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.
Bhante Bodhidhamma, as lay person practiced at Throssel Hole Zen Priory in north England, later with Sayadaw U Janaka in Burma and at various places with Sayadaw U Pandita. He ordained in 1986 and spent 8 years in Sri Lanka, returning to UK in 1998. He was the resident teacher at Gaia House, UK, 2001-2004. In 2007, he founded Satipanya Buddhist Retreat on the borders of Wales., devoted to vipassana in the tradition of the Mahasi Sayadaw.
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is the founding abbot of the Bhavana Society. Born in rural Sri Lanka, he has been a monk since age 12 and took full ordination at age 20 in 1947. He came to the United States in 1968. “Bhante G” (as he is fondly called by his students) has written a number of books, including the now-classic meditation manual Mindfulness In Plain English and its companion Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness. Bhante G regularly leads retreats on vipassana, mindfulness, metta (Loving-friendliness), concentration, and other topics both at the Bhavana Society and elsewhere.
Bhante Gunaratana is an internationally recognized author and meditation teacher. Prior to coming to the United States, he spent five years doing in missionary work with the Harijanas (Untouchables) of India and ten years in Malaysia. He has taught in a number of settings, including American University of Washington DC where he served as Buddhist chaplain and the Buddhist Vihara of Washington DC, where he served as president. Bhante G has a strong scholarly background and livelong commitment to dhamma.
In 1985 Bhante G co-founded the Bhavana Society and became its abbot. He wanted to teach meditation in an environment allowing for longer retreats and intense practice free from the trappings of a city vihara. He continues to teach in the direct, compassionate style that characterizes his books and articles. Bhante G conveys a well-rounded approach to Buddhist Dhamma, touching on all aspects of the Noble Eightfold Path. He emphasizes metta bhavana (the cultivation of loving-friendliness) as a basis for samma-samadhi, or right concentration. As a teacher, he is known for his emphasis both on samadhi and on metta as part of spiritual training.
In 1996, Bhante G received the title of Chief Sangha Nayaka Thera for North America. This acknowledged his status as highest-ranking monk of his sect in the United States and Canada. In 2003, his autobiography, Journey to Mindfulness, was published. In 2005, the Sri Henepola Gunaratana Scholarship Trust was founded under his guidance. This trust provides educations for poverty stricken children in rural Sri Lanka.
Bhante G continues to write articles, lead retreats, and teach at the Bhavana Society and all over the world.
Bhante Khippapanno, ordained a Buddhist monk in 1949, practiced vipassana in India and Burma with Dipa Ma, Mahasi Sayadaw and Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw. He founded Jetavana Vihara, Washington, DC, 1982, and Sakyamuni Meditation Center, CA, 1988. He helped establish Phuoc Son Meditation Center, Vietnam, 1994.
Born in Canada, Ven. U Jagara was introduced to Buddhist practice in the early 1970’s by Robert Hover, and ordained as a monk under the Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw in Burma in 1979. He spent 15 years in Sri Lanka combining meditation with the study of Buddhist texts and periodically traveled to India where he practiced in intense retreats with S. N. Goenka. For several years he conducted retreats in India, America, Europe and Asia in the S.N. Goenka tradition. Since 1995 U Jagara has trained under the guidance of Pa Auk Sayadaw, the Burmese master renowned for his faithful adherence to the Visuddhimagga as both a practical guide to jhana and a detailed exposition of direct analytical approaches to vipassana. U Jagara assists Pa Auk Sayadaw in the teaching.