About Upasakas and Upasikas
Upasaka (masculine) and Upasika (feminine) were the titles given to followers of the Buddha who undertook certain vows, but were not monks, nuns, or novice monastics. These titles are from the Pali words meaning “to sit close” (upasati) and “to attend to” (upasana), and are sometimes translated as “one who serves.” Over time, the terms have come to mean “dedicated lay practitioner,” and to connote a lay person who has made a total commitment to the study and practice of the Buddhadhamma. Read More.
My name is Barbara Larson, and I took the Precepts in the Spring of 2012. I’ve had a longstanding interest in spirituality, since my childhood in a devout Catholic household. As a teenager I did what many of us do, which was to reject the religion of my parents. In fact, I rejected religion altogether, seeking instead to understand the human search for meaning as an aspect of our psychology.
I studied the ideas of Carl Jung, joined the Unitarians, quit the Unitarians, and came across the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. His books struck a chord in me and I took up a mindfulness meditation practice in the summer of 2009. For two years I practiced without really having contact with either a teacher or a sangha. That way was ultimately unsatisfying and I began searching in Tucson for some support for my practice.
Through the Tucson Community Meditation Center, I met Upasaka Culadasa and attended a 10-day meditation retreat at Cochise Stronghold in July 2011. That retreat was a culmination of sorts; establishing a relationship with the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha seemed the most natural thing in the world. I was “ripe” for Buddhism, and knew that further dedication to the practice was what I wanted to do. Taking the Precepts and being a member of the greater Sangha is a great privilege.
Since I began my meditation practice four years ago, a calm, joyful energy has come into my life, which I hope to share with those around me. The journey is ongoing, and I seek to embrace each new opportunity with happiness and enthusiasm.
Jessica Seacrest, center. After a four year stint in the Air Force, Jessica earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. She is currently a regional accounting manager for a civil engineering firm. In 2008, having never meditated, but seeking to quiet her mind, she attended a week long silent meditation retreat with Shinzen Young. Soon after, she met Upasaka Culadasa. She realized the Buddhadhamma was something that she had always been looking for; actually, it seemed the Buddhadhamma found her. She eventually took refuge and committed formally to live by the precepts – something that seemed a natural part of her spiritual progression. Jessica is fascinated with the developing theory of the correlation between quantum mechanics and consciousness. She is slightly obsessed with knitting.
Upasaka Dhammadasa (Bruce Latta)
Upasaka Bodhidhamma (Jeremy Graves)
I took the Upasika vows with Upasaka Culadasa to renew my intention to stop fitting the dharma into my life and make dharma study and practice both the foundation of, and the framework for, my life. I wanted to remember to use Dharma teachings as the standard against which I measure my thoughts, speech, and actions. I began studying Buddhism in 1993 because I was attracted to the idea of taking responsibility for myself and my actions instead of relying on the external Catholic God I had grown up with. After taking a few classes on Buddhism and on meditation at Boston Adult Education, I joined Kurukulla Center and studied the Lam Rim and other Gelgpa teachings. When I moved to Chicago in 1998, I practiced vipassana meditation with a Goenka-affiliated group and then focused on studying the Annapatisati sutta in the book Mindfulness with Breathing with Santikaro of Liberation Park. I moved to Tucson in 2008 and began studying with the extremely learned and realized master Culadasa with whom I continue to study.
Upasaka Mahanama (Dr. Tucker Peck)
Upasaka Mahanama is a clinical psychologist in Tucson, Arizona. He has studied meditation personally since 2005, and since 2007 has been involved in scientific research on how meditation affects the brain and body. He is the director of Palo Santo Psychotherapy and Wellness, and he teaches several meditation classes a week over Google Hangout. Tucker likes to tell people about how he has been to all 50 US states.
Matthew Immergut, Ph.D. teaches sociology at Purchase College, State University of New York. Some of his research includes teaching meditation in the college classroom. He is the co-author of The Mind Illuminated.
Pam Ballingham has spent most of her life engaged in creative projects because she finds the internal process it stimulates spiritually meaningful and useful in her interactions with others. She has a Masters in Counseling and teaches creativity and values, using clay as an expressive, metaphorical tool. Writing
Upasika Mahamudita (Tesa Mayorga)
Mobius Von Andree grew up in the wilds of New Mexico and has lived all over the Southwest without any direction, path, or responsibility in life. When critical life things crashed down and he suddenly found himself ‘needing’ direction, path, and responsibility, he fled into the deepest recesses of dullness to escape his misery, then he fled into the deepest recesses of work, then he fled the state. It wasn’t until he absolutely couldn’t flee anymore, mentally or physically, that he turned inward to observe the mighty and everlong Wall of Dissatisfaction, where there is only those blocks that the mind has built in all of its years of woe. He freaked. He went crazy. He became like a chained animal, gnawing at himself to escape. He went to Texas.
Fortunately, in Texas, he also went into the Dharma with sincerity for the first time. It had become a glimmer of rock amidst the storm to which to cling. But, what to do? How does he turn this Dharma rock into the monument to withstand all of life’s terrors? Where’s all the bliss? So much that he didn’t know!
To establish his practice he came to Cochise Stronghold. There he learned, he practiced, and he saw so many of the mind’s tricks that he ultimately decided, yes, this is the correct thing to do. He took refuge, and became an Upasaka out of commitment to this path. It’s not the rock that he thought it was; it’s not even the storm. It’s a diligence of work, a daily practice, and though the path is sometimes muddy, sometimes rocky, and sometimes an invisible thread stretching over the canyon of the mind, he will keep on walking.
The more I try to live as the Buddha recommended — with mindfulness, goodwill, generosity, and love as daily practices — the happier I am, and the better I treat people. But when life gets crazy, my commitment to those practices can be hard to stick to or even remember. The upasaka precepts are a way for me to keep that commitment fresh in my mind.
I started meditating in 2006. My teachers were Buddhist, but I tended to misperceive Buddhism as a sort of fluff surrounding the practice of meditation. That changed after I began studying with Culadasa in 2014. He taught me a broader approach that brings practice into all aspects of life. He also distinguished between religious Buddhism — which I honor and respect, though it’s not personally my thing — and the dharma, the practical teachings on transforming the mind that lie at the heart of Buddhism. Exploring this dharma has added enormous meaning and happiness to my life.
Beside meditation and dharma practice, I enjoy capoeira, playing guitar, and reading comic books. My favorite food is a Jelly Belly Red Apple jelly bean, and if you’ve never had it, it will blow your mind. (Eat it mindfully!)