San Diego State University’s Buddhist Fraternity Growing Rapidly in US
A Buddhist co-ed fraternity at San Diego State University (SDSU) in California, which is considered to the nation’s first, is developing quickly and getting national attention from different schools. According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Delta Beta Tau, which was founded in 2015, is going to open another chapter at the University of California, San Diego or UC San Diego next year. Moreover, the Dharma Bums Buddhist Temple in downtown San Diego, which helped to form the fraternity itself, is expanding and hopes to move into an empty 1920s-era Swedenborgian Church in University Heights.
“I knew this would take off,” said Jeff Zlotnik, co-founder of the Dharma Bums Buddhist Temple and advisor to the Delta Beta Tau co-ed fraternity at SDSU. “I knew the students would love this, but what I didn’t expect was that the students would take so much ownership of it and so much pride in it so quickly.” (The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Buddhistdoor Global columnist Harsha Menon wrote in a past article that the fraternity was founded by Zlotnik and Abby Cervantes, a local preschool teacher, who had previously founded a society at an art school in San Francisco. Jeff and Abby had invited some students who previously attended meditation sessions at the Dharma Bums Temple with the idea of introducing Buddhism at SDSU. Journalism and New Media student Sarah Walsh currently serves as the president of Delta Beta Tau and the sorority Delta Beta Theta, which together form the co-ed fraternity.
The members of the fraternity began meeting weekly at the university’s library in 2015, and the first pledge program started last spring. The latest class of 17 pledges recently joined the fraternity, bringing the membership to 51. “It was beautiful because the students this last semester really were more involved in running it,” said Zlotnik. (The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Members are not necessarily Buddhist, but are interested in Buddhism and meditation. Activities include sharing and fostering common goals, teaching leadership skills, enjoying social events, performing community services, and much more. They also visit four Buddhist temples over a 10-week period, where students stay overnight, in order to become more familiar with cultures associated with Buddhism. These temples include the Dharma Bums Temple, the Zen Center of San Diego in Pacific Beach, the Metta Forest Monastery in Valley Center, and the Pao Fa Temple in Irvine.
“I have never seen a program more effective in producing genuinely good people, ready to go out and spread their kindness in their communities and further the world around them,” Evihn Vaszily, a student and frat member, wrote in a letter to SDSU administrators. (The San Diego Union-Tribune)
“I am certain that SDSU students who are a part of this community, and even those who are simply touched by it, will leave college ready to be incredibly positive representations of the university, in both contributions to the world around them and in the discipline they put into whatever practice they may pursue,” Vaszily further noted.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Jeff also has been contacted by people interested in starting their own chapters in Florida, Chicago, New York, and four other cities.
Buddhist frat grows as Dharma Bums seek new home (The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Related features from Buddhistdoor Global
The Buddha Goes to College