Over the course of his career, Flavio has developed a strong commitment to teaching. In total, he has taught more than a dozen different courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level at the universities of Virginia (2010-2012, 2017), Bern (2018-20), Jerusalem (2020-21), Fribourg (2021), and Basel (2022). Courses cover diverse topics such as: “Introduction to Buddhism,” Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism,” Introduction to Hinduism,” “The Tibetan Renaissance and the Tibetanization of Buddhism,” “The Great Perfection: Exploring Continuities and Ruptures in the World of Buddhism,” “Thinking about Meditation in Buddhism and Beyond,” “History and Practice of Meditation Mindfulness (sati): A Buddhist Practice and its Reception in Global Modernity,” “Introduction to the Study of Religion,” or “Theory and Methodology in the Study of Religion.”
Flavio is a firm believer in the virtues of rigorous philological and historical approaches in the study of religions. In his classes, students will learn to attend to a patient and slow reading of texts. Whether it is by exploring enigmatic teachings contained in Indo-Tibetan tantras or understudied philosophical traditions from the Italian South, his emphasis lies squarely on voices from communities that have been historically overlooked, marginalized, and disadvantaged.
At the same time, this attention to primary sources is balanced by an emphasis on larger philosophical questions. He wants his students to become integrative and synthetic thinkers, who can see connections in seemingly disparate information and draw on a wide range of knowledge to make arguments. In fact, research shows that the mind processes, stores, and retrieves knowledge not as a collection of facts but as a logically organized whole, a coherent conceptual framework with interconnected parts. As his courses progress, students gradually start to see the big picture of patterns, which allow them to articulate their own perspective. History, in this sense, becomes a visionary, forward-looking, and empowering endeavor.
Having been trained both at some of the world’s leading universities and in more traditional contexts (Buddhist monasteries, textual archives, living with locals, etc.), Flavio believes that humans learn best if they are personally touched by the material that they study. Unlike classical “instructivist” approaches to teaching, he sees learning as an experimental process, which initiates wherever the students are at the moment that he encounters them. New knowledge, quite intuitively, is always built upon the knowledge that was previously acquired, before they met me. Research shows that people are born learners with an insatiable curiosity. Think only of how we absorb and remember untold billions of details about our language, other people, objects, and things we know how to do. He creates a learning environment that explicitly encourages his students to rely on their existing mental models (and sometimes even their biases and judgments) so that they become active participates in their cognitive growth.
Ultimately, Flavio's classes are intended to gradually lead his students through a process of cognitive growth by teaching them more about themselves, their learning habits, and their own mental models. Exposing them to uncertainties, contradictions, and conflicts helps students realize that often there is no one superior truth, nor can there be, given the nature of rational knowledge. This realization should gradually lead them out of dualistic thinking and through multiplistic conceptions of knowledge. Once they can embrace this type of uncertainty as legitimate and inherent in the nature of knowledge, students can then mature into a more realistic and relativistic conception of knowledge. This being said, the ultimate objective of all of his courses is to help students find their voice as they advance beyond relativism to make tentative commitments and progress toward cognitive maturity.
Dear Flavio, This was actually one of the courses I enjoyed the most in my degree. Your attitude to the subject and the discussions in our meetings were very interesting, and I really appreciate your effort on getting these super interesting and well informed guest speakers to talk to us in the last couple of classes.