24 01 2010

41. Religious Studies personal statement

I find it inspiring to be in the presence of other people who are seeking understanding of themselves, and the most intense experience I can remember is when I attended a Baptism where I witnessed the transformation people would undergo. In addition to these personal experiences I have found my A-levels in Religious Studies and Philosophy to be absorbing because of their ability to provoke a reflection upon my own beliefs. I would like to study religion at degree level because I hope this would further my personal understanding, and my knowledge of other religious perspectives.

I have been particularly interested in the comparisons and contrasts between Christian and Buddhist religious views and practices. This requires an understanding that is absent from any projection of our own beliefs and values onto what we think ‘the other’ may be. When dealing with other cultures, I believe that it is easy to mistake them for something that we hope, or fear them to be. I think it is important to have an accurate, well informed idea about the major religious traditions that affect our lives in the increasingly globalised world.

Moreover, I based my Religious Studies coursework on the relevance of religious experience to justify our beliefs. It included an evaluation that encompassed psychological and sociological explanations, and included a consideration of logical criticisms which were made up against arguments from experience.

I wrote an article for the college newspaper which provided a short introduction to Amnesty International. There has since been an Amnesty group formed within the college and we are now preparing for Protect the Human Week in October 2008. Planning for this week has required some of the skills that are useful for a degree particularly when it comes to communicating with others, working to a deadline, and retrieving appropriate information for a particular topic. By my own initiative I have also entered the Student Union elections because I was dissatisfied with the progress made inside the college last year.

During this year’s Fresher’s Fair, I attempted to create a multi-faith group for people who were interested in inter-faith dialogue. The response was disappointing; however I am now re-introducing Peace Mala to the college which invites people from much broader backgrounds to celebrate what makes us different from each other. Because of these interests I am applying for courses in university where there is likely to be a multi-cultural student body.

Most of what I know has originated from books because I enjoy being self-directed and disciplined in my study. I wish to read religious literature and analyse the context it has been written in because I am interested to see if the context reflects in the literature itself. I think this is important because I believe that without understanding the historical context we can not fully appreciate the texts we are reading.

In support of my study of Buddhism at A2, I have read books by Thich Nhat Hanh, and Damien Keown that include The Heart of Understanding, and Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction. Both have provided me with a stimulating introduction to Buddhism and I have been particularly interested in Thich Nhat Hanh’s commentaries on the Heart Sutra. His commentaries are extremely clear and have certainly whet my appetite to learn more about this fascinating religion.

I take an enthusiastic interest in hiking. My most recent hike involved conquering the three highest peaks in the UK, certainly the most challenging thing I have done outside of college as it took an unlikely form of stamina to achieve, namely the mental kind. These walks cultivated our friendship as we worked together, progressing to our next destination on the map. In the summer of 2009, we are scheduled to complete a long-distance walk for our charity of choice for which I have chosen Oxfam. The course I am applying for is well suited to all my interests and I look forward to student life.

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