Luang Por Ajahn Sumedho a bhikkhu for 43 years, is the senior Western representative of the Thai forest tradition of Therevada Buddhism. He has been abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery just north of London since its consecration in 1984. Luang Por means Venerable Father, an honorific and term of affection in keeping with Thai custom. A bhikkhu for 40 years, Sumedho is considered a seminal figure in the transmission of the Buddha’s teachings to the West.
Luang Por Sumedho was born in Seattle, Washington in 1934. After serving four years in the US Navy as a medic, he completed a BA in Far Eastern Studies and a MA in South Asian Studies.
In 1966, he went to Thailand to practice meditation at Wat Mahathat in Bangkok. Not long afterwards, he went forth as a novice monk in a remote part of the country, Nong Khai, before receiving full ordination in 1967.
A year of solitary practice followed. Although fruitful, it showed him the need for a teacher who could more actively guide him. A fortuitous encounter with a visiting monk led him to Ubon province to practice with Luang Por Chah. He took dependence from Luang Por Chah and remained under his close guidance for ten years.
Ajahn Amaro, born in England in 1956, Ven. Amaro Bhikkhu received his BSc. in Psychology and Physiology from the University of London. Spiritual searching led him to Thailand, where he went to Wat Pah Nanachat, a Forest Tradition monastery established for Western disciples of Thai meditation master Ajahn Chah, who ordained him as a bhikkhu in 1979. He returned to England and joined Ajahn Sumedho at the newly established Chithurst Monastery. He resided for many years at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, making trips to California every year during the 1990s.
In June of 1996 he established Abhayagiri Monastery in Redwood Valley, California, where he was co-abbot with Ajahn Pasanno until July, 2010. Ajahn Amaro has written a number of books, including an account of his 830-mile trek from Chithurst to Harnham Vihara called Tudong – the Long Road North, republished in the expanded book Silent Rain. Other works published by him include Small Boat, Great Mountain (2003), Rain on the Nile (2009) and The Island – An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings on Nibbana (2009) co-written with Ajahn Pasanno. Ajahn Amaro returned to Amaravati in July, 2010. At the invitation of Luang Por Sumedho, Ajahn Amaro was appointed to assume the duties of abbot of Amaravati.
Ajahn Vajiro (Phil Gunton) was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1953. Upon graduating in 1974, he began a study accountancy. During this period, a friend encouraged him to go on a ten-day meditation retreat with John Coleman at the Oakenholt Buddhist Centre near Oxford. He attended further retreats there in 1976 and 1977. Hearing about the visit Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Sumedho made to Oakenholt in 1977, he went to meet them at the Hampstead Vihara. He eventually moved next door to the vihara. In 1978, however, he asked to join the community as an anagÄrika; he left for Thailand just after the community moved out of London to Chithurst in June 1979. In October that year he became a samanera, and he received upasampada (became a bhikkhu) from Ajahn Chah in June the following year. Venerable Vajiro returned to England in 1984, and assisted with the establishment of Amaravati Buddhist Centre. From 1985 to 1986 he resided at Harnham Buddhist Monastery and from 1986 to 1993 he lived at Cittaviveka. Then between 1993 and 1998 he led the community in Bodhinyanarama Wellington, New Zealand. He spent the following three years living quietly in the hermitage Sanghaloka near Melbourne, Australia. Before moving to Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, where he presently resides.
After graduation, he decided to go to India for spiritual pursuit, instead of becoming a doctor. He spent one year there, then moved on to Thailand, where he visited various monasteries, such as Wat Pak Nam, Wat Suan Mokkh, etc.
After another year of exploring in Thailand, he came to Wat Pah Nanachat. Being impressed by the serene presence of the Sangha, he finally found a place to settle down. In 1986, he became ordained as a Samanera and received Upasampada the following year.
Later, he started to live under the guidance of Ajahn Gavesako, a senior Japanese disciple of Luang Por Chah. In 1989, both of them walked from Tokyo International Airport to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (around 1,000 kilometers) as pilgrimage. It took 72 days and was supported by the word of Ajahn Gavesako, “every single step of ours is a peace march.”
When Ajahn Gavesako set up Wat Sunandavanaram in Kanchanaburi in 1990, he joined in and lived there for 10 years. He worked for Maya Gotami Foundation, a charity for the poor youth in Thailand, established by Ajahn Gavesako, as well.
In 2000, he went to Nepal and intended to spend a few years in Sri Lanka. But the political situation at that time did not allow him to do so. As he also had an interest in learning how to live in the Sangha in the West, he came to England instead and spent the Vassa at Chithurst. He moved to Amaravati in 2001. Deeply inspired by Luang Por Sumedho and his teaching, he has resided here ever since.
