A Portal to the World: Waseda’s Opportunities for International StudyThu, Jul 9, 2020
After travelling a great distance across the globe to reach Tokyo, it did not cross my mind that I would leave Japan to study abroad! In addition to Waseda’s nearly innumerable opportunities for student life and academic support on campus, the University invites students to broaden their perspectives and deepen their research by travelling to other lands. I hadn’t planned to come to study in Tokyo, to then research in another country – but this is what I ended up doing, and it was a magnificent experience that I highly recommend.
One day I am walking to campus, passing convenience stores and the bright orange arch of the Shinto temple across the street. Later in the week I find myself in a jungle, surrounded by a plethora of verdancy. Sprawling banyans, cashew-fruit and sandalwood trees majestically stretch their leafy branches in the hot, wet air. The locals say that the peacocks slumber atop the coconut palms at night. Vibrantly colored birds chirp and flit above the foliage that hides the snakes and the snake temples in this place of “God’s Own Country.” This is the state of Kerala, hugging the southwestern coastline of the Indian subcontinent.
In my application to Waseda’s graduate program, my research proposal traced Indian spiritual themes prevalent in contemporary Japanese life. In order to narrow the scope of the topic, my infinitely helpful mastermind of a supervisor suggested me to focus only on India. It followed that I would undertake field research, and so off I went to organize my travels with the different departments and thereafter jaunted my way across several seas.
Indian spirituality is rich and colorful, with a broad range of practices for the multifaceted and radiant faces of the gods and goddesses. There are millions of forms of the divine, and Hindu belief also holds cows as holy. It is auspicious to feed a cow, and the majority of the Hindu population is vegetarian. Cows are worshiped in specific worship, or puja, the general term for a ritual or ceremony. On this sunny March morning in rural Kerala, I had the opportunity to participate in the sacred cow puja to welcome the arrival of three revered milk-givers.
Preparations had begun at 5 am. The Hindu priest sat cross-legged on the floor of the cowshed, creating a geometric pattern on the ground. Between his fingers he deftly sifted sacred powders of yellow turmeric, scarlet turmeric, scented white ash and black charcoal into precise lines and boxes. In the lengthy introduction to the main ceremony, he chanted prescribed mantras according to a specific intonation and pronunciation. The worshiping of the cows would not begin until several hours later.
Two dark pregnant cows and one white calf arrived by truck around 10. It took the better part of an hour to get them out of the truck and onto the ground, which the gardener and handy-man managed with yellow ropes and exquisite grace. Even at the most precarious moments, threatened by the sharp horns of the feistiest dark mother, they smiled and laughed easily. The more dangerous it became, the wider their grins. The warm, easy-going and friendly nature of Keralans is contagious and unparalleled.
The main ceremony of the cow puja commenced. The three beautiful bovines were garlanded with flowers, offered fruits, sweets, and sandalwood paste at the eyebrow center. The priest chanted mantras, waving an oil lamp and fragrant incense before them. Performing this special ritual of the wish-fulfilling cow as the Goddess Kamadhenu promises peace, positivity and prosperity for the land and for all present.
Perhaps the three blessings granted by the cow puja have manifested in my continued studies at Waseda. I certainly keep being inspired and supported by the multitude of opportunities that our excellent University presents. Waseda’s mission pledges to “contribute to the scholarship of the world,” and to encourage students to “be active in the world at large.” It is clear that the Univeristy fulfills this mission a thousand-fold.
For more information on how you can study abroad, please check out the CIE (Center for International Education) and the Waseda Research portal for Overseas Research Travel Grants. Be sure to first check about regulations related to COVID-19.
*This article was written and contributed by the following student.
Linda Teresa Klausner
Graduate School of International Culture and Communication Studies