Rahul Bam (India) is the co-founder of Practical Life Skills Neuropsychiatric Wellness & Research Centre in Pune, India. He runs a drug rehabilitation center called Santulan (“balance”) with a capacity of 50 persons and is the only free drug rehabilitation center in India. Much of their work is based in the research of Canadian physician Gabor Mate, who identified how the four basic brain circuits of edorphine, dopamine, adrenaline, and impulse control correspond to different drugs. As such, they use therapies like art therapy in which the modality and goal are the same—a very Buddhistic understanding based in non-duality. He has also been pioneering a system to find the correlation between the six Mahayana Buddhist perfections (paramitas 波羅蜜) and observable therapeutic goals (TGs) employed by western psychology. Rahul presented and attended the 2nd round meeting in Bangkok in 2019.
Bhargavi V Davar (India) is a childhood survivor of the Indian mental asylums. She completed her PhD on the ethical and epistemological foundations of the mental and behavioural sciences and the possibility of human freedom within those disciplines. Her work has been on gender, culture and disability studies, and the basis for the modern mental health policy frames in Asia. She is Director of the Bapu Trust for Research on Mind & Discourse, Pune; and Convenor for an Asia Pacific advocacy platform called “Transforming Communities for Inclusion, Asia” (TCI Asia Pacific). Her work through these organisations is to advocate for the full realization of all human rights for persons with psychosocial disabilities, especially the right to live in the community. Something about Buddhism
Rev. Gustav Ericsson (Sweden) is a Christian priest in the Lutheran Church of Sweden. After being ordained in 2010, he served as a hospital priest at the regional University Hospital of Umea in northern Sweden and at a hospice for palliative care. He is especially trained in pastoral counseling for crisis and grief, and one of his main interests is the meeting of meditation practice with pastoral care. He has practiced and studied Zen since the mid 1990’s and in 2004 received Dharma transmission from Japanese Soto Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima Roshi. Since 2010, he has also served as a counseling priest with the Lutheran Church’s national suicide prevention hotline, which is available by telephone through the national emergency number as well as chat rooms and mailbox online. Gustav presented and attended the 1st Round conference in Japan in 2017.
Rev. Soin Fujio (Japan) is a Rinzai Zen priest from Yokosuka, south of Yokohama and near a huge U.S. naval base. Born in his family’s Rinzai temple, he spent some twenty years in the Japanese banking world serving in overseas branches in the U.S., Singapore and Thailand. Upon ordaining and returning to his home temple, he began counseling the mentally ill and suicidal, while also regularly teaching Zen meditation and Tai-chi to Japanese and international students. He is a co-founder of ecumenical Association of Buddhist Priests confronting Self-Death and Suicide, where he trains young priests in counseling work. He also works at the Yokosuka City Hall as a “gatekeeper”, helping at risk individuals find the proper social resources to deal with mental illness, family problems, and other social challenges. Rev. Fujio has participated in previous events with Roshi Joan Halifax at Rev. Okano’s Kodo Kyodan Temple.
Rev. Fuminobu Komura (Japan/U.S.A) is a Staff Chaplain at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. After 37 years as an engineer at Hitachi Ltd. in Japan, Rev. Komura started to walk the Buddhist path when he had an epiphany of realization of Indra’s Net while studying and practicing Buddhism. After undergoing monastic practices at Mt. Hiei near Kyoto, he was ordained as a Buddhist priest in the Tendai denomination. Seeking to live a life as a Buddhist chaplain, he studied in the United States at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado under the tutelage of Elaine Yuen (below). He did his chaplain residency at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore before moving to Philadelphia. With his belief that chaplaincy is the bodhisattva path, he has given presentations about Buddhist interfaith chaplaincy at the conferences of Rinbutsuken Institute of Engaged Buddhism in Japan, the Association of Pastoral Care in the U.S., the International Association of Buddhist Universities in Thailand, and United Nations Day of Vesak in Vietnam, and at many other occasions.
Prof. Pum Soo Lee (South Korea) is the Vice President of the Buddhist Counseling Institute of the Jogye Order, Korea’s largest Buddhist denomination. The Buddhism Counseling Institute conducts telephone and face to face counseling as well as professional training and public awareness campaigns on the problem of suicide. Prof. Lee is also an AAPC Certified Pastoral Counselor and Professor and Assistant Director in the Department of Life & Death Culture & Industry in the Graduate School of Buddhist Studies at Dongguk University. Prof. Lee presented and attended the 1st Round conference in Japan in 2017.
Ani Choetso – Maria Montenegro (U.S.A.) American by birth, Puerto Rican by heritage, Catholic by upbringing, Buddhist by calling, Ani Choetso was educated at Smith College (world religions, B.A.) and Harvard Divinity School (M.A.). After hearing HH Dalai Lama speak at her college, she began formal training under Buddhist masters in the late 80s. She has co-translated and edited texts from many Buddhist traditions since the early 90s, including titles by HH Dalai Lama, B. Alan Wallace, Bhante Gunaratana, Sermey Khensur Lobsang Tharchin, and others. In 2013, she completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education in Vermont and New Mexico, and has served as a spiritual caregiver (chaplain) in health care settings and independently, having since the 90s completed numerous meditation retreats. In 2015 she ordained in north India, and spent 2 years in additional intensive study and practice in McLeod Ganj. Since early 2020 she continues freelance textual and chaplain work, study via the Nalanda Course through Delhi Tibet House, numerous other online teachings, while helping her mother caretake her late father, and now assisting her mother in Iowa City. Ani Choetso attended the 2nd round meeting in Bangkok in March 2019.
