Ofosu Jones-Corte, also known as Born I, is a multifaceted artist and spiritual practitioner living in Rockville, Maryland. He is a musician, mindfulness and meditation teacher, Dharma practitioner, husband, father, author, fashion designer, and visual artist.

Born didn’t grow up in a strictly religious household. His family’s West African roots typically involved Christianity or Islam, but his parents weren’t overtly religious. Around the age of six to eight, his mother discovered Buddhism and began practicing in the Nichiren tradition, where they chant the mantra Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Born often accompanied his mother to the temple, immersing himself in the serene and enchanting atmosphere, which reminded him of the heroic figures he admired in kung fu movies.

Growing up, Born identified as Buddhist, influenced by his mother’s practice and the Dhammapada. During his teenage years, he explored various religious traditions while attending a Catholic military school. He delved into Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, seeking to understand how spirituality intersected with black consciousness. Influential black spiritual movements and hip-hop artists with spiritual undertones further shaped his worldview.

In college, Born’s interest in meditation deepened, partly inspired by spiritual jazz artists like John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, and Alice Coltrane. His relationship with his girlfriend, now wife, and her meditation teacher mother also played a significant role. Attending a retreat led by his mother-in-law rekindled his meditation practice.

The birth of Born’s first child, Sundara, marked a turning point, prompting a deeper dedication to the Dharma. He sought to honor the spiritual energy he felt connected to his children. This journey led him to meet a lay teacher in the Thai forest tradition, practice breath meditation, and eventually train at the Bhavana Society Monastery in West Virginia under Bante Buddharakkhita, an African monk from Uganda.

Born’s creative expressions span multiple media. He advises artists to find what is meaningful to them and express it in diverse ways. His first book, *You Are Enough*, is a children’s book meant for all ages, celebrating self-appreciation and connection to nature. His second book, *Love Your Amazing Self*, extends this message, addressing the importance of self-compassion. Accompanied by an upcoming album, these works blend lyrical writing with musical expression.

Born’s current project is a book of poetry for adults, featuring lyrics from his last two albums and reflections on how his life and Dharma practice inform his work. His creativity embodies the belief that freedom is inherent in reality, and he expresses this through various artistic forms, aiming to inspire others with the message of compassion and self-kindness.


As of the time of filming, Born considers himself a non-sectarian practitioner. His meditation practice is primarily informed by the Theravada tradition, particularly the Burmese tradition of Mahasi Sayadaw, taught to him by his teacher Bantibuddha Rakita. This practice, Vipassana, focuses on observing the rising and falling of the breath at the abdomen, based on the Satipatthana Sutta, which covers the four foundations of mindfulness: body, mind, thoughts, and phenomena.

Before meeting Bantibuddha Rakita, Born learned a form of breath meditation involving moving the breath through different body channels from a lay teacher in the Thai tradition. However, Bantibuddha Rakita advised him to keep his practice simple and focused on one technique, which he followed for many years.

Although Born’s meditation practice remained simple, his philosophical studies spanned Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana traditions. He read works by Theravada teachers, as well as Zen masters like Shunryu Suzuki Roshi and Thich Nhat Hanh, and Tibetan teachers like the Dalai Lama and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. These diverse perspectives informed his understanding and practice.

During his early years of meditation, Born was ambitious and self-critical, striving for enlightenment amidst significant life changes, including becoming a parent, graduating college, moving into a new home, and recording an album. He struggled with anxiety, intrusive thoughts, depression, and OCD, but lacked the language to articulate these challenges to his teacher. His teacher’s advice to notice feelings and return to the breath often led to self-judgment and harshness.

After seven years of intense practice, Born realized he was harming himself and took a break from sitting meditation for about one to two years. During this time, he found that the mindfulness he had cultivated remained. When he returned to his practice, he incorporated more kindness and experimented with other ways of being present, such as listening to sounds and resting in open awareness. He found the teachings of U Tejaniya, who emphasizes being with what’s prominent in the present moment, particularly helpful.

Inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh, Born deliberately practiced self-compassion, treating himself as he would a friend. This self-compassion extended to his sitting practice, transforming how he dealt with anxiety and suffering. Now, Born views each moment of difficulty as an opportunity to cultivate presence and kindness. His practice has evolved to be more spacious and kind, with the breath as a home base he returns to, while also opening up to whatever is most prominent and meeting it with kindness.


