Episode 22 – Mushrooms for Enlightenment or Why Buddhism is Like Shrek: A Conversation about Teaching with Sangseraima Ujeed


In this conversation with Sangseraima Ujeed, Assistant Professor of Tibetan Buddhism at the University of Michigan, she talks about teaching in a Public University as a practising Buddhist, the draw to teach and grow students in the knowledge of her native Mongolian language, and how she carefully works through primary texts with her students. An avid forager she hopes to build courses that bring students out into nature and sees the potential of Buddhist theories and concepts to build resilience, tolerance and alternative worldviews in her students.

Memorable Quotes

“What I really care about in my teaching, and I try to bring in as much as I can, is getting the students to engage with primary sources…we try to read about three or four texts from beginning to end.

“The style of writing is so alien to them. This is a fourth century text that writes in a specific way. It’s a commentarial literature genre which has its own thing. But at the end of it, they were like, we just read this thing from this period! And they felt proud.

“37 Practices of a Bodhisattva is 37 verses, about 37 practices. That part was really valuable because as we started reading the 37 Practices, the war in Ukraine broke out. So taking little chunks of it and conceptualizing the suffering of other beings and the inability to really actually do something, but to have to think about situations like that when they arise, we could really bring in real life situations.

“As a devoted forager, I would love to be able to take the students out into nature in the fall when species are abundant and just talk about the interconnectedness of an ecosystem whilst we go and forage and learn about the ecosystem or the forest and try to put that parallel to interconnectedness, what that looks like from the Buddhist position. In there with fungi, decomposition and the ecosystem, there’s a lot to be said also about rebirth.

Links and References

Sangseraima Ujeed https://lsa.umich.edu/asian/people/faculty/sujeed.html

Donald Lopez https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_S._Lopez_Jr.

Lopez Jr., Donald S. 2005. Critical Terms for the Study of Buddhism. University of Chicago Press. https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/C/bo3534242.html

Buddhaghosa, and Ñāṇamoli. 1976. The path of purification: (Visuddhimagga). Berkeley, CA [etc.]: Shambhala Publications. https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/PathofPurification2011.pdf

Dzatrul Ngawang Tenzin Norbu and Stagg, C. 2020. A Guide to the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva. Snow Lion.

“How mindfulness changes the emotional life of our brains”, a talk by Richard J. Davidson, (TEDxSanFrancisco) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CBfCW67xT8

Advanced Buddhist Meditation: The Investigation of Dr. Hebert Benson, MD. Russ Pariseau, USA, 2008. https://vimeo.com/248297652

Benjamin Brose,  https://lsa.umich.edu/asian/people/faculty/bbrose.html

Sisse Budolfsen, https://himalayanhermitage.com/

Tsongkhapa, https://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Tsongkhapa/TBRC_P64

Facebook Group, “I Love Wild Mushrooms” https://www.facebook.com/groups/730397800439930