Rev. Masazumi Shojun Okano (Japan) is the 3rd President of the Kodo Kyodan Buddhist Fellowship, a modern lay denomination based on the teachings of the ancient Japanese Tendai denomination. Rev. Okano spent some 20 years abroad gaining a doctorate in Sociology of Religion from Oxford University and teaching at the University of Vermont in the U.S.A. as well as the University of Hong Kong. As Kodo Kyodan’s president, he has been actively engaged in international issues through the denominations International Buddhist Exchange Center (IBEC), which also serves as the secretariat for the Japan Network of Engaged Buddhists (JNEB). In 2006, Rev. Okano and IBEC launched a study of suicide and suicide prevention by Buddhist priests in Japan that helped the formation of an ecumenical movement of such priests. Through IBEC, JNEB, and Kodosan, he has been active in a range of important social issues such as community recovery in the tsunami and nuclear disaster areas of North Japan and the development of Buddhist psycho-spiritual care.
Dr. Prawate Tantipiwatanaskul (Thailand) received his medical training from Chiangmai University and psychiatric training from Mahidol University, Thailand. He completed his Master of Public Health from the University of Queensland, Australia. Dr. Prawate has attended three mindfulness programs from three different schools during his psychiatric training. After he finished his training, he spent three months as a Buddhist monk in a forestry monastery in Northeastern Thailand. He has been practicing and applying mindfulness in his personal life, his clinical service, and his public education and training programs. In 1999, he published Suicide: Psychological Autopsy and Prevention (Nopburi Printing, Chiangmai). Dr. Prawate presented and attended the 1st Round conference in Japan in 2017 and attended the 2nd round meeting in Bangkok in 2019.
Jonathan Watts (U.S.A./Japan) graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in Religious Studies and also a minor in Political Science. He immediately moved to Asia and spent three years working in the INEB Secretariat in Bangkok, while studying and practicing at the forest monastery of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. In 1993, he moved to Japan and spent the decade coordinating the INEB Think Sangha, an engaged Buddhist “think tank” working on a variety of social issues. In 1999, he joined the Jodo Pure Land denomination research institute and edited and co-wrote Buddhist Care for the Dying and Bereaved with Rev. Yoshiharu Tomatsu. In 2006, he joined Kodo Kyodan’s International Buddhist Exchange Center (IBEC) from which he has been involved in a wide variety of engaged Buddhist issues in Japan–which will be the focus on a new major publication. At this time, he also joined the Rinbutsuken Institute of Engaged Buddhism under Rev. Jin Hitoshi which developed Japan’s first Buddhist chaplaincy training program in 2012.
Jinji Eika Willingham (U.S.A.) is a clinical psychotherapist and Buddhist chaplain in private practice, and works with young adults, couples & parents, and family systems experiencing complex/systemic trauma/PTSD and impaired relationships, as well as anxiety, depression, serious illness, and loss. She formerly worked for five years as hospital chaplain at the South Austin Medical Center to support patients and their families, as well as medical caregivers, and developed a mindfulness program for medical staff. She is a Zen practitioner, studied Buddhist Chaplaincy at Upaya Zen Center in Sante Fe, NM, and receiving jukai from Roshi Joan Halifax in 2017. She is also a member of Plum Blossom Sangha in Austin, where she resides, and received the Precepts from Thich Nhat Hanh in 2009. She has a B.A. and M.A. in Intellectual History, is a Ph.D. Candidate in English at UCLA, and has an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. She presented and attended the 1st Round conference in Japan in 2017.
Elaine Yuen (U.S.A.) was Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Master of Divinity Program at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado where she taught courses on spirituality and ritual, Buddhism, and pastoral care. She continues to present programs exploring the interfaces between Buddhism, meditation, creativity, and contemplative care-giving. Dr. Yuen is cross-trained as a social science researcher and is particularly interested in the relationship between meditation and the creative process. A Senior Teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, founded by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in the early 1970’s, she explores contemporary life through many activities as a teacher, parent, and artist. Elaine presented and attended the 1st Round conference in Japan in 2017.
Ven. Zinai (Taiwan) was ordained in 1983 by the renowned bhiksuni Master Wuyin and Venerable Xinzi. From 1985-1991 and 2003-2009, she served as a teacher at the Luminary Buddhist Nunnery founded by Master Wuyin, where she integrated Buddhist Abhidhamma studies, mindfulness meditation practice, creative education method based on Image Theory, and Satir’s Family Therapy Model. She has provided various training courses, mainly for monastics in leadership and the application of mindfulness in community service. For example, she organized a one-year training program for 5 bhiksuni to lead 50 women in a supportive course at the drug addiction rehabilitation center under the Agency of Corrections, Ministry of Justice in Taiwan. She is also the co-founder of the Buddhist Sangha Lifelong Education Society (ABSLE) in Taiwan. Presently, she is at Pa-Auk International Meditation Center in Myanmar practicing the samatha-vipassanā training course guided by Pa-Auk Sayadaw. Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw has developed a systematic method of training based on the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta and the Visuddhimagga. She also holds a PhD degree from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and studied at Komazawa Buddhist University in Tokyo.