Ajahn was ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1990 in the lineage of Venerable Ajahn Chah of the Thai Forest Tradition. Born in 1962 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A., his interest in the teachings of the Buddha grew as he studied towards a BA degree in Religious Studies from Carleton College (1984). Following graduation, he began applying himself to training in meditation and subsequently went to Asia to find a monastery suitable for fully devoting himself to the Dhamma.
After practicing intensive meditation in various monasteries in Thailand and traveling extensively in Tibet, Nepal and India, he eventually settled at Wat Pah Nanachat, The International Forest Monastery, in the North-east of Thailand. Ajahn Chah established this branch monastery specifically for his English-speaking disciples. For the first five years after his full ordination as a bhikkhu, Ajahn Chandako was based at Wat Pah Nanachat.
Ajahn Guna (or called Bhante Guna) was born in a small Indiana farming town near Chicago in 1974. In 1987 he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. He finished his B.A. degree in Jazz Piano Performance at the Berklee School of Music in Boston in 1996. He first came to Abhayagiri in 1998 where he was introduced to the Ajahn Chah Tradition. He went to ordain in Thailand at Wat Pah Nanachat later in 1998 and received Bhikkhu ordination in 2000 at Wat Nong Pah Pong, Ajahn Chah's monastery, with Luang Por Liem as his preceptor. Since then he has lived with many of the senior disciples of Ajahn Chah, such as Ajahn Anan at Wat Marp Jan and Ajahn Pasanno. After 10 years of living in Thailand, he returned to Abhayagiri in May 2009 and currently resides at Berkeley Buddhist Monastery. Ajahn Guna helps Bhikkhu Bodhi with his charity called Buddhist Global Relief as BGR Representative of Northern California--giving talks and helping organize BGR events such as Walk to Feed the Hungry. His mother is also a Theravadin Buddhist nun. Update: Ajahn Guna left the monkhood in March 2013, became the International Program Manager at Suan Mokkh Bangkok, and teaches English, Meditation and Music in the Bangkok area. His name is now David DeYoung.
Ajahn Metta was born 1953 in Germany. She became an Anagārikā in ‘93 at Amaravati and took higher ordination as a Sīladhāra in ‘96. During her monastic life she has been involved in many areas of the community. She is one of the group of senior nuns leading the Sīladhārā community. For the past few years she has been teaching meditation workshops and retreats. Prior to monastic life she worked as a secretary and office assistant. She is a mother of a grown-up son and was living a family life before entering the monastic path. She has been practising meditation since ‘84 and has experience of living in other spiritual communities in Europe and Thailand (Wat Suan Mokkh).
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.
Ayya Anandabodhi is co-founder of Aloka Vihara, a training monastery for women near Placerville, CA, where she currently resides. She has practiced meditation since 1989, and lived as part of the Ajahn Chah lineage at Amaravati and Chithurst monasteries for 18 years. In 2009 she moved to the US and took full bhikkhuni ordination in 2011.
Ayya Santussika, in residence at Karuna Buddhist Vihara (Compassion Monastery), spent five years as an anagarika (eight-precept nun), then ordained as a samaneri (ten-precept nun) in 2010 and as a bhikkhuni (311 rules) in 2012 at Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara in Los Angeles.
Ayya Santussika was born in Illinos in 1954 and grew up on a farm in Indiana. While being a single mother, she received BS and MS degrees in computer science and moved with her two children to the San Francisco Bay Area. She worked as a software designer and developer for fifteen years. Her search for deeper meaning and ways to be of service led her to train as an interfaith minister in a four-year seminary program that culminated in an Masters of Divinity degree and a brief period of practice as a minister before ordaining as a Buddhist nun. She is currently serving on the Board of Directors for Buddhist Global Relief.
Ayya Yeshe Bodhicitta ordained as a nun in 2001. She discovered Buddhism whilst travelling in Nepal and India at the age of 17 on a search for the meaning of life. Coming back to Australia after a year of study and practice in monasteries, she helped run a Buddhist Centre in Sydney and trained with her teacher Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe for five years whilst working as well.
Upon ordaining as a nun at the age of 23 Venerable Yeshe, found like the majority of Western monastics before her that there was very little care or support for Western monastics, people preferring to access Tibetan Lamas who are already trained. She had no where to live and had to beg on traditional alms round to get food, she stayed with various friends and in garden sheds. She engaged in teaching Dharma in HIV hospices, schools, drug and alchohol rehab centres and trained as a yoga teacher.
Coming to India in 2004, Venerable Yeshe studied for two years in a monastery, but felt a need to make Buddhism accessable and socially engaged, whilst still trying to maintain her contemplative way of life. She met Indian Buddhists in 2005 and has been working with them ever since. Her teachers are Sakya Trizen (the second highest Lama in Tibetan Buddhism) and Ven Thich Nhat Hanh, the nobel peace prize poet and peace activist.
Ayya Yeshe Bodhicitta is the author of 'Everyday Enlightenment' published by Harper Collins and is featured in the documentaries 'life beyond the begging bowl' and 'Through the Eastern Gate'. She is also made a Buddhist chanting CD with one of Australia's top world music groups - India Jiva called 'Dakini'.
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.
Ngawang Sungrab Phagyab Rinpoche is a ranking Tibetan Buddhist lama in the Gelugpa order. Born in Kham, Tibet in 1966 and ordained at the age of thirteen, Rinpoche began his monastic training at Ashi Monastery in Eastern Tibet before transferring to Sera Mey Monastery in South India where he trained under the tutelage of Ven. Khenpo Lobsang Jamyang and Ven. Khensur Geshe Tinle Topgye. In 1994, he was recognized as the eighth reincarnation of the Phagyab lama, a renowned Buddhist teacher from Eastern Tibet.