Born believes that the meaningfulness of identity is deeply integrated into Buddhism. He points out that even the name “Shakyamuni Buddha” acknowledges the Buddha’s human and cultural origins, which are inseparable from his achievements. Born emphasizes the importance of recognizing and not diminishing our cultural makeup and the milieu we find ourselves in.

He critiques spiritual bypassing, particularly the notion that race is merely an illusion. While race is a construct, it has real-world implications and must be acknowledged. For Born, recognizing cultural and race-based suffering is a profound pathway to awakening. He acknowledges his own role in perpetuating racial ignorance and stresses the importance of healing from this, not just for oneself, but for society as a whole.

Born sees the system and the ignorance that fuels it as the problem, rather than any particular group or person. This perspective allows for the possibility of unraveling these systems through informed action, rather than resorting to violence.

Born shares his experiences as a black person in the Dharma world, where he has faced microaggressions and biases. Despite these challenges, he views them as opportunities to practice compassion and skillful means. He highlights the importance of having safe spaces, such as BIPOC sanghas, where individuals can practice without experiencing isolation.

He underscores that all experiences, even those of loneliness and isolation, are opportunities for practice. These experiences can motivate individuals to seek out more supportive communities, ultimately guiding them in healthier directions. For Born, every moment, when seen with the right motivation and perspective, becomes an opportunity to practice and grow.

On being an Artist

Born shared how hip-hop profoundly changed their life during their early teens. Around the age of 13 or 14, Born felt isolated and struggled with deep connections, facing bullying and pervasive loneliness. At one point, they considered joining the military, leading to an agreement with their parents to attend a military school. 

A pivotal moment came when a carpool mate introduced Born to a mixtape featuring East Coast hip-hop heavyweights like Wu-Tang Clan, Black Moon, Smith and Wesson, Mobb Deep, Nas, and AZ. This exposure opened a new way of thinking and seeing the world, highlighting spiritual undertones in the music. Inspired, Born began rapping, infusing their lyrics with spiritual references initially drawn from Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions.

In high school and early college years, Born’s devotion to Buddhism grew. They formed a group called Shambhala with Agua, a Taoist, and together they created a project called *The Lotus of*, which gained underground success. Initially focused on expressing spirituality through music, Born’s artistry evolved to explore their humanity and how spirituality informed that journey. 

Over time, Born’s music shifted to a more secular style with subtle spiritual undertones. They pursued material ambitions, adopting a conventional hip-hop approach. However, electronic music allowed for a balance where spirituality remained present but not central. The pandemic prompted deep self-reflection, revealing a need for alignment between their music, practice, and life values. This led to a renewed focus on Dharma-based hip-hop, prioritizing authenticity and honest expression.

The creation of the album *In This Moment* marked a significant turning point. The song’s lyrics, especially the line “I am the pain that I didn’t take care of that turned into all of the things that I’m scared of,” epitomized Born’s transformation. This album, and the subsequent one titled *Amida*, involved Born’s family, fostering reconnection and shared creativity.

Born’s return to Dharma-based hip-hop represents a commitment to authenticity, healing, and practice. They view this work as part of a legacy of artistic and spiritual expression, akin to the contributions of musical ancestors like John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, and Wu-Tang Clan. This commitment is seen as an extension of traditional Dharma arts, integrating calligraphy, chanting, music, and bells.

Creative Expression

Born explores diverse forms of creative expression to convey unified messages of self-compassion and interconnectedness across different media. His approach, rooted in his personal and Dharma practice, emphasizes the importance of loving oneself amidst broader themes of nature and freedom. Beginning with children’s books like “You Are Enough,” he expands his audience’s understanding of self-worth through accessible and lyrical prose, aiming to inspire kindness towards oneself as much as towards others.

Transitioning into more mature themes with works like “Love Your Amazing Self,” Born encourages adults to embrace self-love through poetic expressions that can be translated into music, enhancing the accessibility and impact of his messages. His forthcoming poetry book builds on this, weaving together reflections on life and Dharma practice into lyrical compositions that continue to resonate with themes of compassion and freedom. Through his varied creative outlets, Born seeks to remind individuals of their inherent freedom and ability to express themselves authentically across different forms of artistic expression.