Bhikkhu Sukhacitto was born in Germany in 1963. He first came into contact with Buddhism in 1986 in Thailand by attending a meditation retreat, offered through Wat Suan Mokkh. He ordained there as a novice in 1989 and as a Bhikkhu in 1990. He moved to the West in 1993. Since then he has lived at various monasteries in the West, including Dhammapala Monastery in Switzerland for six years. He first visited Amaravati as a monk several times in the 1990s. He stayed at Amaravati for the 2007 and 2008 winter retreats and came to live at Amaravati in April 2009
Ajahn Gandhasilo was born in 1959 and raised in Hertfordshire. He first saw a Buddhist monk on Ilkley Moor in 1980 and his first encounter with the Theravada tradition was at Chithurst monastery in 1985. After spending two years as an anagarika Ajahn Gandhasilo received the bhikkhu ordination at Chithurst in 1990. He has witnessed the development of Amaravati monastery and the transformation from the old school buildings into the new Temple that exists today. Over the years Ajahn Gandhasilo has spent virtually all of his monastic life England and has had the good fortune to experience life in all four of the UK monasteries in our tradition.
Ajahn Kalyano was born in Hitchin in 1961. He has been a practicing Buddhist since he was 17. He began visiting Amaravati in the 1980’s. As a layman his path of practice and enquiry led him to work in hospitals for nearly twenty years specialising in neurological rehabilitation and learning disabilities as a Clinical Psychologist, Physiotherapist and T’ai chi teacher. He has a particular interest in exploring the relationship between body and mind. He took full ordination at Chithurst Monastery in 1995 and has since travelled to Italy, Thailand and Australia.
Ajahn Metta was born 1953 in Germany. She became a novice (Anagārikā) in ‘93 at Amaravati and took higher ordination as a Buddhist nun (Sīladhāra) in ‘96. During her monastic life she has been involved in many areas of the community. Currently she is helping with the organisation of the kitchen and taking care of visiting nuns. She is one of the group of senior nuns leading the nun (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 was living a family life before entering the monastic path and has an adult son. She has been practising meditation since ‘84 and has experience of living in spiritual communities in Europe and Thailand ( Wat Suan Mokkh).
Ajahn Cittapala born in Germany in 1949 and he worked for nearly 20 years as a teacher and artist in Hamburg. In 1990/91 she went to Indonesia to study awareness movement (Amerta Movement – The River of Life) with Suprapto Suryodharmo – a practice which connected her more and more with Buddhism. After meeting Luang Por Sumedho in 1994, she felt so supported by his teachings that she came to Amaravati, where she has been living since 1996. In 1999, she asked for Sīladhāra ordination. Here she is supporting the community and is involved in family activties, especially exploring ways of practice and teaching which use formal meditation as well as painting and movement – for liberation. Ajahn Cittapala leads the Sunyata Family Camp in the summers.
Venerable Amaranatho was born in England and brought up in the Jewish faith, but in his late teens had severe doubts about the faith and left all religion behind to work within the computer industry. After time spent travelling the world and learning about meditation he took the decision to become a monk and resided and trained at Amaravati Monastery near Hemel Hempstead for eleven years. He has led residential retreats for families, young people, men’s retreats and creativity for adults. He is trained as a Source Process Breathwork therapist to use the breath for profound healing. He is deeply influenced by Ken Wilber’s Integral Approach and shadow work. His teachings are based on accepting and welcoming the way life is and allowing our natural wisdom to arise. www.playfulmonk.net
Tim Price acquired the name ‘Ajahn Tim’ during his tenth rains retreat at WatNongBah Pong, Thailand, whilst practicing there as Ajahn Thanuttaro Bhikkhu. After 16 years of living in the monastic community he disrobed (went back to the lay life) due to health problems and to take care of his mother in Kent. He is a leading meditation teacher and organiser with the Alokabodhi Buddhist group in Maidstone, and sometimes travels to support other Buddhist groups in UK and Europe. He first encountered the Thai Forest Sangha and developed a love for the practice when he met Ajahn Sumedho in 1979 and continues to further his interest in meditation since then. From spring 2011 he has also been part of a team introducing mindfulness in schools.
Marjö Oosterhoff has been practicing and teaching insight and loving-kindness meditation for many years. She trained and continues to train in monasteries in Burma, where she ordains for the duration of her stays. She works and teaches at a small meditation centre - Passaddhi- in the southwest of Ireland.
Noirin Sheehan has practiced mindfulness within the Buddhist tradition for over 20 years and deeply appreciates this source of wisdom in life. About five years ago she started teaching mindfulness with Bhante Bodhidhamma (a Theravada Buddhist monk) and to study MBSR teaching at University of Bangor (Wales). She now teaches MBSR to staff and patients at St. James’s Hospital, Dublin as well as at Satipanya Buddhist Retreat in Wales.
