Teachers

A number of Order of Interbeing members in the the UK have been recognised by Thich Nhat Hanh as Dharma teachers, receiving the ‘lamp transmission’ in a formal ceremony in which gathas (insight poems) are exchanged between student and teacher.

Each lamp transmission involves an exchange of poetry. The “candidate” offers an insight poem they have written to the patriarchs and matriarchs of our lineage (the Lieu Quan Dharma Line in the Linji Dhyana School). This poem is formally accepted, and a four-line poem is offered in return, on behalf of the patriarchs and matriarchs, identifying spiritual qualities for the new Dharma teacher to cultivate on the path ahead. After the exchange of poetry, the lamp is transmitted, in the name of the lineage and of Thay.

Martin Pitt

Chan Hoc – True Learning

Martin was ordained by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in 1990 into the Order of Interbeing and as a lay Dharma teacher in August 1994.

Martin’s Initiation Gatha:

A spider’s web catches the morning sun,
Behold – the whole universe in a single dewdrop,
How wonderful that I am here to see it.

Thay’s Gatha:

The true Dharma can only be touched by direct experience
In order to practice the Way, onemindedness should be there
There are ten thousand birds singing in the Dharma Forest.
Behold: our true person appears every time one flower blooms.

Murray Corke

Chan Dai Tap – True Great Practice

Murray was ordained by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in 1994 into the Order of Interbeing and as a lay Dharma teacher in 2004.

Murray is a long­standing member of the Cambridge Interbeing Sangha. He is a veterinary surgeon and conservationist, who enjoys working with wood, and sailing. He has been involved with Sangha Sailing holidays on the Norfolk Broads, and has been facilitating Interbeing retreats in Britain and Poland for several years.

Murray’s Initiation Gatha:

Mind burdened by generations of errors,
A shower of rain slows my steps
The call of a bird cracks open my heart
Smiling, I walk on in freedom.

Thay’s Gatha:

The Mahayana has just set the Dharma Wheel in motion
Five continents come together, praising from near and far
The song of Zen is striking up with joyful sounds
The Earth trembles, the devas congratulate you.

Jane Coatesworth

True Flower of Awakening

Jane was ordained by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in 1995 into the Order of Interbeing and as a lay Dharma teacher in 2004.

Jane’s Initiation Gatha:

I sing to the tree
The silence between phrases is vast and arresting.
The tree, graceful and steady,
does her best with what she has.
Grateful, my heart is refreshed.

Thay’s Gatha:

The flowers of enlightenment are blooming everywhere,
The breeze floats the perfume of Zen far and wide.
So many members of the Sangha are gathered together.
The Buddha mind whether in the North or South,
past or present, is the same.

Vari McLuskie

True Action of Loving Kindness

Vari was ordained by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in 1995 into the Order of Interbeing and as a lay Dharma teacher in 2012.

Vari arrived home on her first Plum Village mindfulness retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh in 1990. Life became brighter, calmer, more enjoyable and understandable. She began to recognise how, supported by a mindfulness practice community, she could cultivate peace, love, and understanding in herself every day. It was clear that developing these qualities in herself also truly benefitted others.

She put mindfulness practice and sangha at the centre of her life. Bit by bit; building her practice, accepting her shortcomings, encouraging herself through the difficulties – perceived and otherwise.

Through difficult times in her life she has practiced seeing that there cannot be happiness without suffering (“no mud, no lotus”)– through the premature death of a beloved friend, through the sudden deaths of my parents, through the challenges of parenthood, through work and health challenges.

Vari has been an ordained Dharma teacher since 2012 and combines this responsibility with work as a Strategic Consultant. She has shared mindfulness in corporate settings, with female offenders and victims of sexual abuse as well as through Plum Village UK retreats and the Be Calm, Be Happy courses which she co-developed. Vari is based in the Midlands having lived many years in London.

Vari’s Initiation Gatha:

Past the gates of longing,
The raindrop meets the sea.

Thay’s Gatha:

With the eyes of compassion and loving kindness we look at the world,
Listen deeply to the vow of action that comes from our radiant heart,
Today we can turn over a new leaf of the book,
And the path of serving others widens to become vast.

