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Top 10 Buddhist teachers living in America

Coffee-stain ensoWaylon Lewis at the Huffington Post has compiled a list of what he considers to the the top ten teachers “you can study with,” excluding “charlatans,” “promising youngsters,” “those who you can’t really study with because they’re too famous,” or “in private meditation retreat all the time.”

1. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche ~ he’s young but not too young, experienced, thoroughly Westernized (though exotically Tibetan, heritage-wise), a great teacher and frequently accessible at programs around the US, Europe, Canada, even South America. But because he’s a rising star, you’ve got to make an effort if you want personal training.

2. Pema Chodron ~ though Pema is a best selling, accessible, wise, safe teacher, and Oprah loves her…I nearly disqualified her because she’s no longer frequently accessible. But she’s just too good to overlook. So check out her teaching schedule, and connect with her before she retires or goes into retreat.

3. Sharon Salzberg ~ like Pema, she’s a best-selling author, beloved by Oprah, and an immediately accessible teacher to Buddhists and never-gonna-be-Buddhists alike. While less feisty than Pema, she‘s deeply experienced and warm-hearted. With her partners-in-crime Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield, she teaches mostly out of the Insight Meditation Centre in Barre, Mass.

4. Ponlop Rinpoche ~ like Mipham Rinpoche and Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche (below), a young, well-trained teacher who belongs to the first generation of Tibetan Buddhist raised and trained in the West. He’s got an avid, small-but-fast-growing community–perfect if you want personal attention and training.

5. Joan Halifax Roshi ~ a strikingly-lovely, wise and venerable American Zen teacher, she‘s based out of her Upaya Zen Center in New Mexico, and works with the yoga community extensively. A superstar.

6. Dr. Reggie Ray ~ while he’s been caught in that “I’m American yet folks treat me like a guru vortex” that’s chewed up and spit out Osel Tendzin and Richard Baker Roshi before him, Reggie is like Pema a magnetic, accessible teacher. Unlike Pema, he’s got a small community with whom he works closely. Perfect if you want personal attention and training.

7. Columbia professor, Free Tibet activist and co-founder of The Tibet House, righthand man to the Dalai Lama, one of TIME’s most Influential People and father of Uma, Robert Thurman is charismatic, wild and wise–perfect for those who want to connect with the Dalai Lama’s teachings.

8. Norman Fischer ~ I don’t know him at all, being mostly a Tibetan Buddhist trained boy myself, but he’s got a stellar reputation for integrity.

9. Dr. Judith Simmer-Brown, Dale Asrael, Frank Berliner ~ alright, I’m cheating–combining three in one–but if you’re college-age, you can find ‘em all (and other gems, too) at little Naropa University. Dr. Simmer-Brown is an expert in feminism, or the feminine principle in Buddhism, Ms. Asrael is wise and kind, Mr. Berliner is deeply serious, knowledgeable, caring, and impossibly good looking–the Marlboro man of Buddhism.

10. Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche ~ like Ponlop Rinpoche, if you’re looking for a small community, personal attention and deep study, he’s perfect for you. Same goes for the remarkable, crazy-wisdomish Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche–an artist, filmmaker and incredible teacher–who has a strong, committed community. If however, you’re looking to simply inject a little mindfulness and awake-ness and peace and sanity into your daily life, you may want to stick with the superstars listed above.

Lewis insists that the list isn’t final and invites comments.


BodhipaksaBodhipaksa is a Buddhist practitioner, writer, and teacher, and is also the founder of Wildmind. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and daughter, and has a particular interest in teaching prison inmates.

As well as teaching behind bars, Bodhipaksa also conducts classes at Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, New Hampshire. He muses, rants, and shares random aspects of his life on his blog at bodhipaksa.com. You can follow Bodhipaksa’s Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/bodhipaksa or join him on Facebook.


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Comment from sakyong (Sakyong Mipham)
Time: December 31, 1969, 11:59 pm

Top 10 Buddhist teachers living in America: … top ten teachers “you can study with,” excluding &quot.. http://tinyurl.com/5l9rxh

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Comment from jojosan
Time: August 18, 2009, 3:13 pm

You’re choices of the top ten Buddhists were very interesting. There is one omission that I
feel deserves mentioning and that is Jack Kornfield. His latest book, The Wise Heart, is
a classic. I would suggest to you and your readers, that you take the time to look into
this extraordinary offering from a compassionate and kind man.
Much metta to everyone, everywhere.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 18, 2009, 3:32 pm

I hasten to add that this isn’t our list — we were just reporting on it. But I agree completely that Jack Kornfield should be on it, as should Joseph Goldstein. Both are fantastic teachers.

Metta,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Jack Boling
Time: November 13, 2012, 3:12 am

I know of many great buddhist teachers living in the USA. It is unfortunate that in order to be on the list they have to have either written a book or be in the Main stream. Even Main Stream I can name a few, or is this just a List of monks from Tibet? santikaro bhikkhu, thanissaro bhikkhu, Ajahn Pasanno, and many others, sure Jack Kornfield, Venerable Rahula, Henepola Gunaratana to name a few.

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