Dharmagiri Founders and Elders 

Kittisaro – co-founder and elder

Kittisaro graduated from Princeton as a Rhodes Scholar and went on to Oxford before going to Thailand to ordain with Ajahn Chah in 1976.

He was a monk for 15 years, during that time helped found Chithurst Monastery and Devon Vihara in the UK, trained monks, was a prison Chaplain, and taught extensively.

He disrobed in 1991 and since then has taught internationally. He co-founded Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat in 2000 and helped initiate and support a number of HIV/Aids response projects in South Africa.

In 2017, Kittisaro and Thanissara co-founded Sacred Mountain Sangha in Northern California which hosts training classes, events and retreats grounded in their unique synthesis of Insight Meditation and the Kuan Yin Dharmas. 

He has studied and practiced Chan and Pure Land for 35 years, informed by the Chinese school of Master Hua, and has completed two year-long silent self-retreats. With Thanissara, he is co-author of Listening to the Heart, A Contemplative Journey to Engaged Buddhism. Kittisaro is a member of the Spirit Rock Teacher Council.

Thanissara – co-founder and elder

Thanissara started Buddhist practice in the Burmese school in 1975. She was inspired to ordain after meeting Ajahn Chah and spent 12 years as a Buddhist nun, where she was a founding member of Chithurst Monastery and Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in the UK.

She has facilitated meditation retreats internationally for the last 30 years and has an MA in Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy Practice from Middlesex University & the Karuna Institute in the UK.

With Kittisaro, she co-founded Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat and helped initiate and support a number of HIV/Aids response projects in South Africa.

In 2017, Thanissara and Kittisaro co-founded the Non-Profit Sacred Mountain Sangha in Northern California, which hosts training classes, retreats, and events grounded in their unique synthesis of Insight Meditation and the Kuan Yin Dharmas. In early 2022, Thanissara co-founded PAEAN: Peoples Alliance for Earth Action Now, focused on Dharma-based climate activism.

She has written several books, including two poetry books. Her latest book is Time To Stand Up, An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth. Thanissara is a member of the Spirit Rock Teacher Council.

Baba Mandaza Kandemwa – Elder 

Mandaza Augustine Kandemwa was born a Svikiro, a carrier of many earth and water spirits, and a Mhondoro, Lion Spirit, and one who is in constant prayer on behalf of others. As a vessel of the Spirits, Mandaza receives visions and dreams, makes offerings, performs healing rituals, and serves as a messenger for the Ancient Ones.

Baba Mandaza teaches us to become “living prayers” so we can be in service of the One Spirit that exists in all things. He lives in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and travels far and wide as a Peacemaker. As an emissary of Mother Nature, Baba Mandaza guides retreats, healing ceremonies, and gatherings around the world.