Mental Health

Born believes that addressing mental health is crucial for practitioners. In his early stages of practice, he experienced undiagnosed mental health challenges and mistakenly thought these issues indicated he was a bad practitioner. This self-judgment led to more unwholesome ways of relating to himself. He now understands that these issues require more nuanced approaches than just following the breath and may need the support of a therapist or medication.

Born resisted viewing his practice difficulties from a mental health perspective because he believed a practitioner should solve all problems through meditation. He wishes he could tell his younger self to seek more support, either by clearly communicating with his teacher or consulting a professional. He recognizes that he is not alone in this experience, as the rise of trauma-informed mindfulness shows an understanding of the sensitivity of deep practice.

He encourages others experiencing intrusive thoughts, depression, or self-harm not to try to meditate these away but to seek appropriate mental health support. Born acknowledges that overcoming the stigma of receiving mental health support as a practitioner took time and made him feel embarrassed and like a failure. However, he now sees caring for his mental health as an expression of loving-kindness toward himself. This holistic approach to mental health gives him more energy to pursue the true purpose of practice: awakening to the truth.

Born emphasizes that addressing mental health does not invalidate the path but rather embodies it through compassionate self-care. Recognizing that his mental health challenges were symptomatic of trauma and chemical imbalances, not poor practice, he advocates for self-compassion and understanding that taking care of oneself is a vital part of the spiritual journey.


Born shares that his mother views Buddhism as the path of turning poison into medicine, emphasizing its power to transform suffering into awakening. He believes that being in a family provides opportunities to engage with the Buddha’s teachings in real life, similar to living in a monastery. For Born, the Dharma and the Buddha’s teachings are deeply connected to his family’s energy, though he has never tried to force them upon his family members. Instead, he strives to model the practice and its principles, encouraging his children to be present and kind.

Born’s wife, who has been practicing meditation longer than he has, shares similar viewpoints. This mutual understanding aids in communicating their values to their children. When Born falls short of these ideals, he acknowledges his mistakes and strives to do better, teaching his children the importance of presence and kindness. He sees his roles as a father, husband, and human being as integral parts of his Dharma practice.

Born explains that life, like meditation, involves drifting and returning to center. He emphasizes that one can always make amends and start anew, viewing every breath as a form of grace. He appreciates that his older children value mindfulness and meditation, considering it a dream come true and the most important inheritance he can give them. He has never forced his beliefs on his children but has always invited them to explore the principles of practice.

When addressing broader challenges like climate change, racism, and political unrest, Born frames these issues as the result of unaddressed suffering and ignorance. He believes that ignorance leads to suffering, but no one is beyond awakening. This perspective fosters compassion and understanding. He acknowledges that being in a family and being a father are continuous experiments, where progress, not perfection, is the goal. Born hopes his children will view the world through the lens of compassion and practice presence in their lives.


Born believes that whether practicing in a secular or spiritual context, it is essential to begin with self-care and actively care for oneself. However, it is also crucial to examine the big picture. He recalls asking Brother Phap Lin from the Plum Village tradition if someone with severe mental illness could attain enlightenment. Phap Lin responded that it might not be the right question, suggesting instead to think bigger. He shared a teaching from Sister Elizabeth, emphasizing the importance of connecting with one’s own suffering.

Born explains that if suffering can be named, it means it existed before and will exist after us, indicating it is not unique or personal. He encourages considering all beings who have experienced, are experiencing, and will experience this type of suffering. This perspective reveals that suffering is a universal experience, not something personally targeted at an individual.

By taking care of one’s suffering, Born believes we are also caring for the suffering of all beings across time, including our ancestors and future generations. He views this as healing generational trauma and creating an atmosphere of healing for those around us. This practice is seen as a dedication to making the world a happier, kinder, and safer place.

Born emphasizes that self-care and mindfulness practice should not be self-centered. Instead, it should be recognized as a practice benefiting everyone and all beings for all time. Whether mindfulness is viewed as a spiritual or secular practice, this perspective provides motivation and energy to continue. He highlights that starting with self-awareness and self-care is not contradictory to having a broad, inclusive view. Caring deeply for oneself is seen as caring for all beings and contributing to collective awakening.


