Originally from Chattanooga, Kittisaro graduated from Princeton as a Rhodes Scholar and went on to Oxford before going to Thailand to ordain with Ajahn Chah in 1976. He was a monk for 15 years and during that time helped found Chithurst Monastery and Devon Vihara in the UK. He also taught extensively during this time and was involved in the training of monks. He disrobed in 1991 and since then has taught internationally in the States, Europe, South Africa, and Israel. He has studied and practiced Chan and Pure Land for 35 years informed by the Chinese school of Master Hua. Kittisaro has completed two one year long silent self retreats and is currently writing in between continuing his teaching engagements. Together with Thanissara, they founded and continue to engage in running Dharmagiri Hermitage in South and its Non-profit activities focused on local rural community support.
Thanissara, originally from London, was a Buddhist nun for 12 years in the Forest School of Ajahn Chah. She has been teaching Buddhism and meditation internationally for the last 25 years. She has an MA in Mindfulness Based Psychotherapy Practice and currently resides and works between the US and South Africa. She is co-founder of Dharmagiri South Africa, and is currently focused on Dharma and climate action. Thanissara is author of the Heart of the Bitter Almond Hedge Sutra which explores the resonances of Colonialism in South Africa and the exploitation of the Earth in the context of the Heart Sutra. Her new book Time to Stand Up: An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth — The Buddha’s Life and Message through Feminine Eyes (Sacred Activism) retells the story of the historical Buddha, one of the greatest sacred activists of all time, as a practical human being whose teachings of freedom from suffering are more relevant than ever in this time of global peril. With Kittisaro, they recently published Listening to the Heart: A Contemplative Journey to Engaged Buddhism, deeply personal dharma book exploring the inner practice of meditation in support of awakening.
Our Volunteer Dharma Leaders
Janka Livoncova is an Insight Meditation Teacher, Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT 500) and a trained Somatic Movement Educator. She has been a dedicated student and practitioner of meditation and yoga since 1994 and started sharing her practice with others in 2004.
Janka has been practicing and studying the dharma for two decades. First in the Soto Zen tradition and, since 2007, under the guidance of her mentor, DaeJa Napier. She maintains a daily meditation practice and regularly attends Vipassana retreats with her dharma teachers. A graduate of Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s Community Dharma Leaders Program, Janka leads Insight Meditation classes and retreats in Chattanooga area and co-facilitates Awakening Truth’s Interactive Inquiry Calls on Sundays.
Janka completed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Mind-Body Medicine professional training program under the direction of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and Dr. Saki Santorelli. She has been leading the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction courses and other mindfulness programs at the Center for Mindful Living since they opened in January 2013. More information at www.breathingbody.net
Rod Francis – As well as a diverse career through international performing arts and business, Rod has been teaching for almost 30 years and coaching & mentoring for over a decade. He is currently working alongside leading mind/body expert Dr Mark Atkinson creating and delivering the Bulletproof Coach Training program, and has trained with numerous leaders from the worlds of coaching, personal development and Positive Psychology.
Rod has had a meditation practice for approximately three decades and has sat many teacher led retreats in the Insight tradition including several with his guiding teacher Yanai Postelnik. Rod also sat the MBSR in Mind Body Medicine retreat with the program’s founder Jon Kabat-Zinn and is currently formally qualifying as an MBSR teacher with the Umass teacher program.
Yong Oh entered Buddhism originally through Soto Zen before expanding his practice into the Vipassana tradition. He has also completed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Mind-Body Medicine, professional training program under the direction of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and Dr. Saki Santorelli. Yong is a graduate of the 2-year Community Dharma Leader Training Program (CDL5) at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California and is currently in the 4-year Teacher Training at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA.
Ed Canler -We honor the memory of our dear friend and fellow dharma leader Ed who passed away in May of 2015. A dedicated practitioner in both Buddhist and Catholic traditions, he loved sharing his experience and love of contemplative practice, meditation and faith. We remain grateful for his generous and loving heart, and remember his contributions to the Chattanooga Insight sangha. Ed wrote, “Our essential reason for gathering together is not to harvest gems of wisdom provided by the teachers but to support each other by practicing as a community. Only through that practice will we be able to tell when a gem has been handed to us.”