President and Board Chair
Julie was drawn to the Buddhist teachings in 1995 and has been an active member of the Sacramento Buddhist Meditation Group since 1997. She has had the honor of serving on their Board and participating on their scheduling committee for two terms. She also served as a founding member of the Sacramento Dharma Center Board. In 2000, she participated in a retreat with the monks and nuns from the Thai Forest Tradition, lineage of Ajahn Chah, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Since that time she has actively participated with the monastic and lay community of Abhayagiri Monastery in Redwood Valley and the early establishment of Araniya Bodhi Hermitage in Jenner. She has been profoundly moved by the multiple Bhikkhuni ordinations that have taken place here in central California and feels deeply privileged to serve the Aloka Vihara Community through the Saranaloka Foundation.
Redwood Valley, California
Dennis was living and practicing at the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts when, in 1995, he attended a retreat led by two Western nuns in the Ajahn Chah lineage–and he was hooked. Since returning to the San Francisco Bay Area shortly thereafter, he’s become an active supporter of the Theravada Forest Tradition. In 2002 he moved to Redwood Valley, where he and his wife now live across the road from Abhayagiri Monastery. In 2004 he completed training as a lay minister under Ajahns Pasanno and Amaro. Dennis has served for many years in the realm of Buddhist publishing, working as an editor and designer for Parallax Press, as managing editor for the journal Inquiring Mind, and on numerous free-distribution Dhamma publications. Dennis is also the founder of the Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage, bringing cyclists to Buddhist centers in Northern California. Helping the monastic form of practice take hold in the West is a cause near and dear to Dennis’s heart, and he is inspired by the efforts of the Saranaloka community and the nuns to bring this opportunity to women in our country.
Treasurer and Board Member
Susan is a founding member of Sierra Insight Sangha in Placerville and first met the sisters in July 2013, when they were on a tour of rural areas searching for a site for the future monastery. She helped to introduce the nuns to the community, and worked on The Rural Vihara Search Team to help find the property now known as Aloka Vihara. Susan also serves Mountain Stream Meditation Center in Nevada City as editor of their monthly email blast and hosts an annual daylong with Heather Sundberg at her home. She has been practicing since 2007 and has been most inspired and influenced by the teachings of the Ajahn Chah lineage. Susan’s work career as the founder (with her husband, Greg) of the first winery in El Dorado County has given her broad business and board experience that she sincerely hopes will be of benefit to the Saranaloka Board. To be asked to be a part of this unfolding of the Dhamma in the West – in Placerville no less – was irresistible.
Robert’s first encounter with Buddhism was through the Soto Zen tradition of Shasta Abbey in the early 1980s. He started exploring other Buddhist practices and attending some Vipassana retreats in the early 1990s. At the opening ceremony of the Meditation Hall at Spirit Rock he heard Ajahn Amaro chant the Dhammacakka Sutta and was totally entranced. That led to visits to Abhayagiri and eventually a year-long stay at the monastery as an anagarika. Robert met up with the nuns at Aloka Vihara when he volunteered to help build the yurt platform. He is pleased to be a member of the board and looks forward to helping out the nun’s community in any way he can.
Secretary and Board Member
San Anselmo, California
Hitesi Cyndia began meditation in 1995, and in 2004 began practicing in the Theravada tradition. Since then she has practiced intensively, including over a year of formal, silent practice, under the influence of the Ajahn Chah lineage, and in the the Ven Pau Auk Sayadaw’s lineage. Hitesi met the sisters in 2008 and managed their first retreat at Hidden Villa, before they moved to San Francisco the following year. It was at that time that she became interested in taking robes and studying with the sisters. While waiting for that opportunity to manifest, in 2009/10 she was resident at Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery and afterwards spent several months living with the Aloka Vihara nuns in San Francisco. She received the Pali name Hitesi from the abbots at Abhayagiri, and has taken dependence with Ajahn Pasanno. Currently she spends her spare time mostly with Dhamma-related endeavors, including serving on boards, retreat managing and related projects. She also works part-time in SF at her husband’s business, Dharma Merchant Services.
Diamond Springs, California
Leslie was first captivated by Buddhist wisdom’s path to liberation in her 1987 reading of Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones.” In 1989 she traveled to Taos to study writing and meditation in the Zen tradition with Goldberg. The wide star studded sky of New Mexico and the beauty of the Sangre de Cristo mountains awakened her love of the Three Refuges. She continued practice pulling weeds in the gardens of Green Gulch, slowly walking the grassy hills of Spirit Rock to Thich Nhat Hahn’s mindfulness instructions, and studying with various wise teachers at Spirit Rock. Travel as a spiritual pilgrimage led her to India to the Ganges River and Bodh Gaya, Thailand’s Golden Buddha, Ireland’s monastic settlement Skellig Michael, Cambodia’s Ankor Wat and Thom, France’s Chartres Cathedral and other sacred places.
Leslie’s devotion to the cultivation of wisdom and compassion guides her work as a psychologist in Placerville. Parenting and partnership continue to be integral paths of practice for Leslie. She and her husband of 37 years, Russ, enjoy their adult children, Olivia and Connor. Russ has reinvented his life from an excavation contractor to a social worker. Together they enjoy creating sacred spaces for transformation. They are delighted to contribute to Aloka Vihara and are deeply grateful for a monastic community 12 minutes from home.
San Francisco, California
Trip met the sisters in San Francisco in 2010 and was moved by their teachings and their desire to build a nuns community in California. He has been practicing in the Theravadan tradition since 2004, including for a brief time as a monk in Burma. He serves on the Board of San Francisco Insight, where he also leads sitting groups and teaches meditation classes. He is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Francisco and a former attorney. He feels very grateful to be able to serve Saranaloka and the Aloka Vihara community.