Brandon University

About this Assignment

The Reflection Paper and Art Piece is part of a second year online asynchronous Buddhism course at Brandon University. It requires students to choose a Buddhist doctrine, express it with a piece of art, and then elaborate on the artistic process and how the composition expresses the doctrine in a critical reflection paper. 

“Poetry Expresses What is Intent Upon the Mind” 詩言志 (pinyin: shiyan zhi) a phrase from the Classic of Documents (Shang Shu Zhengyi, 13) in Chinese literary history provides part of the inspiration for this assignment. Through rhythm and imagery, poetry is able to capture and communicate profound ideas and feelings that might otherwise be left unexpressed. Students were not restricted to using just poetry to communicate a doctrine. Their art piece could also be a painting, sculpture, or piece of music. 

My research and pedagogical approach also inspired me to create this assignment. Texts and traditions are important but it is difficult to understand them unless you are exposed to the lived practice of a religion. Students not only practiced communicating a Buddhist doctrine through art, they also meditated and reflected on that experience of meditation and its relationship to doctrine in a weekly forum.

Published on this blog you will find a selection of the best student compositions and reflections. The assignments exceeded my expectations and demonstrated student excellence, enthusiasm and success with practice-based learning, especially during COVID-19 lockdown. We are very grateful to the Canadian Journal of Buddhist Studies and Ngoc Le for editorial assistance, support and for providing a space for these art pieces and reflections.


Shang Shu Zheng Yi 尚 書 札 義 (True Meaning of the Classic of  Documents). Sibu Beiyao 四 部 備 要 Ed. Shanghai: Zhonghua shuju, 1927-1935.

Dr. Alison R. Marshall teaches and researches Asian religion and history at Brandon University, and is the author of three monographs on migrant religiosity (including Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism) in Canada. Marshall is also a director on the board of the Winnipeg Chinese Cultural and Community Centre.

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