Lineage is important because it maintains and transmits the teachings of the Buddha from generation to generation. We are fortunate beneficiaries of the study, dedication, practice and teaching of these men and women. We follow in their footsteps.
Sayadaw means venerable teacher and was given as a title to highly respected monks.
The Ven Ledi Sayadaw (1846-1923)
As a boy in Burma, Ledi Sayadaw, (named Maung Tet Khaung when born) attended the monastery school and learned to read and write. When he was fifteen, he was ordained as a novice and entered the monastery. He was a bright student and over time became an influential scholar, writer, and teacher. He was considered one of the most learned monks in Burma. He became known as Ledi Sayadaw in 1886 when he went into retreat in Ledi Forest. Bhikkhus (monks) traveled there and asked him to teach them. Eventually a monastery was built to house him and the monks.
Unlike the common practice, Ledi Sayadaw wrote about the Dhamma in ways that lay people could understand and access the teachings. This was an important development; previously, education in the Dhamma was reserved for ordained monks.
The Ven. Webu Sayadaw (1896-1977)
His primary focus was on diligent practice rather than on scholastic achievement. In fact, he spent most of this time in solitude and taught Anapanasati, awareness of the breath. He discovered for himself and taught his students that working with this practice allowed deep levels of concentration from which developed Vipassana (insight) into three important teachings of the Buddha which lead to nibbana: the insight of anicca (impermanence), dukkha (all pervasive unsatisfactory nature of experience) and anatta (recognition of no-self), that all that arises is the result of causes and conditions that flow together and apart.
It is widely understood that he was an arahant (a fully enlightened being).
Saya Thetgyi (1873-1945)At birth, Saya Thetgyi’s parents named their son Maung Po Thet. Born in a farming village close to the city of Rangoon, his childhood was spent helping to support his family. His mother was instrumental in his moral development and Maung Po Thet learned to respect all life and not take anything not given. He was a trusted employee and was able to earn a wage that supported the family.
At the age of sixteen, he married Ma Hmyin’s and, as was customary, they lived with her parents and sisters. When he was twenty-three, he learned Anapanasati (mindfulness of the breath).
After wandering throughout Burma, he finally studied and practiced with Ven. Ledi Sayadaw. His wife and sister-in -law stayed in the village and managed the family rice fields. They supported his spiritual quest through their blessing and by sending money from their harvest. His teacher encouraged him to develop his practice so that he could teach. After seven years, Maung Po Thet returned to the village and lived on the edge of the family’s land and meditated continuously for one year. In 1914, Maung Po Thet began teaching Anapanasati. A year later, he visited Ledi Sayadaw along with his wife and her sister and other members of the family. Ledi Sayadaw was quite pleased at Maung’s report of the courses he was teaching. At this time, Maung became known as Saya Thetgyi (Saya means teacher and -gyi added to his name denotes respect.)
Sayagyi U Ba Khin (1899-1971)
Sayagyi U Ba Khin began meditating in 1937 under the tutelage of Saya Thetgyi. He advanced quickly and studied both Ananpanasati (awareness of the breath) and Vipassana (insight). This was a unique situation as he did not enter a monastery. He was a layman working as the Chief Accounts Officer, Burma Railways Board. He traveled the country frequently, checking the accounting of different locations. After working one day, he and the local station master went for a walk and happened upon the monastery of Webu Sayadaw.
Sayagyi’s advanced progress in the practices of Anapanasati and Vipassana astonished Webu Sayadaw because Sayagyi was a layman and not an ordained monk. He recognized Sayaghi’s expertise and said, “You must start teaching now. You have acquired good pāramī (perfection), and you must teach the Dhamma to others. Do not let people who meet you miss the benefits of receiving this teaching. You must not wait. You much teach – teach now!”
Saya Thetgyi also encouraged Sayagyi to teach and with the strong support of these two teachers, he began to teach. In 1950, he founded the Vipassana Association of the Accountant General’s Office where lay people could learn Vipassana. By 1952, the International Meditation Center opened where local and foreign students studied with Sayagyi.
Over the years, Sayagyi U Ba Khin balanced his considerable skill in teaching, with devotion to his government service job and his family. He was married and fathered five daughters and a son.
Ruth Denison (1922-2015)Ruth Denison calls Sayagyi U Ba Khin her teacher; however, she studied in many countries with various teachers.
Ruth was born in eastern Germany. Being raised in a Christian tradition, she understood her earliest spiritual experiences as saints and angels speaking to her.
Her life as a young woman was difficult. Prior to World War II, she was an elementary school teacher. But during the war, Russians invaded the area and she and many others evacuated in long lines of horse-drawn wagons. Many froze to death in the cold; however, she eventually arrived in Berlin in the midst of Allied bombs.
As the war advanced, Ruth returned to her hometown by hiding on freight trains. The Russians who occupied the town sent her to a forced labor camp where she and many others were mistreated. Some died from disease.
