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Lions Roar : September 2016
What is Delta Beta Tau? Delta Beta Tau is a co-ed Buddhist fra- ternity at San Diego State University. The members are not necessarily Bud- dhist, nor is it our effort to make them Buddhist. Our intention is to use the teachings of the Buddha, specifically the six paramitas—generosity, moral- ity, patience, diligence, concentration or meditation, and wisdom—as a basis so students can integrate these teachings into their lives. We’re open to all religions and open to everyone. Has this ever been done before? From research and what I’ve been told, this is the first. What has been your own journey with Buddhism and community? I got interested in Buddhism in college 21 years ago. I studied Zen for years and later moved to Taiwan and lived at a monastery in a Buddhist college. I’m not ordained; I really wanted to understand how to share the teachings of the Buddha in a Western culture. After 11 months, my teacher said, “How are you doing?” and I said, “I love it. You’re in robes. You don’t really have money, no wallet, no keys, no phone. Life is wonderful.” And she said, “Great, now it’s time for you to leave.” She realized the best way to inte- grate these teachings into Western culture was to come back and begin. I did, and at the end of 2006, we opened the Dharma Bum Temple in downtown San Diego, which is a bridge to introduce Buddhist practice to local folks. We’re not a specific lineage; I often use the phrase “training wheels”—we are a space with different classes in different Buddhist traditions to help those brand new to Buddhism get comfortable with the teachings. Why did you decide to start a fraternity? Six years ago we converted a back room in a store into a meditation zendo and hosted classes where we’d see lots of college students, so I would see the stress and pain they were going through. That’s part of college and growing up and maturing—I can appreciate that. But it doesn’t have to be so extreme. I realized these students were at a perfect place in their life to learn these teachings and it hit me that we should start a fraternity on campus. So we started Delta Beta Tau in 2015. We had 12 people our first meeting, and the next thing you know, we’re getting forty students. At the end of that semester, we announced we would start our inaugural pledge class, who would meet a second time each week and get involved with com- munity service, prison outreach, homeless outreach, go on retreats, etc. We then initi- ated 32 students into Delta Beta Tau. What form does Delta Beta Tau take now? This fall, we’ll have our second pledge class and are looking at acquiring a house on campus for students to live in. We’ll also have meditations open to anyone. Q&A A Buddhist Fraternity? Delta Beta Tau cofounder JEFF ZLOTNIK on living the Greek life—for the benefit of all. JEFFZLOTNIK What impact has Delta Beta Tau had on its members? After meditation, I’ll introduce a topic from the core Buddha teachings and students will share their thoughts on how it impacts their lives. They’ve been lectured at all day, so when you give them the topic of forgiveness or anger or compassion or generosity, their answers are beautiful. I’ve heard stu- dents talk about how stressed they are and how meditation class is the only time they slow down, or how instead of turning to bars or alcohol, they would rather come to sangha and meet with everybody else. How has it impacted you personally? How I’ve seen students’ lives transform continues to reinforce my own practice. When you see students cry and open up, though you’re the one holding the space for that to happen, it’s them making the group so special. To me, that’s what sangha is, that’s what fraternity is. I’m very hopeful that something like Delta Beta Tau can have a huge impact, not just in San Diego, but all over. ♦ Delta Beta Tau cofounder Jeff Zlotnik wasn’t in this photo of the 2015 inaugural pledge class— so he Photoshopped himself in. That’s him beaming happily in the middle of the group. LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2016 17