About Dharma Teacher Gathering

Conference History

The series of International Buddhist Teachers Gatherings began in 1993; with an event Lama Surya Das organized with HH the Dalai Lama. Over the years, the gatherings have provided an environment in which Asian, European, American and other teachers have come together to share perspectives, address differences in the Buddhist community, and create relationships that have challenged historical schism within and between the different schools and lineages.

Another goal stated by Jack Kornfield, one of the main organizers over the years, was to bring Buddhism in the West into the 20th, and now the 21st century. This includes questioning and updating patriarchal and medieval tendencies. In the past 20 years conversations among dharma teachers working in the west has helped bring more democratic process, more awareness and appreciation of women teachers, and more integrative practice to traditional Buddhism.

The gathering has grown from a small gathering of 22 teachers to an invitation list of over 400 for the most recent 2011 conference at Garrison Institute, New York with 230 teachers in attendance. Even with the greatly expanded invitation list, questions surfaced both in and around the event about improving and expanding outreach in the future. The feedback reflected the growing diversity of dharma teachers, teaching approaches, students and sanghas. As just a few examples of questions: how could the gathering be inclusive of more cultural diversity, teachers from and working with groups historically marginalized in mainstream western society (ethnic minorities; lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer), Asian immigrant Buddhist groups and churches, those teaching in new forms (such as primarily via the internet), and increasing the relatively low proportions of teachers in attendance with monastic and deep retreat experience.

This video interview with Sylvia Wetzel, Norman Fischer and Jack Kornfield, at the 2011 dharma teacher conference explores the importance of these western dharma teacher gatherings.

This short written interview with Lama Surya Das explores many of the questions around diversity and inclusion that surrounded the 2011 Conference.

Who is the Steering Committee

Until very recently, the gathering has been largely organized by many “pioneering” and well known teachers who have played an important role in establishing dharma in the West and who have personal friendships with each other. 2011 was the first year there was an intention to bring in a critical mass of a younger, “next generation,” of dharma teachers to the conference itself and to add a few of these teachers to the organizing group. The 2011 conference ended with a session for those interested in keeping the conferences going. An open invitation was made for volunteers and several people were also encouraged by previous committee members to consider volunteering in an effort to create a well rounded and diverse group composition.

Name Tradition Organization
Amma Thanasanti* Theravada Forest Awakening Truth (supporting a Bhikkhuni training monastery for Buddhist nuns, bringing ancient teachings into the modern world).
Arinna Weisman Theravada / Burmese Insight meditation teacher.
Lama Dawa Tarchin Phillips* Vajrayana – Kagyu, Non-Sectarian Research Specialist and Mindfulness Educator in the Department of Psychology at the University of California Santa Barbara.Founder and board member of The Institute of Compassionate Awareness that provides secular meditation training to school children and youth.Dawa is the resident teacher of the Santa Barbara Bodhi Path Buddhist Center.
Diana Winston* Theravada/Spirit Rock UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, Director of Mindfulness Education.
Venerable Myokei Caine-Barrett Nichiren Shu/Lotus Sutra Resident priest of Myoken Temple in Houston.
Venerable Pannavati Theravada and Mahayana Co-founder and Co-Abbot of Embracing-Simplicity Hermitage in Hendersonville, NC.
Michael Craft Omega Institute business and program development strategist.
Noah Levine* Theravada and Mahayana American Buddhist (trained to teach by Jack Kornfield, Spirit Rock) Author of Dharma Punx and Against the Stream.
Brother Phap Hai* Linchi zen lineage- Plum Village tradition Deer Park Monastery
Sylvia Wetzel (also a 2011 organizing committee member) Vajrayana Board member, German Buddhist Union
Dharmacharini Viveka Chen* Triratna Buddhist Order (ekayana) Chairwoman and teacher at the Triratna San Francisco Buddhist Center and a nonprofit, social justice consultant.