Ruth reported that she survived the mistreatment and very difficult conditions by remembering her childhood connection with saints and angels. Prayer sustained her and she realized later that it was really a meditative process. She focused on an object of concentration, which she named God at the time, and developed a feeling of trust. She later reflected that the trust seems to come from the outside, but she realized that it really came from the inside.
After several years of very difficult circumstances, Ruth made it back to West Berlin where she began teaching again. Through her associations, she found a person to sponsor her move to the United States. She settled in Los Angeles and in 1958 met the man she would eventually marry.
Both were very interested in spiritual life and they traveled to many countries to study in a variety of Buddhist and Hindu traditions. In the early 1960’s they travelled to Burma and met U Ba Khin. She recounted her meditation practice to him. With his assistance, she experienced a breakthrough and opened to a deeper level of concentration as well as gained a clearer sense of the purpose of meditation.
Along with a few others, Ruth received transmission (permission to teach) from U Ba Khin. She was the only woman. She began teaching retreats in Europe, bringing Vipassana practice to those countries. After a few years, she returned to California. She purchased a cabin on five acres of land outside Joshua Tree, California which she used to escape the busy-ness of Hollywood. Over time, her students joined her there and Dhamma Dena, a retreat center, came into existence.
Lucinda Treelight Green (1951- )“Never underestimate the power of presence and the power of the practice,” Lucinda Treelight Green, Ph.D. reminds her students often. She dedicated her own life to presence and practice at a young age.
Lucinda grew up in Eastern Washington State in the 1950’s in Richland, a small town that had been established to support the efforts of World War II. Plutonium was developed and manufactured there beginning in the 1940’s. It had been used to create the atomic bomb, although those who worked toward that effort were not told about that intention.
It was largely a happy childhood for Lucinda who was nurtured by her mother, Pauline Barr, a gregarious, intelligent woman dedicated to raising her children. Her father, George Dawson Barr, was “salt of the earth,” industrious and resourceful. Lucinda was imbued with these same qualities and pioneer spirit. A sense of discovery followed her and fueled her own growth. Being adventurous and a visionary came naturally to her and were fostered within her family.
At the age of twelve, Lucinda asked her Methodist Sunday school teacher if she would lead a study group over the summer. Lucinda was curious about the meaning and purpose of life and wanted to explore what that meant. A small group of girls met weekly and Lucinda’s life-long spiritual endeavors were formally launched. One of the ideas that anchored itself in Lucinda’s curiosity was the mystic, the Christian notion of living in the world but not of the world.
When Lucinda was 16, her investigation turned toward the question, “How do I serve?”
During these years, Lucinda read Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha and began meditating in the style of Self Realization Fellowship led by Paramahansa Yogananda. “Meditation came very naturally to me,” says Lucinda. “I never had difficulty concentrating. Once I started meditating, I never stopped.”
It was also at age 16 that Lucinda made a promise to herself that no person, place, or thing would get in the way of her spiritual growth. Later she learned that persons and places and things would be part of her spiritual growth; but her purpose was always quite clear: her life was to be lived, focused, dedicated and developed fully in order to serve.
Part of her undergraduate education included a year of study in India including Vedanta philosophy. Lucinda had her eye out for a guru and was initiated into Transcendental Meditation. Her interest in Buddhism was peaked in a visit to Sri Lanka in the spring of that year. “Being in a Buddhist country and seeing young Buddhist monks in their orange robes bathing in the Indian Ocean, laughing, splashing one another, being so playful sparked my interest,” she says. It was there where seeds were planted that blossomed in a life dedicated to Buddhism.
Lucinda studied with many teachers and two emerged as her primary teachers: Ruth Denison and Ayya Khema. Lucinda reflects that her root teacher, Ruth Denison, “embodied the Dharma as no one else. It was seamless for Ruth. Her life was Dharma. Dharma was her life.” Ruth’s gender also played a significant role for Lucinda. Ruth embodied the Dharma as a woman. “I, being a woman, could relate to Ruth’s expression and embodiment of the teachings.” It was with Ruth’s influence that those early seeds of interest took root and Lucinda chose Buddhist study and practice as her primary path to the development of understanding, compassion, wisdom, and realization.
Sweeping meditation was a favorite of Ruth’s and during the many hours on Ruth’s retreats, Lucinda easily found access concentration, which led her into the meditative absorptions, although she did not have words to define that experience until she met her second teacher, Ayya Khema.
During the time of Lucinda’s graduate studies, Ayya Khema spoke at the Zen Center in San Francisco. Lucinda lit up seeing the pictures of an island community of female monastics Ayya had just begun in Sri Lanka. As part of her presentation, Ayya Khema invited those interested to come and see. Lucinda was definitely interested. Upon receiving her Ph.D. in 1985, she took off to Asia and, by way of celebrating her educational achievement, entered Ayya Khema’s nunnery in Sri Lanka, where she lived and studied for 4 ½ months.
