Dharmic Students Reflect on Consecration of Dharmālaya

Two students standing in front of a Buddhist shrine greet President DeGioia

Students greet President DeGioia at the grand unveiling of the Dharmālaya

Earlier in November, during the day of Dīpāvali, Diwālī, Bandi Chhor Diwas (the Festival of Lights for Dharmic communities) the opening empowerment ceremonies – Dharmālaya Udghāṭana – for the Dharmālaya: Dharmic Meditation Center were celebrated on Georgetown’s main campus. 

The Dharmālaya is a new meditation center that welcomes members of the Dharmic spiritual traditions as well as people from other religious or spiritual traditions —and is the first of its kind on a U.S. campus. Below, the students involved in advocating for the space and planning the empowerment ceremonies share their reflections of what it meant to them to see their work realized. 

Student stands with Jain priest in front of the Jain shrine

The Jain Blessing

The Dharmālaya opening ceremonies which took place during the shared holidays of the Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, and Hindu traditions were a historic moment not only for Georgetown University but for the world. As a student, it was powerful to participate in the opening of this historic space and to appreciate the many centuries-long journey that led to having a Dharmic meditation space on a Jesuit college campus. Beyond the historicity of the celebrations, it was amazing to inaugurate our space with the community, sharing with friends, elders, and teachers of all the Dharmic traditions. In the future, I hope this space can serve as a resource not only for Dharmic students on campus but for all Georgetown students to come and contemplate and reflect on their spiritual and academic journeys.    

Ojus Jain, SFS’22,
Interreligious Program Assistant,
Campus Ministry

Students sitting on a prayer mat, listening to a Kirtan, Sikh devotional singing

The Sikh Blessing

The creation of the Dharmālaya at Georgetown reflects a genuine commitment to the core values and principles that the institution has sought to embody throughout the University community. For one, it exemplifies its promise of Cura Personalis

In establishing a space for students of Dharmic faiths to practice their spirituality on campus, I believe Georgetown has shown that it cares for students from all backgrounds. For students like myself, the Dharmālaya will serve as a place to reflect and rejuvenate during tiring or difficult periods. This home away from home will undoubtedly support students’ ability to thrive on campus. At the same time, the Dharmālaya will foster interreligious dialogue, not only among the Sikh, Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist faith traditions but also across students of all religious backgrounds as they participate and immerse themselves in this new sacred space. I already saw this in action during the consecration of the Dharmālaya. As students, professors, and faculty members joined together to listen to Kirtan (Sikh devotional singing), I observed honest attempts to engage with and understand new perspectives. This filled me with pride and joy, knowing that the Sikh values that shaped my life were finally being seen and appreciated by others. And so, perhaps most importantly, the opening of the Dharmālaya is an indication that not only do Sikh, Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist students belong at Georgetown, but that we will be more visible in the years to come. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for the Dharmālaya and the Dharmic community on campus. 

Sargun Kaur, SFS’23,
President, Sikh Student Association

a buddhist monk is bowing to a Buddha

The Buddhist Blessing

The consecration of the Dharmālaya was a historic event and the presence of figures such as President DeGioia showed Georgetown’s willingness to also be a welcoming space for those of Dharmic faiths, including Buddhists. It was moving to be at the ceremony and the way Buddhists were included moved a freshman board member of ours [Buddhist Student Association] to tears! I thank Georgetown and especially the many students before us who worked hard to create spaces not only for those of Dharmic faiths but for other non-Christian faith communities on campus.

Dharmic Life and Brahmachari, director for Dharmic Life and Hindu Spiritual Advisor, in particular, have done their utmost for the inclusion of Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist students at Georgetown, and the creation of the Dharmālaya was no exception. The space as well as the opening ceremonies included blessings for Jain, Sikh, and Buddhist students. Monks representing the three main Buddhist traditions, Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana were present, including our own Buddhist Spiritual Advisor, Venerable Yishan an ordained nun (bhikkhuni) from the Chinese Mahayana Buddhist tradition. As a Korean, I was also especially glad to have the presence of a Korean monk, Venerable Wol, at the consecration.

Nonetheless, despite all that Dharmic Life has done for us, it has been easy to feel that everything thus far has still primarily been for Hindu students. But, looking at what has been accomplished for Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu students so far makes me confident that soon enough Georgetown will have its own Buddhist chaplain and eventually a unique space for Buddhist students as well. 

