Dharma Bum Temple

By Michael Ruamthong

Overview of Dharma Bum Temple:

The Dharma Bum Temple (formerly Dharma Bum Center) is located in the Golden Hills of San Diego and is a home for the study and practice of Buddhism. The Dharma Bum Temple does not focus on one particular school of Buddhism, but the Dharma Bums (how members of the Dharma Bum Temple refer to themselves) focus on The Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path and The Six Paramitas. Leaders and members strive to practice Buddhism, not only when sitting in meditation, but also in their daily lives.

The Dharma Bums’ goal is to make it easier to understand the stream of Buddhism as they know it can be confusing for beginners to learn. The goal of their community is to bring people together to learn how to make changes within their own life and then teach that to others. They hope that people do not just speak of Buddhism but live out and practice these principles. Through diligent practice one will begin to realize the cause of their suffering, thus moving beyond suffering for the benefit of all beings.

Community meeting space

Mission Statement:

The Dharma Bum Temple’s mission is to help people live with the practices of The Six Paramitas – generosity, morality, patience, diligence, concentration and wisdom. They believe it is the cultivation and integration of these guiding principles that lead one to a happy and healthy life. The Dharma Bum’s goal of community is to be a bridge for people to learn how to make changes within their own life and be of benefit to others. The Dharma Bum Temple believes that the daily practice of compassion, equanimity, joy and loving-kindness has a profound impact on humanity. Their goal is to continue to cultivate an accepting and tolerant area where people who come from all ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, genders, religions and abilities can come together to build community.

Dharma Bum Temple

Programs and Retreats:

The Dharma Bum Temple offers various programs, services, and retreats. There is a Family Sangha, Recovery Sangha, and Dharma Bum Life with the goal of building community and those looking for a comprehensive path to end their suffering. The Dharma Bums focus on outreach as well, such as food redistribution and prison outreach programs. Their hope is to show generosity and share dharma and meditation to help beings be free from suffering.

A half day of silence is held the first Saturday of every month. The meditation practice lasts four hours which is the dharma gate to explore the meditation practice in consecutive periods. The Dharma Bums host a weekend retreat with a prerequisite of attending a half day of silence retreat first. The weekend retreat focuses on The Guidelines of Conduct, along with the Precepts, the Retreat Schedule, and other forms, to create a container of support and nurturing for everyone.

The Dharma Bum Temple places a big emphasis of their outreach on community service. Every Thursday, the Dharma Bums gather to prepare vegetarian food and carry it directly to those who need it. They pass out food to the people living on the streets of downtown San Diego. Dharma Bums also volunteer in local prisons and share Dharma and meditation with inmates on a weekly basis.

The Dharma Bum Temple hosts a number of Buddhist Recovery groups to support those who want to integrate Buddhist teachings and practices into a program of recovery. The Dharma Bums are open to people of all backgrounds and recovery paths, including but not limited to all 12-Step programs. You don’t have to be in a 12 Step fellowship to participate and benefit. 

The Dharma Bums have been building community around family structure. They have created a new program called the Family Sangha. There are classes for parents, teens and younger kids of all ages at the same time held twice a month. Parents come experience silent meditation and discussion with other parents. Parents explore subjects such as patience, generosity, goodwill and virtue. Meanwhile the kids (toddlers to teens) will have classes downstairs learning about compassion, patience and morality through reading, crafts and activities.

