When were you first exposed to dharma?

Growing up, my mother would take my brother and I to Chinese Buddhist Temples scattered around the Bay Area on a very sporadic basis. Usually, just a few times a hour, if that. I wouldn’t say that I was introduced to the dharma per se then, but it does have a place in the memories of my childhood as an introduction to traditions and ritual. It was not until I encountered a sitting group at the San Francisco Zen Center in November of 2013 that I would say that the dharma touched me. I was drawn to SFZC by an interest in mindfulness and in particular, meditation. What began as a simple curiosity to simply explore a practice of sitting, has over the years, grown and deepened. I would say these seeds were planted with a light, soft touch with curiosity as my guidepoint. I grew up attending Catholic Schools in my youth and though I was not Catholic, I did attend mass. I also attended friends Christian churches from time to time – more from a social interest than a spiritual one. Buddhism resonated with me very differently. For me, I experienced a lightness and an allowing in the dharma that I wasn’t exposed to in other forms of spirituality. An acceptance of all things. I wouldn’t say that I picked ‘Buddhism.’ In fact, as a self-proclaimed atheist for most of my life, there was a bit of discomfort whenever I would ask myself, “Am I a Buddhist?” Rather, I felt able to walk alongside the dharma in a spacious, open way that felt natural. I felt able to continue my exploration of spirituality, to continue my own style of curious questioning, and nurturing of a practice. And just one day, I felt like I was on the Path, somewhat suddenly. I continue to feel nourished by that.


How has the path manifest in your daily experience? Does it reflect in your work and relationships?

The path is the core pillar of all decisions on livelihood for me. The dharma is typically where I turn for consultation or as a guide. And I practice with the brahma-vihara’s and the eightfold path as a daily contemplation. It has guided my foray’s in work, such as recently starting a Healthcare company with it’s mantra, “well Being for all.” I am nourished by the purpose I’ve discovered through my exploration of the Path and it manifests in every relationship that touches me.

I am nourished by the purpose I’ve discovered
through my exploration of the Path
and it manifests in every relationship that touches me.

Who is your teacher(s)?

I started at the San Francisco Zen Center and thus, Soto Zen in the Mahayana tradition, has been the lineage that I have been most seated in. I appreciate the ritual and forms of Zen; as well as the attention paid to zazen posture. The sitting group I began attending at SFZC, Young Urban Zen, quickly became my Sangha and again, it felt natural to continue deepening in this lineage. I have explored Vippasana through the Insight Meditation Center as well, which has continued to be an increasing part of my practice as well.

I do not have a formal teacher, but have received many influential teachings from Shundo David Haye, who I met through SFZC, as well as Gil Fronsdale at the Insight Meditation Center (Redwood City).

How long/often do you mediate?

I began in 2013 fall with one weekly sit with a sitting group. In 2014, it evolved into twice a week; in 2015, it evolved into 3-5 times a week; and starting in 2016,
I established a daily sit (typically 20-25 minutes), which I carry forward now, every morning.

Which sangha do you normally attend?

I think it would have been impossible for me to develop my spiritual practice where it not for the safe container, resources, teachers, physical space, and community @ SFZC. In particular, the sitting group that I began with, Young Urban Zen, allowed me to open myself up and reveal my vulnerabilities as well as my curiosities to 20-something to 30-something community that was also experiencing a lot of the challenges of finding your way in this age range. We sit, we listen, we learn, we encourage, we support, we celebrate, and we cry together. Without my Sangha, I believe self-love would take on an entirely new meaning for me. I am deeply grateful.

What is your primarily profession?

I am an entrepreneur in the biotech sector. In 2016, I started a cancer therapeutics company, ‘Mantra Bio’, directly inspired from my practice. After working at corporate jobs, I was frustrated by my inability to bring my spiritual self to work. I felt a lot of personal tension in existing within two versions of myself and that tension felt dissonant. Mantra Bio is my attempt to fully integrate ‘life’ with ‘practice’ and vice versa. I feel fortunate and proud of the opportunity to explore this edge with teammates that believe in a broader person to serve for the Well Being for All and I am so privileged. We begin each day together with a morning sit. It’s a broader purpose to bring therapies that can address the suffering of cancer patients, their families, and their communities.

In 2016, I started a cancer therapeutics company,
‘Mantra Bio’, directly inspired from my practice


Alex, a Bay Area native born and raised in San Mateo, California, had a unique spiritual journey shaped by diverse influences. Despite attending a Catholic school named St. Simons, Alex and his family were not Catholic. In this Catholic environment, Alex, along with his brother, stood out as one of the few non-Catholic students. Despite feeling like an outsider, Alex developed an interest in the stories of Catholicism, finding them intriguing and enjoyable.

After leaving the Catholic school system in high school and junior high, Alex did not have direct interactions with organized spirituality. It wasn’t until after college, in 2013, that he ventured into the realm of Zen Buddhism. Motivated by a curiosity about meditation and mindfulness, Alex started attending the San Francisco Zen Center. The practice of meditation appealed to him as a means to cultivate inner peace, joy, and reduce stress.

His first experience with a 20-minute meditation session in a group of around 50 people was soothing and enjoyable, prompting Alex to make it a regular part of his life. Over time, his commitment deepened, evolving from attending three days a week to a daily sitting practice in 2015 as a New Year’s resolution. As Alex delved into Zen Buddhism literature and explored the lineage of Soto Zen, his interest in the philosophy and practices blossomed.