Jessup Kim SFS ’22,
President, Buddhist Student Association

students are setting out offerings, mainly fruit for the blessing of the deities

Preparing for the Hindu Blessing

The promise of a Dharmic prayer space has been a notion that has highlighted my time at Georgetown with hope and excitement. I am thrilled to see this dream, of hundreds of Georgetown students, finally, come to fruition.

When I came to Georgetown, I did not expect to discover, let alone find a home in, the Dharmic Life community. But as early as a few weeks into my freshman year, the Dharmic Life community had become such a home. I was also grateful to have the opportunity to join the board of the Hindu Students Association (HSA), and have continuously been impressed by the compassion, kindness, and openness shown by my fellow students. Now I serve as the HSA president. I am proud of the hard work of not only my fellow HSA board members but also students in the HSA community and alumni for all of their commitment and hard work put into making the consecration of the space such a great success. 

The opening marked a special moment and celebrated the end of advocacy and efforts to have a Dharmic prayer space on campus. I look forward to seeing the ways in which the Dharmālaya will shape the Dharmic Life student groups’ experiences on campus and serve as an asset to students’ exploration and learning about the Dharmic faith traditions.

Although we have been extremely thankful to our fellow faith-based student groups and chaplaincies for accommodating us over the years, we are grateful that we also finally have a space to call our own. I also greatly appreciate the unconditional support provided by Campus Ministry, Dharmic Life, and Dr. Brahmachariji Sharan, director for Dharmic Life and Hindu Spiritual Advisor. During my last semester at Georgetown, I look forward to spending time at the Dharmālaya during weekly Arati services, reflecting, and engaging with fellow students.

Having a chance to be a part of the opening of the Dharmālaya was a highlight of my time at Georgetown, and I greatly enjoyed the chance to share this experience with my fellow students. Seeing the shared appreciation and value for the Dharmālaya, from students, faculty, Campus Ministry, as well as Georgetown administration, has deepened my feeling of belonging on the Hilltop.

I have been looking forward to the opening of the prayer space, and am incredibly thankful and honored to have the opportunity to be a part of the first group of students able to call the space home. I hope that the Dharmālaya will not only provide a holistic space for reflection, prayer, and recentering, but also meet the diverse needs of Georgetown students that may arise over the years and encourage students to facilitate interfaith dialogue, learning, and appreciation, and serve as a home open to all members of the Georgetown community.

Sannidhi Shashikiran, NHS’22,
President, Hindu Student Association

A Hindu priest blesses the deities in front an audience seated on prayer mats

The Hindu Blessing

When I started working for Campus Ministry’s interreligious team during my first year at Georgetown, I very quickly understood the significance of space. There was St. Williams, Dahlgren Chapel, Copley Crypt, Makóm, and by the end of my sophomore year, we had a Masjid too. On a Catholic campus, the mere existence of each space whose community the interreligious team served is an accomplishment in and of itself. 

Indeed, I vividly remember standing outside the Georgetown Masjid during my sophomore year wondering for the first time if my communities might also be able to come together and build a space of our own. With weekly Āratī in Makóm and Dīpāvali Pūja in the HFSC (Healy Family Student Center), my communities always seemed to exist in borrowed space, on the margins, as guests rather than caretakers. And when Hindu Life became Dharmic Life in March 2019, it seemed like this community on the margins had multiplied overnight. Thus, when I finally learned that we would have our own Dharmic space on campus and that we would be able to care for this space in the ways that we had always wanted, I almost didn’t believe it. Even the preparation for the consecration ceremonies feels like a fever dream. One minute we were ironing curtains and threading garlands, and the next minute we were performing Āratī and sending guests home with the prasādam (food offering to a deity and later shared with worshippers) we had speedily bagged. I never would have dreamt that I would one-day craft rice maṇḍalas at midnight for rituals that would take place right outside the residence hall where I’d lived during my first year at Georgetown. But it was on that day that the harmonium reverberated for the first time in Dharmālaya, that all the loose threads came together, and that a piece of Georgetown finally became my own.

Hasini Shyamsundar, SFS’22
Interreligious Program Assistant,
Campus Ministry

The Dharmālaya: Dharmic Meditation Center is located in the Leavey Center.

Read the full story on Georgetown University News, Georgetown’s New Dharmic Meditation Center Opens After Student-Led Advocacy

Photos by, Phil Humnicky, University Photographer, Lisa Directo Davis, Program Director for the John Main Center for Meditation and Inter-religious Dialogue, and Natalia Suska, MSB’22.