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.
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.