Rita M. Gross was internationally known for her innovative work on gender and religion. She was also a Buddhist dharma teacher having been appointed to that position by Her Eminence Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche.
Rita Gross taught on a wide variety of topics and led meditation retreats of varying lengths. She specialized in bringing together the values and perspective of academic research and Buddhist dharma teachings.
Robb Reed discovered the peace and joy that comes with meditation after a week with Thich Nhat Hanh at Plum Village, France in 1993. Upon his return, he practiced at the Minnesota Zen Center. He came to Common Ground in 2002. Since his retirement from teaching in the Minneapolis Public Schools for 27 years, he has delighted in the freedom of taking longer retreats. Robb ordained as a monk for 6 weeks in Myanmar in 2015 and the following year spent 6 weeks on retreat at Insight Meditation Society followed by another 6 weeks at Temple Forest Monastery. He works part-time for the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota teaching Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
Santikaro lived with Ajahn Buddhadasa during the last nine years of his life and became his primary translator. Ordained as a Theravada Bhikkhu in 1985, Santikaro spent most of his monastic life at Suan Mokkh. During this time he led Dawn Kiam, a small monastic community for foreigners. He is the founder of Liberation Park, a modern expression of Buddhist practice, study, and social responsibility, located in rural southwestern Wisconsin. There he continues to teach, explore nature, and translate the work of his teacher. He teaches Buddhism and meditation with an emphasis on the early Pali sources and is a lucid interpreter of the original teachings and discourses.
The most compelling part of my practice right now comes in the form of my writing. For a long time, I've focused my teaching and writing on lovingkindness. Now as I look more deeply into lovingkindness, I find that it actually rests on another foundation, the expression of faith.
Faith is the topic I am exploring most in teaching and writing. Today there is a tremendous upsurge of interest in a new kind of faith, based on a practice where people can experience a direct spirituality, one without rigid dogma or compulsory belief in a specific cosmology. This is a spirituality that rests on personal transformation.
Vipassana allows us to take a method of mind training and craft a way of life that is more compassionate, more ethical and more powerful than our unawakened lives. The Buddha's teachings give us an immediate experience of what we can do to change. Faith in the teachings means we align ourselves with a vision of our greatest possibilities. This is the heart of the practice.
Shelly has been coming to Common Ground since 2005. She remembers Mark telling her at her first daylong retreat, when she was feeling unsure, “If you can sit for half an hour you can sit for a day.” Since then, she has become an integral leader in our community, serving in many different roles over the years, including as an office volunteer, a program host, and a cushion-putter-away-er. Currently she leads the Sunday morning teen group with Ramesh Sairam, teaches Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, serves as a Practice Leader at Common Ground’s retreat property, and leads the Unraveling Privilege group with Leigh Rosenberg. For a long time she has been interested in what it means to serve as a white social worker in brown communities. She is also a huge MN Lynx fan!
My biding motivation for the practice of teaching is to share my interest, my understanding and my confidence in the Buddha's way for a balanced and deeply happy life. Given the pace of our culture and the direction in which it is going, mindfulness is essential to sanity. Since my first vipassana retreat in 1975, I've experienced the wisdom of sanity, peace and freedom.
Now, the challenge in sharing the dhamma is to translate the Buddha's understanding into an idiom that speaks to the whole of our lives. As practice matures, the focus in guiding others shifts from informing the skeptic, inspiring the depressed and doubtful, soothing the suffering, energizing the lazy, cautioning the ambitious to discovering the subtler sources of suffering and happiness in our understanding and behavior. With deepening vipassana insight, students joyfully and confidently disentangle their minds.
In all of this, what sustains me as a teacher is the unwavering confidence that mindfulness is the source of our healing, sanity and freedom. Vipassana practice offers us a perspective on reality that is liberating, both personally and at every level of human interaction. Initially, my unwavering commitment was to the practice. Now my commitment includes service in sharing the dhamma and wherever possible informing, inspiring and encouraging others in the practice.