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.
Sayadaw U Tejaniya began his Buddhist training as a young teenager in Burma under the late Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw (1913–2002). After a career in business and life as a householder, he has become a permanent monk since 1996. He teaches meditation at Shwe Oo Min Dhammasukha Tawya in Rangoon, Burma.
Sayadaw’s relaxed demeanor and easy sense of humor can belie a commitment to awareness he encourages his students to apply in every aspect of their lives. His earlier life as a householder gives him a rare insight into the challenges faced by his lay students. His book, “Don’t Look Down on the Defilements, They Will Laugh at You”, aptly characterizes his teaching style—accessible and true to the traditional teachings of the Buddha.
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.
Born in Canada, Ven. U Jagara was introduced to Buddhist practice in the early 1970’s by Robert Hoover, 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.
U Pyinya Zawta is Executive Director in Exile of the All Burma Monks’ Alliance, a leader of Burma’s Saffron Revolution in the autumn of 2007. In 2008, arriving in the United States with refugee status, he and three other exiled monks created a monastery in Utica, New York, where continues to live and organize. Born in 1960 in the Magwe District of central Burma, U Pyinya Zawta was ordained at the age of twenty. After years of study at monastic universities in Burma, he was appointed president of Rangoon’s Aloan Township Young Monks Union. Arrested and imprisoned several times from 1990 onward, in January 1998 U Pyinya Zawta was arrested and sentenced to seven years in Insein prison He moved to the Rangoon’s Maggin Monastery in 2005 and opened a study center and a unique HIV/AIDS patient support refuge. Pyinya Zawta helped form and lead the All Burma Monks Alliance, which in 2007 protested Burma’s repressive military rule. Tens of thousands of monks and nuns marched in the streets alongside countless civilians, chanting the Metta Sutta. But the demonstrations were fiercely repressed. U Pyinya Zawta escaped from Rangoon by taking on a variety of disguises. Unable to capture him, the Burmese military regime arrested his mother and siblings, who were not released until he surfaced in Mae Sot, Thailand in January 2008. Since moving to the U.S. Pyinya Zawta, along with his dedication to daily Buddhist practice and meditation, works tirelessly to support refugee monks inside and outside of Burma, and to build a free nation for all Burma’s people.