Words and Sense: Contemplative Pedagogies in Academic Writing


  • Judith Simmer-Brown


Writing, Religious Studies, Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan Studies, Pedagogy, Contemplative Education


How do contemplative pedagogies inform learning skills such as academic writing? This article draws on the Tibetan Buddhist distinction between the literal meaning of words (drangdon) and the inner sense of those words (ngedon), from an account from the sacred biography of the Indian saint Naropa (956-1041), abbot of Nalanda University. This founding Naropa University professor has adapted these criteria from traditional Tibetan education for the contemporary secular classroom. Writing pedagogies that integrate third-person inquiry drawn from conventional academic research and first-person inquiry, the result of inner research, brings academic writing alive. The author outlines writing strategies that integrate these two methods of inquiry, including progressive assignments that distinguish among personal narrative, opinion, and insight in the development of first-person inquiry. Finally, the article addresses specific challenges in teaching contemplative academic writing, including evaluations and grading, cultivating critical perspectives, and supporting rigor with academic, contemplative methods in the university classroom.


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