Hola. I'm recently new to the forums, but the depth and richness of the community here prompted me to create an account rather quickly. About myself, I was raised in the Southern Baptist tradition of Protestant Christianity, and I must say I had quite a falling out with that religion as a whole during high school when I learned how cruel and uncompassionate its community could be when it learned that one of its youth was gay. I know Jesus was a nice guy and all, but I am convinced he would be sorely disappointed in the speech and behavior of his modern devotees. This disillusionment I had with the Christian community at the time and later questioning of Christian theology, in hindsight, turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it triggered a spiritual journey that eventually led me to the Buddha's Dhamma, something that resonates deeply with me.
More to the present, I'm currently an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN studying psychology/neuroscience, which I wish to continue in graduate school with a degree in Clinical Psychology focused on research and therapy for mood disorders (depression, bipolar, etc.). This summer, I've also been spending time learning more about the Dhamma, sampling Zen and Theravada, although ultimate settling on Theravada as the most authentic continuation of practice taught by the Buddha. [As a Southerner, this is mildly amusing since it is in known as Southern Buddhism]. I have also been blessed that in my investigations I have been accompanied by my fiancé, James, who is equally curious about this path I am following, having had his own difficulty with the Roman Catholic institution and theology in which his family raised him.
Deep breath. New subject:
Now, I do have one question for any of the "elders" here, and I am not sure if this is the proper place to ask such a thing (e.g., if I should use the "Theravada for the modern world" thread instead), but I would welcome any advice for an endeavor that a fellow student of mine and I wish to embark on this coming semester. Specifically, we are looking to form a Buddhist student organization at our university, which contains various Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu student groups and one non-religious meditation organization, but does not nor has ever had an outlet for Buddhist students to commune, meditate, and study together. I have some basic ideas for our organization, such as being non-sectarian and using a neutral name like the Vanderbilt Buddhist Circle (etc.), but beyond that, there's much more planning and work that needs to be done.
Last semester, I did speak with the head of the Office of Religious Life about these plans, and he has been extremely supportive, having offered to provide us with funding and welcoming us to sit on the Interfaith Council. Furthermore, I also know of and have visited local Buddhist lay groups that we could network with for planning activities throughout the year. Still, I'm unsure of how a Buddhist student-led organization would operate on a week-by-week basis and meet the needs of a university community, most of whom would be newcomers to Buddhadhamma that want to learn more about it rather than having already been raised in it and just seeking to further their practice and understanding with peers. Ideally, a Buddhist chaplain could guide us in this process, but I have no idea how to go about finding (or having the university hire) such a person.I bring this story to everyone here because
I'm sure this has been done many times before in many different places, and any tips, tricks, how-to books, or other resources that could help my friend and I in our effort to start up a new student organization and keep it relevant to a Buddhist-oriented/interested membership would be greatly appreciated.