CU students turn to Tibetan Buddhism for spirtiuality

by Caroline Murray, The Campus Press (Colorado Univ), Nov 19, 2006

Boulder offers variety of ways to worship, meditate

Boulder, CO (USA) -- Religious beliefs at CU run the gamut from mainstream faiths to more general spiritualism, but experts say Tibetan Buddhism is quickly gaining popularity among the college demographic.

According to Tibetan Buddhism, suffering exists because of desire - and the path to enlightenment is eliminating desire through meditation. By meditating, Buddhists believe they can lose the self and become one with nature.

"Students seem it be interested most in mainstream Christianity, but more people are being drawn to these nature religions," said Greg Johnson, a religious studies professor at CU.

Johnson said the attraction to these religions is a reaction to conservative religious trends.

"(Students) desire a spirituality that is more in tune with nature. They discover new horizons and start wondering 'who are these other people?'" Johnson said.

Lynn Ross-Bryant, also a religious studies professor at CU, said virtually every religion in existence is practiced here in Boulder. She, like Johnson, mentioned Tibetan Buddhism as an increasingly popular religion among students.

A common place for the Buddhists in Boulder to practice their religion is in the Boulder Shambhala Meditation Center, where people go to meditate and hear talks as well as gather socially.

Janet Solyntjes, the director of the center, said the Shambhala Meditation Center was a place to "enter a path of meditation and contemplation."

Solyntjes said there has been a steady growth of people interested in Buddhism all over the United States.

"They're seeking something for their stress," Solyntjes said. "They think there has to be something that can relieve their anxiety."

The Shambhala Center could also be a secular place. Solyntjes said many people just come to meditate and relax, and sometimes that leads them to Buddhism.

"I've done yoga and stuff before, and I love it just because it's so relaxing," said Mollie Calvani, a senior architecture major. "I don't really feel like I want to be Buddhist afterwards, but I guess it really depends on where you go."

Solyntjes said she thinks this is a growing trend because it is more visible to the public eye now than ever before. She said it is getting more and more common because doctors have been discovering the health benefits of meditating.

Meditating isn't for everybody, though.

"I can't sit still for that long," said Ashley Beard, a junior journalism major. "Plus, yoga is really tough and strenuous on your body."

Solyntjes said meditating takes dedication to get your mind to the right place.

"This isn't a new age quick fix," Solyntjes said. "It's a relationship between the mind and body, and it's not necessarily an easy thing."

Solyntjes said there are ex-Catholics that come to the center because they feel more welcome and like they can be more open there. She said Tibetan Buddhism is a science of the mind, a way of life and a sense of cleansing.

"Our minds are habituated in believing everything it thinks," Solyntjes said.