Dharma Gates is a gap semester program aiming to introduce young people to intensive meditation practice as a tool to alleviate their own suffering as well as the suffering of others. We support a view of meditation as inextricably linked to ethical cultivation and as a powerful tool to confront the social, environmental, and economic challenges of today’s world. The program is ten weeks long and runs twice per year. Participants will spend two months in intensive residential training at a Zen Monastery on the East Coast of the United States with a group of five other young people. There they will have a taste of the transformational potential of intensive meditation training. The program also involves two weeks of workshopping and retreats with a larger group, in which retreat leader Miles Bukiet as well as a variety of other speakers and facilitators will introduce students to interpersonal meditation and a number of other critical topics in academic and Dharma communities today, including engaged Buddhism, contemplative neuroscience, and eco-dharma.
Instead of shying away from difficult questions of appropriation, inclusivity, and cross-cultural exchange, we aim to acknowledge both the complexity systemic oppression and the reality of individual liberation. We ensure all of our events are accessible to low-income students through offering low-cost programming and generous financial-aid, supported by donations, grants, and fundraising.
Our values can be expressed as follows:
Deepening Into Practice
Meditation has become popular, but most practitioners never achieve the level of development that is possible. Transformation is not just available to monks on mountaintops in Tibet, but to people in the 21st century wrestling with the challenges of our times. We use Buddhist language in our programs to both respect the cultures from which these practices came from and to acknowledge the very real possibility of transformation they offer. The IMN offers a bridge from casual meditation practice to formal training environments through workshops and retreats which offer a taste of retreat practice as well as a context for engaging which tradition respectfully and deliberately. This is a way to combat a culture of shallowness, of avoiding the reality of our experience and our lives, of skimming over the surface.
Connecting And Innovating
One of the reasons young people so rarely embark on serious meditation practice is lack of community. This is something we will change, through giving program participants the opportunity to form long term connections with like-minded peers in retreat settings. We promote interpersonal meditation as a tool with which deepen relationships and promote authenticity amidst a culture of shallowness, tribalism, and distrust.
We recognize Buddhism as a radically creative practice which has undergone major innovation every time it spread to new lands. We seek to encourage dialogue between a variety of knowledge systems, including contemplative traditions, neuroscience, critical theory and philosophy, and social and environmental justice. These are powerful conversations we hope to introduce people to and accelerate. We hope eventually to produce a variety of curricula and resources for new ways to engage with contemplative practices.
Simultaneously, we recognize that, historically, contemplative traditions have been marginalized within the Western intellectual tradition. We refuse to minimize or downplay the potential for transformation that these traditions offer, and encourage students to find out for themselves just how powerful contemplative practices can be.
Engaging And Growing
In our globalized world, we are enmeshed in both local and global community, and our actions affect people across the planet. We are dependent on and participate in massive, often unjust, systems. We must account for this in the way we practice and participate in the world. To become aware of our dependency on others is the first step in taking responsibility for our impact.
In the 21st century, meditation can be a social and political practice which promotes not just individual but collective liberation. To shape the dialogue around how contemplative practice enters the collegiate world with the aim of shifting the current collegiate culture of mindless achievement towards sincere engagement, meaningful contribution, and personal growth.
Taking On Leadership
Traditionally, the insights yielded in contemplative practice are meant to be embodied and lived for the benefit of others. We hope to build an organization that represents these values through radical transparency about our organizational structure and a commitment to affordable programming. We aim to create a support structure for student leadership at universities stewarding their own meditation communities, helping them to facilitate workshops and events and supporting them in their practice. In order to be consistent with our values of nonviolence and compassion for other beings, our organization is officially a vegan organization, although some of the monasteries we work with do serve dairy and eggs, and we are grateful for their participation in the programs we offer.
In the long-term, an organization with significant student membership gains lobbying power on an institutional level to effect structural changes in how collegiate life and culture is organized and administered. Dharma Gates aims to change the way people relate to themselves, each other, and the world. We want to give students the tools to become the leaders we need in the 21st century to transform society at its core.