As a monk, I bring a strong commitment, along with the renunciate flavor, to the classic Buddhist teachings. I play with ideas, with humor and a current way of expressing the teachings, but I don't dilute them.
Sitting in a field of fifty to eighty people really starts my mind sparking. Since I don't prepare my talks ahead of time, I find myself listening to what I'm saying along with everyone else. This leaves a lot of room for the Dhamma to come up. Just having eighty people listening to me is enough to engage me, stimulate me, and create a nice flow of energy. The actual process of teaching evokes ideas that even I did not realize were being held somewhere in my mind.
Different teaching situations offer their own unique value. In retreat, you are able to build a cohesive and comprehensive body of the teachings. When people are not on retreat and come for one session, it opens a different window. They are more spontaneous and I'm given the chance to contact them in ways that are closer to their "daily-life mind." This brings up surprises and interesting opportunities for me to learn even more.
I'm continually struck by how important it is to establish a foundation of morality, commitment, and a sense of personal values for the Vipassana teachings to rest upon. Personal values have to be more than ideas. They have to actually work for us, to be genuinely felt in our lives. We can't bluff our way into insight. The investigative path is an intimate experience that empowers our individuality in a way that is not egocentric. Vipassana encourages transpersonal individuality rather than ego enhancement. It allow for a spacious authenticity to replace a defended personality.
Amma Thanasanti Bhikkhuni was born in California and first encountered the Dhamma in 1979. Since that time she has been committed to awakening. On a trip to Asia she met highly accomplished meditation masters Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Buddhadasa and Dipa Ma. In 1989, she went to England where she joined the nun’s community in the Ajahn Chah Forest Tradition. After 20 years she left her monastic community to return to the USA where she founded Awakening Truth whose mission is eventually developing a Bhikkhuni training monastery integrating ancient teachings of the Forest Tradition into the modern world. Currently she is based at the Shakti Vihara hermitage near the Garden of the Gods in Colorado, where she uses wilderness as a daily part of her practice.
Amma Thanasanti Bhikkhuni has been meditating for 35 years, 25 of which she has been an ordained Buddhist nun. In 2009, after 20 years in monasteries associated with the Ajahn Chah Forest Tradition, she returned to the US and founded Awakening Truth, an organization whose mission is to share essential teachings and strengthen the relationship between monastic and lay practitioners. Awakening Truth’s eventual aim is to create a Bhikkhuni training monastery and modern Dhamma village. Amma skillfully blends the rigor of early Buddhist teachings with the gentle encouragement to discover one’s own path.
After being inspired by the presence and teachings of Ajahn Buddhadasa, i ordained 1993 at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, UK. i co-founded and reside at Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery in the Sierra Foothills of California and have a particular interest in learning from nature and bringing faith traditions to the climate movement.
Bhante Buddharakkhita was born and raised in Uganda. Meditating since 1993, he was ordained as a Theravada Buddhist monk in 2002. Now residing at Bhavana Society in WV, he teaches worldwide and in 2005 founded the Uganda Buddhist Centre.
Bhikkhu Bodhi is an American Buddhist monk originally from New York City. He lived as a monk in Sri Lanka for 24 years and now lives at Chuang Yen Monastery in upstate New York. Ven. Bodhi has many important publications to his credit, either as author, translator or editor, including The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Majjhima Nikaya, 1995) and The Connected Discourses of the Buddha (Samyutta Nikaya, 2000). A full translation of the Anguttara Nikaya is due out in 2011. In 2008 he founded Buddhist Global Relief, a Buddhist organization dedicated to providing relief from poverty and hunger among impoverished communities worldwide.
Dharma practice is medicine for the mind -- something particularly needed in a culture like ours that actively creates mental illness in training us to be busy producers and avid consumers. As individuals, we become healthier through our Dharma practice, which in turn helps bring sanity to our society at large.
Giving dharma talks offers me the opportunity to express gratitude for my Thai teachers -- Ajahn Fuang Jotiko and Ajahn Suwat Suvaco -- in appreciation of the many years they spent training me, which came with the understanding that the teachings continue past me. Giving dharma talks also pushes me to articulate what I haven''t yet verbalized to myself in English. This in turn enriches my own practice. When you help a wide variety of people deal with their issues, it helps you practice with yours.
When giving a talk, I try to remain true to three things: my training, my study of the early Buddhist texts, and the needs of my listeners. The challenge is to find the point where all three meet -- not as a compromise, but in their genuine integrity.