Michael Schwammberger

Chan Phap Son – True Dharma Mountain

Michael was ordained by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in 1998 into the Order of Interbeing and as a lay Dharma teacher in 2003.

Michael arrived in Plum Village in 1996 inspired by Thay’s book Peace is Every Step. He stayed on and ordained as a novice monk in February 1997, receiving his full ordination and the 14 mindfulness trainings in 1998. In January 2003 he received the lamp transmission. He lived in Plum Village and the monasteries in the United States and travelled extensively with Thay in his teaching tours. Michael took a sabbatical in 2011 and returned to lay life in 2012.  He is now a lay teacher.

Lesley Collington

True Lotus of Joy

Lesley was ordained as a lay Dharma teacher in 2016.

“Here I am aged 5, and my five year old self is very alive in me.  People say I don’t look much different now, only my hair has changed a little. I’ve been a potter for 40 years and a practitioner & teacher of T’ai Chi for 30 years, it makes me sound very old.  Still, I continue to enjoy these aspects of my life, and along with gardening and calligraphy they are my path, the way I ground my practice and cultivate a contented heart.  And directly or indirectly they are the joys I draw on in order to offer retreats.”

Lesley’s Initiation Gatha:

No Path,
Only the Ground
Gazing up at me
As I look deeply into myself
Tranquil Ground
Cradling Freedom

Response Gatha:

The Purity of insight blooms like the Lotus
Creativity is joy in interbeing
Surmounting the obstacles we touch the true self
And remove the three complexes to feel true peace.

Dene Donalds

True Ever-Present Peace

Dene was ordained by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in 2007 into the Order of Interbeing and as a lay Dharma teacher in 2016.

Dene has been practicing and studying Buddhist meditation and the Dharma since 1995.

He visited Plum Village for the first time in June 2001. Deeply moved by the practice and teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Plum Village spiritual community, he chose to receive The Three Jewels and Five Mindfulness Trainings of the community.

In 2007, he received the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings and joined The Order of Interbeing. Since this time Dene has become more involved in engaged Buddhism; offering Buddhist Chaplaincy within Prisons, Secure Mental Health Hospitals and more recently offering mindfulness to refugees and asylum seekers within Inner City Manchester.

In 2016, Dene was offered the Lamp Transmission and became a lay Dharma teacher .

Dene’s Initiation Gatha:

Ancestors smile
Descendants rejoice
Dharma rain shines in every direction.

Response Gatha:

Ever-present is the nirvana here and now
Ancestors and descendants all enjoy its peace.
You patiently remove the thorn of birth and death
Compassion brings beings to the shore

 

Barbara Hickling

True Wonderful Land

Barbara was ordained as a lay Dharma teacher in 2016.

Barbara worked as a Solicitor, mainly in family law, before retiring in 2001 to spend more time on her practice and sangha activities.  She was drawn to the practice by the joyful presence of the Plum Village monastics and Thay’s teachings that nurturing joy in oneself enables us to offer joy to others.

Barbara finds daily meditation has taught her to let go when plans fail to materialise and to be open to and embrace what life presents in the moment.  Thay’s teachings on understanding, compassion, interbeing, impermanence and non-self, the earth touchings and guided meditations helped her transform the suffering caused by a dysfunctional upbringing and to hold her late parents in her heart with love.  She is inspired to practise in all her relationships and way of life by regularly taking part in 14 Mindfulness Training recitation ceremonies.

Barbara very much enjoys offering Plum Village teachings in local primary schools by way of Mindfulness Training workshops and on the subjects of interdependent origination and our relationship with the environment, as required in their curriculum.  She also enjoys involvement with various sanghas and inter-faith projects both locally and more widely.

Barbara’s Initiation Gatha:

The ripples on the water subside,
a cage door opens,
the bird flies free
singing it’s song in tune with the universe.

Response Gatha:

Lightly you touch the true wonderful emptiness
Ever-present the Pure land in each step and breath
Smiling you go forward on the heroic march
Building the sangha boat to rescue those in need.

 

 

Susanne Olbrich

True Ever-Present Stability

Susanne was ordained as a lay Dharma teacher in 2016.

