From Tibet to Andover, Andrew Housiaux Seeks the Roots of Truth

On a balmy summer’s day in New York City, Andrew Housiaux and a crowd of 60,000 waited in Central Park in hopes to see the Dalai Lama. Housiaux, now Instructor in Philosophy and Religion at Andover, was then a rising junior at Columbia University. After an hour of anxious anticipation, the Dalai Lama finally emerged. Instead of addressing the crowd with a speech or prayer, he “raised his hands above his head and pressed his palms together and smiled,” said Housiaux. Housiaux said that he remembered this moment as a defining point in his life. Some students know Housiaux as a RelPhil teacher, a coach or a house counselor, but few know of his journey across Southeast Asia when he lived with monks, climbed mountains and researched Buddhist pilgrimages and traditions. Housiaux’s interest in philosophy and religion arose in high school in Wisconsin. “Due to the absence of a religious studies class, I convinced a teacher to allow me to do an independent study project focusing on religion,” he said. After Housiaux graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts in Religion, he took a gap year to pursue his interest in Buddhist and Tibetan culture. Housiaux traveled to Tibet, lived in a Buddhist monastery and spent four months learning about Buddhism and the Tibetan language. He then spent two more months in the mountains of Nepal and Tibet researching Buddhist sacred sites and traditions. He recalled in particular his journey to Mount Kailash in the Himalayas, a prominent location in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain mythology. Housiaux trekked across the mountain alongside religious pilgrims. He said that the trip remained captured in his memory with a “particularly poignant note because, despite the distance from the Beijing capital, Chinese military forces still patrolled the area.” Housiaux then traveled with over 4,000 other Buddhist monks to a monastery in the south of India. After a 57-hour journey, Housiaux and the monks reached Bodhgaya, another sacred location in Buddhism, where shortage of rooms forced Housiaux to sleep on the roof. Housiaux said that he learned to embody this “come what may” mentality from his experiences at these monasteries. With his newfound knowledge, Housiaux returned to America and continued his education at the Harvard Divinity School. He graduated with a Masters in Theology in 2006. At Harvard, Housiaux met his mentor, Diane Moore, a former teacher at Phillips Academy, who encouraged Housiaux to apply for a position at Phillips Academy. Housiaux heeded her advice and joined the faculty in 2007. “I suppose I was the only applicant available,” Housiaux joked. Housiaux said that he entered the realm of academia because “ I love the life of the mind and believe in the transformative and humanizing power of education.” He continued, “At a place like Phillips Academy, I’m able to engage with thoughtful students, live with them and think seriously about how to make the world a better place.” In his Andover classes, Housiaux still uses the values and knowledge he learned from the Buddhist monks. He said that one of the most important values for learning is debate. “Debate is a major method of learning and inquiry,” said Housiaux. “As much as possible I try to incorporate discussion and personal reflection while engaging with primary texts.” Housiaux continued, “We learn by translating these [moral values] into concepts that are relevant to our lives.”