Nun’s island was intended to re-create, for women, the conditions and style of living at the time of the Buddha. Lucinda describes these months as a rare opportunity that was both challenging and rewarding. Days were spent in study of the Dharma, chanting, meditating, and living together in a Buddhist country among an international community of women. During interviews, Ayya Khema was able to help Lucinda name and hone her meditative absorption experiences.
These two teachers helped her discover for herself the bedrock of equanimity that set the stage for the next opportunity in her life-long dedication to serve.
The San Francisco Bay area had been like a womb for Lucinda’s early development, a place where she had blossomed. But it was also a very busy place. She yearned for a different pace of life, and one less densely populated where she could answer her next call of spreading alternative work within mainstream culture. Upon returning from Nun’s island in 1986 she moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado.
With Ruth’s blessing, Lucinda began teaching Vipassana meditation to a wide range of individuals. In 1995 she received transmission from Ruth Denison that inaugurated her as a Dharma teacher into the Theravada lineage of The Ven. Ledi Sayadaw.
Beth ChorpenningBeth Chorpenning is grateful every day for the Vipassana meditation practice that she first learned at RMI many years ago and the fruitful journey that followed. The fruits of the journey have taken many forms and have built a platform of investigation and insight that continues to this day.
She came to RMI at the invitation of a dear friend in 1995. At that time she had a career in Psychiatric Nursing, was married with two small children and a business owner. There was an irresistible calling to meditation practice in order to live a more calm, mindful and insightful way of life. She began to teach at RMI in 2004.
One of the first fruits discovered in meditation practice was the relaxation of the body and a calming of the mind. She still finds this no small thing in our complex and often confusing world.
Another fruit that arose was noticing that consistent sitting in meditation led to seeing what has been termed “the landscape of the mind”. The ups and downs, mountains and valleys, of our mental habits and emotional patterns. This witnessing allowed for a more objective, friendly and compassionate view of herself and others.
A third fruit of meditation practice and the broader study of Buddhism was the laying down of the groundwork for a deep investigation into our true nature. An introduction to the practice of the Jhanas by Lucinda and further teaching with Leigh Brasington was pivotal to this groundwork.
The investigations continue with discoveries and confirmations ongoing. Although she is no longer teaching in a formal way, her Buddhist practice and a deep interest in the philosophy of Non-duality keep her in conversation and engaged. She is currently compiling a book of contemplations illustrated with watercolors.
Michele Sneath was raised as a Unitarian Universalist where she first began her interest in eastern philosophy, primarily Taoism. When she moved to Colorado Springs in 1990, she joined the Unitarian church. In 1998, the church offered an introduction to Buddhism course taught by Dr. Lucinda Green. Vipassana meditation and Buddhism became an instant fit and attending retreats and learning the jhanas deepened her practice and has kept her motivated to continue on the path. Her primary area of study has been the teaching of dependent origination. Michele received Dharma Transmission from Dr. Lucinda Green in 2005.
Vic has been a member of Rocky Mountain Insight since the spring of 2002. He received Dharma Transmission from Dr. Lucinda Green in 2007. Prior to that, he had practiced meditation in the Vipassana tradition for just over thirty years. He received his Master’s Degree in Philosophy (Asian) from the University of Hawaii in 1972, where he studied with Dr. David Kalupahana and visited India, Thailand, and Sri Lanka while on an East-West Center Grant. From 1972 until 2002, Victor worked to develop a sound philosophical foundation for the Dharma, and considers persistence, awareness, trust, and happiness in the Dharma to be especially valuable. Victor has also meditated in the Christian monastic tradition and considers this to affirm the diversity of meditative experience. Vic has volunteered over 2000 hours of clinical dental work in the United States and overseas.
Pat Komarow, (formerly Teglar) (1946-2015)Pat Komarow was drawn to following a spiritual path beginning in childhood. In 1989, she began practicing Buddhist Meditation. “The deep questions and answers of life have always intrigued me” said Pat, “and Buddhism has helped me with some of these, especially the concepts of Metta or Loving-Kindness.”
Pat received Dharma transmission from her teacher, Lucinda Green, in 2012.
Pat exemplified the qualities of metta. She was recognized as someone with boundless capacity for kindness and friendship which she shared freely. For many years, Pat led weekly Metta Meditation at RMI. She also was on the RMI Board and taught many meditation and Dharma classes to many students over the years.
She was a living example of Buddhism, especially toward the end of her life as she dealt with a cancer diagnosis and the inevitability of death. She didn’t wallow in the burdens caused by her ailment but she also didn’t hide her process. In the last year, she often taught from her personal experience of how the Dharma can be a refuge in finding wisdom, compassion and joy even midst life-challenging struggles.
Pat served in many ways, as a Kripalu certified Yoga Teacher, a Licensed Massage Therapist, and a Stress-Reduction Meditation Teacher with training from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s UMass Medical Center program. For 14 years, she taught Special Needs Yoga until shortly before her death. Ever wanting to help individuals, Pat also worked as a speech therapist in private practice, hospitals, clinics, and schools.