Susanne discovered Plum Village and Thich Nhat Hanh in 1996. She was inspired to make mindfulness practice part of her daily life, a nourishing, sustaining and transformative experience to this day. Originally from Germany, Susanne moved to Scotland in 2001 to live in Findhorn, home of the international eco-village and spiritual community. She co-founded the Northern Lights Sangha which serves people from across the north of Scotland.

As a pianist and music teacher, Susanne enjoys encouraging deep listening and creative expression in people of all ages. Her special interest is in offering mindfulness retreats with the themes of creativity and music. In 2012 she co-founded the Mindful Artists Network as a resource for artists of all art forms, arts educators and therapists. Susanne’s interest in bringing mindfulness into society led her to study the MSc Studies in Mindfulness at the University of Aberdeen. Susanne was ordained as a Dharma teacher in 2016. She is committed to sharing the benefits of the practice with others in manifold ways — through sangha building, courses, retreats, one-to-one sessions, and research.

Susanne’s Initiation Gatha:

Seed receiving the water
new growth is happening.
Sweet nectar: the flower’s offering from her heart.
Ever-widening circles of belonging.

Response Gatha:

Ever-present is the seed of deep understanding
True stability is like rain watering it.
How wonderful! We can both transform together
And enjoy playing the music that has no words.

 

 

Teri West

True Door of Virtue

Teri was ordained by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in 2000 into the Order of Interbeing and as a lay Dharma teacher in 2016.

Teri has been a student of Thay’s since 1988 and is a member of the North Devon Sangha.  She is a storyteller, singer, musician, part-time poet and sometime clown.  Teri was ordained into the Order of Interbeing in 2000, receiving the Dharma name ‘True Door of Virtue’ (chan duc mon) and the Lamp Transmission as a Dharma teacher in 2016.

Teri has pursued various occupations since leaving home as a teenager.  By her mid-40s she began working as a professional storyteller and singer and as a member of an improvising clown group in the Nose to Nose school of clowning.  She currently takes to the stage at every opportunity, using song to take a Dharma message into the unlikely environment of the world of cabaret and co-led in February and March 2018 two sold-out weekend courses ‘Clown and the Art of Mindfulness’ at the European Institute for Applied Buddhism in Germany.

Teri was fortunate enough to be invited to Plum Village in 1988 as a guest, with friends of Thay who had worked with him in the ’70s on founding a charity for Vietnamese refugees.

The 1988 experience was powerful; Teri bought ‘Breathe, you are Alive!’ which, together with ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’ brought buddhism into a grounded, practical form that Teri could relate to, having previously read somewhat intellectual, complicated theories.  She has been a student of Thay’s ever since, working on organising retreats, particularly those that welcome families,  founding the westcountry sangha, becoming a member of the Core Community (Order of Interbeing) in the year 2000, and ordained as a Dharma teacher in 2015.

Teri’s Initiation Gatha:

Fierce winds around us
my heart responds with stillness
a new year begins

Response Gatha:

Wonderful is the universal Dharma door:
true virtue is relayed through the performing arts.
Harmony within makes harmony all around:
listening deeply we hear the transcendent sound.

Angie Searle

True Solid Practice

Angie was ordained as a lay Dharma teacher in 2017.

Angie comes from a nursing background in Australia and returned to the UK to take care of her elderly parents. Finding working for the NHS to be bad for her own health, she retrained as a gardener, at the same time being introduced to Thay’s practice by a friend.

She has been a student of Thay’s for around 20 years, 14 of which as an order member and was ordained as a lay Dharma teacher in 2017.

Angie’s Initiation Gatha:

From desperation to inspiration,
From one rain drop a gentle river flows,
Conscious breathing is my Anchor.

Response Gatha:

Solid are the footsteps that caress the earth.
Cultivating our mind is the practice.
Taking care of this ancestral body
We honour four objects of gratitude.

Theresa Payne

True Ever Present Virtue

Theresa was ordained as a lay Dharma teacher in 2017.

Theresa’s Initiation Gatha:

Ashes to Ashes
Dust to Dust
Only my breath
In this present moment
No Birth
No Death

Response Gatha:

Ever-present the miracle of life.
Indestructible the virtueof love.
Being there with the breath for another
Will reveal the truth of interbeing.

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