Around this time last year, when the tenuous and uncertain transition to spring usually makes me want to feel time speed up—right through the last of the dreary, cold March days—I found myself wanting nothing more than to put the brakes on the incessant passage of time. I had the great fortune of being admitted to the two dream masters programs I had applied for: a Masters of Theological Studies concentrating in the Philosophy of Religion at Harvard Divinity School and a Masters in Applied Psychology at Columbia. Although I primarily felt just tremendous gratitude for the opportunity to engage in either of these wonderful programs, I was also facing a significant decision that would likely have very different implications for my future.
Whenever anyone asks me why I chose Harvard Divinity School, I think back to those few weeks in March when I stood at the proverbial fork in the road and what swayed my ultimate decision to attend HDS. Although I made all of the rational steps towards arriving at a calculated decision; making pros and cons lists, talking to family and professors, etc., what bore most of my decision was listening to the indefatigable inner wisdom of my citta, a word of my own Buddhist tradition, which translates (wonderfully) to both “mind” and “heart.” And I am so happy that I did.
There was something intangible about HDS, that I had the chance to even just briefly sense during my tour and on admitted students day, which somehow both assured and excited me. It is the feeling that you are about to enter a community that will challenge you in every way: academically, spiritually, and emotionally, but somehow, at the same time, fortify you in all those regards as well. HDS is not just an opportunity to gain more knowledge in terms of “data”(although you will certainly do that!) but it is also an opportunity to gain wisdom, about yourself, your tradition, and, not at all hyperbolically, life and humanity at large.
I recently had a friend from another Harvard school visit me on the HDS campus who said walking onto the grounds of Harvard Divinity School felt like “being hugged for its own sake.” Somehow, that logically incoherent description helps to explain the ineffable essence of HDS: a wonderful and challenging Harvard education, with a genuine, joyous, curious hug.
So, while all the “right” reasons for choosing HDS—the world class education and faculty, the opportunities the degree would afford me, etc.—definitely helped persuade me to come to Harvard, what allowed me to fully take off down this road was listening to my mind/heart which sensed that HDS was not just a school but a heart as well.