Two Sri Lankan-​​born Bud­dhist monks sat cross-​​legged on the floor of the Sacred Space, an area of wor­ship, med­i­ta­tion, and inter­faith dia­logues located in Ell Hall and over­seen by Northeastern’s Center for Spir­i­tu­ality, Dia­logue, and Ser­vice.

Some two dozen stu­dents joined the monks, forming a horseshoe-​​shaped ring along the walls of the open, warmly lit, and simply fur­nished area.

We have to look within, we have to find our­selves,” said Ven­er­able Bhante Heen­bunne Kon­danna Thero, the res­i­dent abbot and chief incum­bent monk at Staten Island Bud­dist Vihara, who vis­ited campus last Friday after­noon to dis­cuss Bud­dhism and guide a med­i­ta­tion ses­sion. “We are not to look into other people’s minds. When we look into our own, we can find ourselves.”

The monks were guests of the NU Bud­dhist Group, a new stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion that encour­ages mem­bers to share their expe­ri­ence of Dharma, med­i­tate on Buddha’s teach­ings, and develop wisdom and com­pas­sion. The group is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Center’s push to engage with the university’s reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions, which have grown in number in con­cert with the campus’ inter­na­tional pop­u­la­tion. More than 6,300 inter­na­tional stu­dents from more than 140 coun­tries world­wide are cur­rently enrolled, a figure that rep­re­sents a 15 per­cent increase from last year and a 165 per­cent increase from five years ago.

We are ded­i­cated to meeting the spir­i­tual needs of all our stu­dents,” said Alexander Lev­ering Kern, the center’s exec­u­tive director. “And not just spir­i­tual needs—we want to engage the com­mu­nity in dia­logue of the things that matter most to us all.”

Faith-​​based stu­dent orga­ni­za­tions on campus are open to prac­ti­tioners of each and every reli­gion. According to Kern, they are intended to spark dia­logues high­lighting their sim­i­lar­i­ties and differences.

We’re hoping to move our campus cul­ture from one of debate and dia­tribe to one of dia­logue and open com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” Kern explained. “The global lead­er­ship skills our stu­dents will need most are ones of dia­logue across dis­tance and division.”

Shanali Weeras­inghe, a sopho­more elec­trical engi­neering major who facil­i­tated the monks’ campus visit, noted that joining the Bud­dhist group made her feel more con­nected to the university’s rel­a­tively small Bud­dhist community.

I have been prac­ticing my whole life and wanted to be more involved in my prac­tice here at school,” she said. “Our weekly meet­ings are a great oppor­tu­nity to med­i­tate and relax and then have great discussions.”

Dan Arias, a third-​​year psy­chology major, guides med­i­ta­tion ses­sions in the Sacred Space and helps run the NU Bud­dhist Group. The orga­ni­za­tion, he said, has given him the oppor­tu­nity to prac­tice and explore Bud­dhism with an equally curious circle of his peers.

It’s impor­tant to raise our aware­ness and see where we fit in,” Arias said. “Now we’re exploring things as part of a group, which can be very powerful.”