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Dharma Bum Buddhist Temple closer to getting new home in University Heights



San Diego State University had a groundbreaking moment in 2015, it started the first-ever Buddhist fraternity on campus.

Not only did this fraternity show students how to meditate and find their inner peace, it also allowed them to go out into the community and explore different cultures; a lesson in humanities that many may have never ventured into before.

Those ideals are exactly what Delta Beta Tau is all about, and Jeff Zlotnik, a brother in the fraternity at University of Arizona student wanted to bring them to San Diego hoping that SDSU students would embrace it as well. And they did.

Zlotnik is also the co-founder of the decade-old Dharma Bum Temple; a small temple located in downtown San Diego.

But the dreams of bringing the community together made their way to light as an old church in University Heights became available and captured Zlotnik’s heart.

The proposed facility is a mission style church designed by famed architect Louis John Gill located at Campus and Tyler Avenues.

San Diego Gay  and Lesbian News (SDGLN) talked with Zlotnik about the Dharma Bum Buddhist Temple and his recent fundraising efforts to buy the church in University Heights.

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: What do you like most about the new church location?

Jeff Zlotnik: The new location in University Heights offers a central location for the people in our community and a great place for those who have never been to The Dharma Bum Temple to come visit.

Currently we operate The Dharma Bum Temple downtown and Buddha for You in the college area. This new location will give people easy freeway access to a place less crowded than downtown and not so far east as the college area. A lot of the people who come to meditation live in North Park, South Park, Hillcrest and Mission Hills so this is convenient.

For all of our North County friends, this is much more convenient for them as well. There are many people who love The Dharma Bum Temple but simply don’t want to go downtown and deal with traffic, parking, etc. We are also excited to bring our community into University Heights, as we feel our practice of meditation is very well received in this neighborhood. We know that this location will make it easier for those who have never done meditation to come in and learn the practice of meditation.

SDGLN: How will the new temple bring the community together?

Zlotnik: Since 2006, we have provided the community with a safe and comfortable environment for people in the community to come together.

We have always been open to people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, abilities and religious views.  We have three board members who are members of the LGBTQ community.

To be able to offer a free space for people to focus on the teachings of compassion is needed in our community now more than ever. When we can all sit in silence together, open our hearts together and be of service together, we begin to create change together.

SDGLN: Why was it important to expand the Dharma Bum Buddhist Temple?

Zlotnik: The Dharma Bum Temple is simply too small for the amount of people we have that attend.

We have been out of space for many years, but never found the right location for us to move. We believe if we can bring more people together, then this will have a greater impact in our community.

We want to be able to offer more classes in addition to having multiple classes each night. We have operated Buddha for You for six years in the college area. We have a meditation community that gathers there for free classes twice a week with about 40 people in each class.

This new location will allow us to move these classes and our classes for kids into the current Dharma Bum Temple schedule.

SDGLN:  Will the exterior of the building remain the same?

Zlotnik: We do not have any plans to change the exterior building. We have great appreciation and respect for the use of the Swedenborgian Church and want to honor what it has accomplished since being built in 1927. We feel honored to have the opportunity to continue to offer a spiritual practice in such a sacred space.

SDGLN: What will be added? 

Zlotnik: Our intention is not to add much to the space structurally, but get in and use it as it now. We will be adding a gift shop downstairs which will function in a similar manner as Buddha for You has for 16 years.

We will also be building a meditation space downstairs in addition to the main meditation hall that will be upstairs. We will eventually end up with 3 meditation areas and be able to hold up to 300 people in meditation at one time. 

SDGLN:  Any final thoughts on the project? . 

Zlotnik: Since 2006, The Dharma Bum Temple has operated on a budget of about $35,000 a year. Everything we do is free, we have no paid staff and function completely on volunteers. On October 29th, 2016 The Dharma Bum Temple made the decision to acquire the old church. Our offer to buy the church was accepted and we are currently in escrow with the plan to close on February 14th.

We started a capital campaign to secure the property and in only 94 days we have raised $448,769 from 1,001 people! This is truly amazing and we are beyond grateful for all the support.

We have come a long way, but still must raise another $41,231 by February 14th to reach our goal for the down payment!

We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible. If we don’t buy the church, they have back-up offers from developers who will tear down the church and build more condos.

Please help us secure this property and create a peaceful place for our San Diego community.

To learn more and make a donation to support our effort to purchase the property, please visit the main campaign page by clicking HERE.

*Middle-left image courtesy of San Diego Union Tribune

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