Each year, the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship awards $5,000 seed grants to fund the launch or early-stage growth of a project, program, or venture. Dharma Gates run by Aaron Stryker ’19, Miles Bukiet ’11, Nicholas Antonellis ’17, was one of this year’s winners. This is their first report since receiving funding from the PCSE in March 2019.
Dharma Gates is a Gap Semester Program that aims to connect college students to meditation centers in the United States for several months of meditation training and communal living. The guiding mission is to make deep meditation practice more accessible to young people and to formulate it in a way that makes sense in the context of the demands of contemporary college life.
In the process of working on Dharma Gates, the necessity of creating a separate but overlapping organization, the Intercollegiate Meditation Network, became clear. The IMN connects existing student-run meditation communities at Universities across the country to foster community, collaboration, and opportunities to share knowledge and pool resources.
We had our inaugural retreat for the Intercollegiate Meditation Network in January. Students from Harvard College, Syracuse University, University of Rochester, Wesleyan, and University of Pennsylvania came together at Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji, a Zen monastery in Upstate New York for four days of meditation, interpersonal meditation, and workshopping.
Since then, my co-founder and our retreat leader, Miles Bukiet, has lead meditation and interpersonal meditation workshops at six colleges. The IMN facebook community has grown to include 60 students from fourteen colleges. We recently established partnerships with Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Roshi, the head of the Mountains and Rivers Order and Bo-Mi Choi, the director of the Cambridge Zen Center. We are excited about these connections and look forward to future collaboration. Last week, we received word from the Khyentse Foundation that they have agreed to grant us $6400 for ongoing work on Dharma Gates.
This summer we aim to finalize our website, begin a monthly newsletter, and hold a second intercollegiate retreat in August. Providing high-quality, in-person programs is our primary strategy of developing on the ground connections with students, gaining experience as facilitators, and generating interest in the kind of experiences Dharma Gates offers.
Rather than an individual practice, we view meditation as a tool to deepen relationships and build community. The kinds of connections that result from in-person workshops and retreats is part of what we hope to offer students who participate in Dharma Gates and the IMN. Relationships are our greatest asset. A value-driven, supportive community is part of what the IMN is uniquely able to provide young people.
Further goals are to finalize an advisory board, develop a formal membership model, and create curriculum of guided interpersonal meditation for student groups to use on their own.
For our gap semester program, our next steps are incorporation, meeting with lawyers to discuss insurance and liability, developing marketing materials, and visiting meditation centers across the US this fall to find several more centers that would be a good fit for the program.
We are grateful for all the support we have received from the Patricelli Center, the Khyentse Foundation and The Zen Studies Society. We are still fundraising and are currently working on another grant proposal to the Lenz Foundation.