Dharma Gates is a non-profit organization committed to making intensive meditation practice accessible to young people of all backgrounds. Our programming introduces people to retreat environments while contextualizing these experiences in a way that makes sense in modern life. Participants have opportunities to learn and practice both classical and interpersonal meditation. We bridge individual and interpersonal practices to give an experiential understanding of the relationship between meditation practice and ethical behavior. In doing so, we offer firsthand experiences of intensive meditation practice as a powerful tool to confront the social, environmental, and economic challenges of today’s world. We acknowledge the reality of individual transformation without denying the existence of systemic oppression. All of our events are accessible to low-income participants through offering low-cost programming and generous financial-aid. This is made possible by donations, grants, and fundraising.
Student meditation groups face a variety of difficulties around acquiring funding, maintaining student leadership over time, inclusivity, or inadequate support from mentors or qualified meditation instructors. Dharma Gates acts as a third-party organization that supports student meditation groups in all of the above through connecting student leaders to one another, to practice centers, and to resources within the broader meditation community that might otherwise be inaccessible.
In addition to the expressed need of meditation groups, there is also a mental health epidemic college campuses. For example, surveys report that 40% of students experienced crippling depression and 61% experienced ‘overwhelming anxiety’ during the past year [ACHA]. This demonstrates a need for re-designing and re-evaluation of the culture on college campuses more broadly. Mindfulness and meditation practices, particularly ethically grounded and intensive practice, may provide an important tool in the healing this culture.
Many students remain suspicious of serious engagement with contemplative practice, as it is widely--but mistakenly--believed that Buddhism is a form of escapism. Some of this skepticism emerges because many Dharma communities have failed to respond to frameworks with which young people are learning to think in, such as environmentalism, cultural appropriation, intersectionality, and social justice activism.
Contemplative practice needs to be contextualized in a way that connects with the needs of young people and answers their doubts. This also involves recognizing that there are damaging trends within Buddhist communities that need to be recognized, addressed, and brought into conversation with these discourses.
Dharma Gates aims to support existing student groups in a variety of ways:
Through connecting student leaders to peers, opening doors to discussion and collective strategizing about how to best meet the needs of students.
Introducing students who already have a regular meditation practice or serious interest in meditation to intensive environments and retreat practice.
Assisting in organizing powerful programming and events on college campuses.
Contextualizing contemplative practice as a powerful tool to promote social good.
Introducing students to academic literature addressing common misconceptions about meditation practice and the ongoing debates within Dharma communities globally.
Giving students opportunities to share their experiences via our Student Blog.
Providing curated, high-quality resources to all dharma practitioners through our website Dive Into the Ocean and our resources page.
While meditation has become popular, most practitioners never achieve the level of development that is possible. Transformation is not only available to monks living in the mountains of Tibet, but also to people embedded in the daily challenges of 21st century life. We use Buddhist language in our programs to both respect the cultures from which these practices come and to acknowledge the possibility for transformation that they offer. Dharma Gates offers a bridge from casual meditation practice to formal training through workshops,retreats, and online community.
Buddhism is a creative practice which has undergone innovation every time it spreads to new lands. We seek to encourage dialogue across disciplines, including contemplative traditions, neuroscience, critical theory and philosophy, and social and environmental justice. These are powerful conversations we hope to join and accelerate. We will produce a variety of curricula and resources to encourage new ways to engage with contemplative practices. Simultaneously, we recognize that 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.
The Interpersonal And Social
In our globalizing 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 interconnected, often unjust, systems. We must account for this in the way we practice and participate in the world. In this, meditation can be a social and political practice which promotes not just individual but collective liberation.
Our commitment to direct action for the benefit of others is reflected in the following components of our organizational structure:
Programming. We promote interpersonal meditation as a tool to deepen relationships and promote authenticity amidst a culture of shallowness and distrust. Our workshops and programming are designed to include, open to, and face the real and difficult situations in the world. We help contextualize how meditation can be integral to creating compassionate, determined, and resilient people in the face of adversity.
Affordability. We are committed to affordable programming and transparency about our organizational structure. We strive to make our programs both affordable and accessible to underrepresented communities. We are always open to critical feedback, especially with regards to ways in which we can be more accessible to individuals of different social backgrounds, especially communities of color and other underrepresented groups.
Non-Human Animal Rights. Dharma Gates is committed to minimizing the harm we cause to the other beings that we share our planet with. In order to actualize this, we put effort into minimizing the consumption and use of all animal-derived products. None of our funding will be used for the purchase of eggs, dairy, meat, leather, or other non-vegan products. We choose to do this because these products are produced through the direct exploitation of another individual’s body. In this way, we define ourselves as a vegan not-for-profit organization. This being said, many of the monasteries we work with do serve dairy and eggs and may use other non-vegan products, and we are grateful for their participation in the programs we offer. We partner with these centers while maintaining our commitment to animal rights and environmental stewardship.