Around two years into his practice, in 2015, Alex realized that his involvement with Zen Buddhism was no longer just a hobby but a dedicated commitment. This shift marked a significant transformation in his spiritual journey, where meditation and Zen Buddhism became integral parts of his life.


Reflecting on his journey, Alex likened his initial engagement with meditation to a hobby, similar to biking. The early benefits were tangible—feeling calmer, less stressed, and experiencing improved sleep. However, it wasn’t until he attended immersive retreats that the depth of his connection with meditation truly unfolded.

During these three to four-day retreats, Alex found himself engrossed in a comprehensive practice involving mantras, prayers, meditation, Dharma talks, and various temple activities like Soji cleaning. This immersive experience marked a turning point, a deeper level of connection that had previously eluded him or, perhaps, had not been fully accessible.

As he consistently attended retreats, Alex’s relationships with teachers and the Sangha (spiritual community) began to flourish. Regular practice, encompassing not only sitting meditation but also embracing the broader philosophy of life, soul, love, and purpose, became pivotal. The transformation wasn’t instantaneous, but rather a gradual flowering over time.

In this phase of his journey, Alex started to perceive meditation not just as a practice but as a profound philosophy that permeated every aspect of his life, sparking a deeper understanding and connection with his own purpose and the world around him.


Alex delves into the vibrant community of the San Francisco Zen Center, specifically highlighting his involvement with Young Urban Zen—a meditation group comprising individuals in their 20s and 30s from the city’s lay community. Within this community, composed of working professionals, including those in the tech industry, a shared interest in meditation and Zen philosophy brings them together.

Alex discovers a sense of belonging within this Sangha, or spiritual community, where discussions traverse the intricacies of relationships, love, life purpose, and financial challenges. The open and candid dialogue, infused with the principles of Mahayana Buddhism and Zen, fosters a supportive environment. Alex finds solace not only in conversations with teachers but also in dialogues among Sangha members, creating an open forum for shared experiences and mutual support.

Though Alex currently lacks a formal teacher-student relationship, he draws inspiration from various individuals, including Shindo David Hayes. Engaging in a small, four-person group, Alex and his fellow practitioners explore different subjects, checking in with each other and holding space for mutual growth. This group meets bi-weekly, providing a structured yet fluid rhythm to Alex’s practice. His routine involves personal meditation, weekly Dharma talks, bi-weekly group sessions, and monthly participation in other Sanghas, creating a balanced and supportive framework for his spiritual journey.

Appeal of dharma

Philosophically and intellectually, Alex shares his profound attraction to the concept of impermanence. Initially, he grappled with a sense of grasping, recognizing that everything exists only momentarily. However, a deeper understanding unfolded as he embraced the constant arising and interdependence inherent in impermanence. These concepts offered Alex a unique lens through which to view life, allowing him to perceive the unfolding of experiences, communities, and work life with a sense of universality and personal recognition.

Alex found a captivating dance in this perspective, appreciating the mystery and the simultaneous existence of a universal aspect beyond his control and his personal experiences within. Growing up in a Chinese family in the West, these ideas were unfamiliar to him, and their introduction struck a chord.

In addition to impermanence, Alex resonated deeply with the concept of emptiness. These philosophical pillars—emptiness, impermanence, and interdependence—opened new doors for Alex. Engaging in discussions with Dharma teachers and Sangha, he felt exposed to a branch of existence he hadn’t known was possible. Alex experienced a mix of relief, confusion, and excitement as these concepts challenged and expanded his understanding of reality.

Professional Impact

In establishing Mantra Bio, Alex envisioned creating a company with a constantly evolving intention centered around fostering a safe environment where well-being takes precedence. Drawing inspiration from conscious communities like those in Zen centers and monasteries, he sought to implement a harmonious and collective approach, where everyone contributes meaningfully, aligning with his spiritual values.

Before venturing into the biotech industry, Alex contemplated alternate paths, considering monastic living or becoming a therapist. Ultimately, he leveraged his biotechnology skills to create a business aligned with his spiritual and core values. The guiding mantra for Mantra Bio became “well-being for all,” emphasizing care, respect, trust, and open communication as key principles.

Navigating the integration of spiritual values into the workplace, Alex recognized the importance of careful consideration and balance. Early attempts, such as mandatory daily meditation, gave way to a more nuanced approach, inviting rather than enforcing practices. Being mindful of diverse spiritual backgrounds within the company, Alex emphasized the need for clear communication, framing discussions in terms of impact rather than intent. He introduced coaching on the distinction between intent and impact, aligning with Buddhist concepts of awareness and consciousness in interpersonal dynamics.

Being a lineage holder

Alex expresses immense gratitude for the transformative impact of Dharma and his spiritual practices on his life and journey. While confident and open about the profound influence these practices have had on him, he carefully navigates sharing his spiritual identity in professional settings, such as biotechnology trade conferences. Alex chooses to highlight the company’s name, Mantra Bio, and its mantra of “well-being for all” without explicitly delving into his identity as a Zen practitioner.

Despite his confidence in sharing these values, Alex acknowledges a delicate balance between the potential benefits of discussing his spiritual journey on public platforms and the potential pitfalls of ego and self-promotion. He emphasizes a focused approach on his practice and the work he does, avoiding the allure of seeking attention or recognition. Alex remains curious about how he can contribute positively by sharing more about his spiritual journey, acknowledging past inspirations from others who have openly discussed their spiritual perspectives in professional settings.

Reflecting on the traditions of the lineage he follows, Alex appreciates the idea of passing down traditions from “warm hand to warm hand,” highlighting the importance of continuity and thoughtful transmission within his spiritual community.

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