Nick Scott has received the endorsement of the senior Western monks in the Ajahn Chah tradition to teach meditation retreats, and with their encouragement has taught in several European countries since 2003. This endorsement came after extensive spiritual training over thirty years, including ten years living at Chithurst Buddhist Monastery, long solitary retreats and walking pilgrimages with Buddhist monks. He is the co-author with Ajahn Sucitto of two books, Rude Awakenings and Great Patient One and is about to publish another with Ajahn Amaro.Nick’s teaching makes use of stories and anecdotes and is rooted in a profound understanding of ultimate reality and the path that leads to it. He emphasises the use of the Buddha’s insight teachings to understand how we cause our own suffering and separation from freedom, and the use of the teachings on compassion to undo this.
Nick lives near Clarinbridge in Co.Galway and is a plant ecologist by profession, with a doctorate, but now prefers to lead a quiet life of contemplation and Dhamma teaching.
Sharon Salzberg has been a student of Buddhism since 1971, and leading meditation retreats worldwide since 1974. She teaches both intensive awareness practice (vipassana or insight meditation) and the profound cultivation of lovingkindness and compassion (the Brahma Viharas).
Sharon’s latest book is The Kindness Handbook, published by Sounds True. She is also the author of The Force of Kindness, published by Sounds True; Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience, published by Riverhead Books; Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness and A Heart as Wide as the World, both published by Shambhala Publications; and co-author with Joseph Goldstein of Insight Meditation, a Step-by-Step Course on How to Meditate (audio), from Sounds True. She has edited Voices of Insight, an anthology of writings by vipassana teachers in the West, also published by Shambhala.
Sharon Salzberg is cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts. She has played a crucial role in bringing Asian meditation practices to the West. The ancient Buddhist practices of vipassana (mindfulness) and metta (lovingkindness) are the foundations of her work. “Each of us has a genuine capacity for love, forgiveness, wisdom and compassion. Meditation awakens these qualities so that we can discover for ourselves the unique happiness that is our birthright.” For more information about Sharon, please visit:www.SharonSalzberg.com, or for a sample of her teachings, you can download the following podcasts:
Donal Quirke qualified as a teacher in the Iyengar tradition of yoga in 2002 and spent five and a half years living with Buddhists deepening his understanding of Dharma practice and meditation. He has taught yoga at the Dublin Buddhist Centre, Samadhi Yoga Centre, Dublin and has also worked as a volunteer with groups in drug rehab, cancer support centers and centers for adults with special needs. He continues his study of Dharma through the Dharma Mind Buddhist group based in Birmingham UK and the monastics of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery.
Pádraig’s first exposure to the path of awakening was in 2000 when he attended courses at the School of Practical Philosophy , a school of spirituality largely influenced by the Advaita Vedanta tradition of India.
He then spent 5 years within the Vipassana Meditation tradition of S.N Goenka, attending many retreats and giving service in retreat centres in Europe and India. While travelling in India in 2009, he came across a book of teachings by Ajahn Sumedho, entitled “The Way It Is”. This proved to be an auspicious encounter and he felt a sympathetic resonance with the direct simplicity of Ajahn Sumedho’s teachings. He subsequently started to visit Sunyata Retreat Centre, Amaravati and Chithurst monasteries in England, as well as being part of a meditation group in Galway led by Nick Scott. Nick encouraged him to begin teaching.
As well as the teachings of Ajahn Sumedho, the main influences on his practice are the non-dual teachings of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj and Sri Ramana Maharshi as well as contemporary teachers like Adyashanti and Mooji.
In 2011/2012, Pádraig was manager of Sunyata Retreat Centre.
Now he continues to be involved as a volunteer, leading meditation classes and retreats.
Previously Pádraig has trained and worked as an electronic engineer, working in telecommunications, and later as a career guidance counsellor working with long-term unemployed.
Máiread Burke first became interested in meditation while living in London in the late 90′s. She attended the London School of Meditation in Holland Park. After returning to settle in her native Clare in 2005, she began attending Sunyata and since then has developed a keen interest and commitment to meditation practice. She now leads the monthly womens day. Máiread has been a member of the Sunyata board of trustees since 2011 and is also the board secretary.
Michael O’Brien‘s interest in spirituality began at an early age and he was first introduced to meditation in the late 80’s. He started coming to Sunyata in 2008 where he was introduced to the teachings of the Thai Forest tradition. He was immediately struck by the ease at which Ajahn Sumedho communicated the profound teaching of the path to liberation.
Michael became a director on the board of trustees at Sunyata in 2009 and was appointed Chairman of the Board in December 2011.
Michael is also the current manager of the Centre.