Delta Beta Tau Retreat

History of the Dharma Bum Temple:

The beginning of the journey for The Dharma Bum Temple dates back to 2003 when a couple of Dharma Bums met at Hsi-Fang Temple, a Zen Temple located in San Diego and began their study and practice of ultimate wisdom and compassion. In 2005, a couple of western guys met in a Zen monastery in Taiwan and dreamed of a place in America where Buddhism could be taught and people could practice meditation, all while feeling comfortable in their own culture. While living in San Diego in 2006, the Dharma Bums were approached by Venerable Master Hueiguang who had started his own Zen Temple in Taiwan. They were asked to open a Dharma Center in the name of the International Bodhisattva Sangha, and so they did in San Diego’s Golden Hills. After 7 months of running the Dharma Center, it was made clear the Venerable Master was unable to come back to San Diego as of yet and they were lacking funding to continue this project. Though there were many causes and conditions in 2006, the Dharma Bum Temple was opened. It was initially called the Dharma Bum Center, which seemed to be a fitting name. The Dharma Bum Temple officially opened in 2007. Throughout 2007, they hosted many Dharma teachers, all with their own style and presentation of Buddhism. The goal was to be a home and place of refuge for all who enter and is a way for westerners to feel comfortable learning about Buddhism. Though there are practices of all forms of Buddhism at the Dharma Bum Temple, behind each practice is the ultimate teacher, Siddhartha Gautama, the Original Dharma Bum.

Since the opening in 2007, the Dharma Bum Temple has operated on a $35,000 annual budget with the money coming in from the thousands of people who come in to the temple to seek refuge. There are no employees and no one takes a salary; there are only volunteers. All of the classes offered at the Dharma Bum Temple are free, relying on donations from members to compensate for the cost of keeping the building.

Members of Dharma Bum Temple

Diversity of Members:

Located in San Diego, California, their ethnic composition is predominantly Caucasian. There are some classes offered in Spanish for those who are more comfortable being taught in Spanish or perhaps would just prefer to learn Buddhism in Spanish. The temple frequently hosts guest speakers, who are primarily Asian.

The Dharma Bums have always been open to people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, abilities and religious views.  They have three board members who are members of the LGBTQ community.  The Dharma Bum Temple has been quoted as saying, ”Buddhism teaches us there is no difference in race, gender, age, sexual orientation’ no one, in the ultimate sense, is any different than anyone else.”

In 2015, the Dharma Bum Temple founded the nation’s first ever Buddhist fraternity at San Diego State University. Delta Beta Tau is a co-ed service fraternity which if founded on the Buddhist principles of generosity, morality, patience, diligence, and wisdom. The Dharma Bum’s objective is to introduce and strengthen student knowledge and understanding of meditation through guest speakers, informal discussions, retreats, and community service. Here is one student’s short story of being in Delta Beta Tau. “Today I had the luxury of cleaning the old refrigerator at my parent’s house. I am rather enjoying cleaning it one speck at a time, very thoroughly. This is because at the silent retreat my task was to clean the refrigerator. So now I am cleaning and thinking of everybody in Delta Beta Tau.” –Brigitte L. All of the students rave about the positive benefits that have been reaped in their lives through being a member of Delta Beta Tau.

Delta Beta Tau

Members of the Dharma Bum Temple love and believe in the peace Buddhism is able to bring to the world and how accepting it is of people regardless of where they come from. The Dharma Bum Temple has been steadily increasing in members since its founding a decade ago. Although the Dharma Bum Temple does not focus on one particular school of Buddhism, they bring in Dharma teachers from various Buddhist lineages and traditions to share the teachings of the Dharma. There are various retreats, programs, and services offered at the temple and their motto is that “the Dharma Bums are disciples of the Buddha, practitioners of the Dharma, and caretakers of the Sangha.” All classes are free at the temple and they rely on the community effort of raising funds to maintain their location of practice.



Works cited:

Zlotnik, J. (n.d.) Dharma Bum Temple. Retrieved from https://www.thedharmabums.org/. Accessed 4 December 2017

(n.d.) Delta Beta Tau. Retrieved from http://www.deltabetatau.org/home. Accessed 4 December 2017

Timothy Rawles. (2/6/2017). San Diego Gay and Lesbian News. Retrieved from http://sdgln.com/social/2017/02/06/dharma-bum-buddhist-temple-getting-new-home-university-heights. Accessed 4 December 2017