Ani Lodro

Ani Lodro reflects on the impact of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, acknowledging its relatively recent introduction in 1959. She recognizes the positive influence it has had on Western culture, despite the challenges of conveying its depth and complexity. Ani Lodro notes the emergence of buzzwords like mindfulness and meditation in mainstream discourse, signifying the infiltration of Buddhist terminology into society.

She emphasizes the double-edged nature of this influence, cautioning against the superficial adoption of terms without a true understanding of their meaning. Ani Lodro expresses concern about the potential for misconceptions, citing tantra as an example of a complex concept that has been oversimplified and misunderstood, leading to confusion and even mental instability for some practitioners.

Despite these challenges, Ani Lodro remains optimistic about the positive impact of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. She sees the introduction of Buddhist concepts as an invitation for sincere seekers to explore a spiritual path. Ani Lodro encourages patience, recognizing that the assimilation of a tradition that spans 2,500 years into Western culture will take time, urging individuals to delve deeper into the meanings behind the terms and concepts that have become prevalent in contemporary discourse.


Gareth reflects on the challenging nature of money within relationships and business, noting the destructive impact it can have on families and partnerships. He draws parallels between the potential breakdown of relationships due to financial disputes in his business consulting experience and the broader societal issue of monetizing spiritual teachings.

Expressing concern about the increasing number of meditation teachers being trained without deep internal wisdom, Gareth sees parallels with the yoga industry. He criticizes the current approach, where individuals undergo relatively short training programs and then declare themselves teachers, potentially compromising the depth of their understanding. He emphasizes that true wisdom develops over decades and cannot be achieved through abbreviated training.

Gareth points out the confusion arising from this trend and the challenges ahead for serious practitioners navigating this landscape. He acknowledges the positive aspects of building a culture of kindness and intentionality but stresses the need for a more discerning approach to spiritual teaching. He encourages individuals to explore various practices, urging a slow and thoughtful engagement with community and emphasizing the importance of bringing wisdom to the decision-making process.


Lennell emphasizes the influence of a Western European filter on the understanding of Buddhism in the American landscape. She scrutinizes the reinterpretation and selectivity that occurs as Buddhism integrates into American culture. Concerned about the individualistic interpretation of Buddhism in the U.S., Lennell appreciates the focus on Dharma Kaiya Buddha in One Buddhism, contrasting it with the concentration on the image of Buddha that often leads to divisive arguments.

She notes the importance of being mindful as Buddhism undergoes translation and reinterpretation, questioning the origins of the term “Buddhism” and the potential distortion of its essence by Western interpretations. Lennell underscores the misunderstanding of Buddhism as individualistic, advocating for a deeper understanding that going inward is a means to transcend the mind rather than a self-serving endeavor.

In her critique, Lennell calls for caution to prevent Buddhism from deviating and losing its true essence, akin to other religions that have strayed from their core principles. Her insights highlight the need for awareness and discernment as Buddhism continues to evolve in different cultural contexts.


Mark reflects on his role as a teacher in Tibetan Buddhism, highlighting the differences between his approach and that of his own teacher. While his teacher maintained a strict and traditional demeanor, Mark adopts a more relaxed stance, focusing on emotional aspects and reconnecting students with fundamental Buddhist concepts like the four thoughts that turn the mind.

Acknowledging the vastness of his teacher’s mind, Mark emphasizes the importance of finding one’s unique path rather than trying to fill someone else’s shoes. Drawing inspiration from historical figures like Martha and Miller, he strives to translate complex Tibetan teachings into more accessible English, bridging the gap between traditional and contemporary perspectives.

Mark sees his role as a mediator between the old and new schools of thought, maintaining discipline while allowing for flexibility. He underscores the seriousness of their commitment to Buddhism, emphasizing that their practice is not merely a leisure activity. Reflecting on his own life experiences, Mark finds value in having gone through difficulties, allowing him to relate better to students facing challenges.

Despite not connecting with every student, Mark recognizes the inexplicable bonds formed with some, a phenomenon common among teachers. Through his teachings, Mark aims to convey the essence of their practice, emphasizing the need to let go of rigid structures and embrace the fluidity of spiritual growth.


Joe emphasizes the crucial role of language in understanding and practicing Buddhism. He discusses the efforts led by Kenbo Choga Rinpoche to bring teachings into various languages, with a focus on English, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, and Japanese, the latter translated by Joe’s wife. Joe notes the evolution of Rinpoche’s English proficiency since their meeting in 2004.

The challenge lies in accurately translating teachings while maintaining their essence, considering the unique linguistic nuances of each culture. Joe highlights the importance of finding the right words that resonate with contemporary Western culture. He acknowledges the meticulous effort Rinpoche invests in refining translations, spending hours and days to capture the precise meaning.

An example is the term “thinking” used by Rinpoche, representing the active nature of the mind. Joe underscores the significance of language in grasping the essence of teachings, enabling practitioners to intellectually understand and eventually embody concepts like love and compassion through meditation. While English serves as a primary medium, traditional Tibetan elements, such as the Seven-Line Prayer and Sanskrit/Tibetan mantras, are preserved for their multifaceted meanings and blessing power. In summary, Joe highlights the intricate balance between preserving authentic Dharma and adapting it to contemporary linguistic and cultural contexts.

Sensie Michael

In Sensie Michael’s perspective, the discussion centers on the propagation of Soto Zen in the West, drawing parallels with retail location strategies. Sensie Michael reflects on the contrast between the vast number of temples in Japan and the practical, user-friendly approach adopted in the West. He likens the Western model to the convenience of a 7-Eleven, emphasizing accessibility and community engagement over the traditional monastic model. The narrative delves into the challenges of starting new groups and the importance of training practice leaders who can guide meditation sessions, lead Dharma discussions, and conduct Zen ceremonies. Sensie Michael outlines a step-by-step training path, incorporating the significance of lineage in formal ceremonies, such as the giving of precepts. The goal is to make Zen practice accessible while maintaining a balance between tradition and adaptation to Western cultural norms.

On Buddhism in the South

Sensie Michael recounts receiving numerous invitations from various religious organizations, including MLK Day events, Methodist Presbyterian Church, Unity Church, Unitarian churches, and Catholic churches. He has participated in combined weddings with Catholic priests and engaged in interfaith work, hosting ministers, rabbis, and priests for meditation sessions. These invitations, often stemming from a desire to understand and incorporate meditation into their traditions, highlight a recognition among religious leaders that meditation holds a place in their past but has been largely forgotten.

While some conservative groups express concerns about meditation, associating it with potential negative influences, most religious communities, including Unitarians and even Southern Baptists, have shown openness to Sensie Michael’s teachings. Over the years, attitudes have evolved, with meditation becoming more widely accepted and practiced within congregations. Despite occasional resistance, particularly regarding practices like yoga in schools, Sensie Michael believes that such pushback represents a form of ignorance that will likely diminish with time.