Born’s journey in Buddhism has been shaped by unexpected opportunities that led him into teaching, initially through connecting with a mentor and eventually co-leading a family mindfulness program. Despite his diverse engagements with various Sanghas and communities, he hadn’t fully immersed himself in a singular Sangha due to his dynamic life and teaching commitments. Over time, he realized the importance of true Sangha membership both for himself and as a model for his children. This realization sparked a desire to reengage as a student and practitioner, seeking deeper community support and mentorship.

Reflecting on his journey, Born acknowledges the complexity of racial dynamics within Western Sanghas, often feeling like the only Black person in the room. This experience has sometimes hindered his sense of belonging and comfort in traditional Dharma spaces. Now, he feels a renewed calling to cultivate a Dharma home where he and his family can feel truly welcomed without the discomfort of being perceived as different. This includes deepening his relationship with a teacher, possibly reconnecting with past mentors like Bonti Buda Rakita, or exploring new traditions that resonate with his spiritual journey.

Born values the lessons learned from his path so far, recognizing the need to move beyond practicing in isolation and embracing the nurturing support of a dedicated Sangha. His aspiration is to balance his role as a teacher with being a devoted student within a supportive community, fostering growth and connection in his spiritual practice.

Accessibility and Deepening 

Born values the diverse teachings and traditions he has encountered throughout his spiritual journey. While deeply rooted in the Theravada tradition, which he explored extensively, he also recognizes the value in embracing insights from other lineages such as Mahayana and Vajrayana. These traditions, with their emphasis on compassion, have profoundly influenced his perspective, especially in his role as a father. Embracing compassion as a focal point has allowed him to approach parenting with greater openness and empathy.

Born celebrates the accessibility of these teachings in the modern age, contrasting it with historical challenges of accessing diverse spiritual insights. He believes in the enrichment that comes from allowing different traditions to inform his practice, even if one’s primary tradition remains central. For him, integrating teachings like compassion from Mahayana and therapeutic insights from figures like Thich Nhat Hanh has been transformative, especially during challenging times like the pandemic.

Despite his broad exploration, Born values his foundational practices in Theravada, finding solace in techniques like mindfulness of breath and metta meditation. These practices provide him with a stable anchor amidst the variety of teachings he engages with, ensuring he can always return to fundamental practices regardless of his explorations into other traditions.

Teaching Mindfulness

Born teaches mindfulness both in religious and secular contexts, emphasizing the roots of these teachings in the Buddhist tradition even when teaching secularly. He values acknowledging and honoring the lineage and practitioners who have nurtured these teachings over centuries in Asia.

In modern society, Born views the addition of religiosity to mindfulness as a personal choice, respecting diverse motivations for engaging with mindfulness practices as long as they do not cause harm. Regardless of the context, his teachings emphasize self-compassion and self-kindness as foundational. He believes that mindfulness practice ultimately revolves around self-love—caring for oneself, seeking awakening, and reducing suffering—which in turn fosters better relationships with others and the world at large.

Why Buddhism

Born’s spiritual pursuit has been driven by the question of what the truth is and how to align with it. In Buddhism, they found teachings that resonated deeply with their understanding of life. Concepts such as impermanence, which posits that everything is in a constant state of change, felt undeniably true to them.

Born found the Buddhist perspective that suffering arises from a misalignment with reality to be profound and reliable. This view asserts that humans are inherently good, and by aligning thoughts, words, and actions with the way things truly are, one can alleviate suffering. This approach offered a hopeful outlook, suggesting that circumstances are not unchangeably fixed.

The concept of dependent origination, which explains that everything is interconnected and nothing exists independently, also resonated with Born. They illustrated this by describing a phone as a collection of rocks, emphasizing the idea that all things are a result of favorable conditions coming together.

Additionally, the Buddhist idea of emptiness, which sees everything as part of a multi-relational flow, speaks to the nature of freedom. This perspective felt beautiful, expansive, natural, and true to Born. They aim to share these insights with their children, hoping to offer them a spiritual understanding of reality.

Born is also fascinated by the Buddha’s ability to understand universal truths through meditation, a concept now being explored in quantum physics. They believe that within Buddhist teachings lies the wisdom needed to find happiness and understand the nature of existence.

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