- Associated Press - Sunday, June 11, 2017

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - A Hindu group based in Nevada is asking the University of North Dakota to reconsider plans to relocate the school’s meditation room from its longtime home on campus to a basement room in a residence hall.

Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, says moving the former Lotus Meditation Center below ground lacks direct sunlight, an important factor in meditation and relaxation, and would require necessary furnishings to be set up and taken down for every use. He also said the room will be shared by several groups, making it difficult for students to use it on a walk-in basis.

“We’re seeking a decent new home,” Zed said. “This would not be an exclusive Lotus Meditation Center.”

Peter Johnson, a spokesman for the Grand Forks-based school, said he “appreciates where the group is coming from,” but noted that the center has never been exclusive to one group.

“There is nothing changing about the way we are operating that center. Only the location is changing,” Johnson said. “I think this group would like the center to be exclusively for folks who practice what they practice, but that’s not in the cards.”

Janet Rex, who has been leading meditation at the Lotus Meditation Center, says the center attracts a small group of regular meditators and a “much longer list” of occasional drop-ins, including students, faculty, staff and community members. She said the school is asking the group to reserve times in the basement room in Swanson Hall, a co-ed dormitory for transfer or returning students.

At this point, Zed said, the meditation group no longer has scheduling priority.

The current center, which is about two decades old, was donated by longtime music professor Tamar Read. It had been in the school’s International Center, which is one of eight buildings on campus to be demolished.

The college’s website describes the Lotus Meditation Center as a “sacred space of peace and quiet” where members of the UND and Grand Forks community are “welcome to leave their shoes at the door.” Religious conversion efforts are prohibited, the site says.

“It’s non-denominational,” Johnson said. “In fact, anybody can use it regardless of whether they have a particular faith. People who don’t have any faith but who enjoy meditation on its own can make use of it. So it’s open to anyone who wants to use it.”

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