For this, I play with analogy. Meditation is a skill, and our meeting point as people, whatever our culture, lies in our experience in mastering skills: how to sew clothes, cook a meal, or build a shelter. So I've found that one of the most effective ways of explaining subtle points in meditation is to find analogies with more mundane skills. Through the language of analogy we find common ground from which our practice can grow to meet our individual needs, and yet remain true to its universal roots.
Venerable Metteyya Sakyaputta was born in the same place as the Buddha: Lumbini, Nepal. Though he has primarily studied under the Theravada tradition, Metteyya has also received teachings directly from the well known Tibetan Buddhist master of Sakya tradition His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rimpoche. He has also studied with the Vietnamese Pure Land tradition and has thorough comparative, theoretical and practical understanding of the various Buddhist traditions. He says that knowledge of many traditions of Buddhism has helped him to pinpoint the core and most essential Buddhist teachings.
He prefers to devote his time working for the youth and rural communities of Lumbini. Metteyya has always been involved in social service and environmental work in his community and when he was 15 he founded Metta Children's School which has now grown to two branches and provides free education to over 800 impoverished local children. Metteyya is very cognizant of the status of women in the local culture and along with his Dharma mother, built and recently began operating Sakyadhita Nunnery to provide empowering and educational options to local girls who would otherwise face child marriage. They are now working on building a girls’ college there too.
Ven. Dr. Pannavati is Co-Abbot of Embracing Simplicity Hermitage. An African-American Buddhist monk ordained in the Theravada and Mahayana traditions and with transmission from Roshi Bernie Glassman of Zen Peacemakers, she is both contemplative and empowered for compassionate service. More than 70 homeless youth between the ages of 17 and 21 have resided at the hermitage over the past 2 ½ years and that effort has evolved into a separate 501(c)(3), MyPlace, Inc. which has its own accredited high school, jobs training program, youth center and residential program. An international teacher, she advocates on behalf of disempowered women and youth globally; and insists on equality and respect in Buddhist life for both female monastics and lay sangha. She was a 2008 recipient of the Outstanding Buddhist Women’s Award. In 2009, she received a special commendation from the Princess of Thailand for Humanitarian Acts and ordained the first Thai Bhikkhunis, on Thai soil with Thai monks as witnesses. In May 2010 she convened a platform of Bhikkhunis to ordain 10 Cambodian Samaneris, performing the ceremony in a Cambodian temple, witnessed by Cambodian abbots and sanctioned by Maha Thera Ven. Dhammathero Sao Khon, President of the Community of Khmer Buddhist Monks of the US. Finally, Venerable is a founding circle director of Women of Compassionate Wisdom, a 21st century trans-lineage Buddhist Order and Sisterhood. She recently ordained their first American oblate.
Sayalay Susila has been a Theravada nun for the last 20 years. Sister started her vipassana insight meditation during her university days, while obtaining a degree in Mass Communications (1988) at USM in Malaysia. Before ordination, she practiced as a full-time practitioner for one and a half years. After her ordination, in 1991, she practiced under the guidance of the well-known Venerable Sayadaw U Pandita in Panditarama Monastery, Myanmar, until 1994, at which time she began to practice under the guidance of the Venerable Pa Auk Tawya Sayadaw at the Pa Auk Meditation Centre, Myanmar, where she remains today.
Sayalay Susila was born in 1963, in the state of Pahang, Malaysia, and was ordained as a nun at the age of 28, at the Malaysian Buddhist Meditation Centre (MBMC) in Penang, Malaysia. She speaks fluent English, Hokkien, Chinese, Malay, and Burmese. Beginning in 2000, with the encouragement of her teacher Pa Auk Sayadaw, Sayalay Susila began to teach the Abhidhamma in Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia.
Since 2002, when she conducted a 10-day Abhidhamma course in Toronto, Sayalay Susila has traveled extensively in the U.S. and Canada, teaching Suttas, Abhidhamma and Meditation. Sister Susila’s dhamma talks, which have been widely praised as lucid and precise, have been given at North American Buddhist centres such as Spirit Rock (California) and the Barre Centre for Buddhist Studies (Massachusetts).
In July 2009, she conducted a 10-day meditation course, Concentration and Insight, at Bhavana Society monastery in West Virginia, as well as a Women’s Retreat in July 2011. She has published the books "Unravelling the Mysteries of Mind and Body Through Abhidhamma" in English and "The Nine Attributes of the Buddha in Chinese."