Professor brings unique light to religious studies

Aimee Burch

Nikki Bado’s Intro to World Religions class is

a lot of fun and games.

But not traditional games.

Instead of

“Monopoly,“ students

play “Mormonopoly. And instead

of “Risk,” they

play “Missionary Conquest. There is even

a game called “Vatican where players aim

to rise in the papal hierarchy.

“Last time I played, I got to be

Pope,“ Bado said.

The use of games in this manner ties in with

Bado’s most recent publication titled “Toying with God: The World

of Religious Games and Dolls,” written with Rebecca Sachs


Freshman business major Hayley Ross finds this

approach interesting. While the class has not covered the religion,

“Missionary Conquest” is based on the lessons and core of the


“The goal was to go on as many mission

trips as possible, and get others to follow you,“ Ross

said. “It gave insight into that religion and provided

fun insights.“

Bado continues to find unique ways to further

bridge the gap between the classroom and life on the outside. To

help students understand how Hindus view their different gods and

goddesses, Bado instructed students to think of how they view

themselves versus how their mom versus how their friends would view

them, bringing home the idea that we all view things


Students may soon see lessons emerging from

Bado’s most recent research. Bado and graduate research assistant

Eric Waite spent close to six months in Japan studying Kukai,

founder of the Shingon branch of Buddhism.

“Kukai lived in the eighth century, but

is still considered an important cultural

figure,“ Bado said. He was a

philosopher, architect, calligrapher and his teachings are still

being used by modern figures today.“

Through a grant from the U.S.-Japan

Foundation, Bado and Waite spent from Jan. 17 through July 1

studying with research fellows at the Nanzan Institute for Religion

and Culture. They also conducted field work at Koysan Mountain, the

headquarters of Shingon Buddhism. The team gathered close to 500 GB

of photo and film footage.

“The goal is to develop a

high-definition documentary on one of the most famous parts of

Kukai’s story, which is the events around the Shikoku

Pilgrimage,“ Bado said.

The Shikoku Pilgrimage is a strenuous 800-mile

trek around Shikoku Island that draws more than 100,000 people from

all over the world. Bado said people do it for a number of reasons

ranging from vacationing hikers to those seeking personal and/or

familial healing

“It can be an intensely moving and

healing experience,“ Bado said of the

journey. “We’re trying to get at the folklore that

arises connected to a place, like places where it is believed Kukai

dug a well overnight with just his staff.“

While Bado did not complete the entire

pilgrimage, Waite did. Bado said he saw more than 88 temples

compared to her 20.

Bado continues to conduct research and

bring these cultures home. In the meantime, though, her students

will continue to play games like the “Buddha


“It’s impossible to

win,“ she said.