Buddhist Studies in Instaute~ Los Angeles


BSI-LA Staff

Ven. Dr. Karuna Dharma (Faculty Advisor Emeritus)


Ven. Dr. Karuna Dharma began her Buddhist Studies in 1969 under the guidance of Ven. Dr. Thich Thien-an, simultaneously aiding her teacher in establishing the first Vietnamese Buddhist Temple in the United States. In 1973 Ven. Dr. Karuna officially became a Buddhist by taking he initial precepts, and in 1976 took full ordination as a Buddhist Nun (Bhikshuni). 

Having received a B.A. in English from UCLA and two Masters degrees (in Secondary Education and Comparative Religion respectively), she received her Doctorate Degree (D.Dh) in 1979. Following Ven. Dr. Thien-an’s passing in 1980, Ven. Dr. Karuna became Abbess of the International Buddhist Meditation Center that she helped found with her teacher. 

Ven. Dr. Karuna has served the BSI-LA in different roles throughout the history of the program, graduating as a student from the original program, serving as Vice-President of its second incarnation and as program Chair and Faculty Advisor in its current form. 

Additionally, Ven. Dr. Karuna was an original founding member of the Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue in Los Angeles, has served as past President of the American Buddhist Congress, Vice-President of the Buddhist Sangha Council and as Founding President of Sakyadhita, the International Association of Buddhist Women. 

Ven. Dr. Karuna retired from active administrative duty in 2012 at the age of seventy-two, after almost forty-three years of participation and contribution in and to the program. 

Ven. Dr. Kelsang Chitta Karuna (Provost & Dean Emeritus)


Ven. Dr. Kelsang Chitta Karuna served as Provost and Dean of Students at BSI-LA from 2004 to 2012. A fully ordained Buddhist Monastic in the Tibetan tradition (Bhikshuni), Ven. Chitta has a background in Christian and Islamic spirituality, as well as many other spiritual earth based religions. Ven. Dr. Chitta received her undergraduate degree in Special Education and Child Development from Central State University in 1986, later receiving her Master’s and Doctorate degrees from the College of Buddhist Studies Los Angeles in 2003.

As founder of Palmoling Nunnery, Ven. Chitta teaches classes in Tibetan Lam Rim meditation, leads retreats and  traditional ritual practice. As a teacher, Ven. Chitta endeavors to provide each student with precise guidance and direction, empowering them to continue their personal growth without a teacher, becoming as Buddha Shakyamuni instructed “lights unto themselves”.

In July of 2012 Ven. Chitta will enter into a traditional three year, three month, three day solitary retreat at Great Determination Hermitage in the Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio. 

Ven. Dr. Paul Wonji Lynch (President)


Ven. Dr. Wonji is the Founder and Guiding Teacher of the Five Mountain Zen Order. Soensanim (Wonji’s title) began practicing Advaita Vedānta as well as Vipassana Meditation in 1986 with Swami Chaitanya Siraj and took refuge vows with his teacher that same year. Swami Chaitanya Siraj had studied in an Indian Ashram for many years and his path of teaching was wide and open to all of the Wisdom Traditions. Soensanim’s direction has been informed by Zen since his College days of studying Psychology. Wanting to experience the direct experience of koan study he eventually discovered Zen Master Seung Sahn and the Kwan Um School of Zen in 1989 and began practicing regularly at Dharma Zen Center in Los Angeles. 

Throwing himself headlong into Zen practice for five years he received sanction and encouragement from Zen Master Seung Sahn to open the Huntington Beach Zen Center on August 14, 1993, where Soensanim was installed as Abbot by Zen Master Seung Sahn during the Opening Ceremony. 

The Huntington Beach Zen Center was renamed one year later at the first anniversary ceremony by Zen Master Seung Sahn to (Hae An Soen Won) Ocean Eyes Zen Center. The center was originally founded as a residential Zen Center where up to eight students lived and practiced together every day. The Zen Center eventually moved to Stanton and later to the Bixby Knolls area of Long Beach where it remained until the center was forced to close and relocate to a non-residential Center in 2000 due to zoning Issues with the City of Long Beach. 

Soensanim was ordained by Zen Master Seung Sahn as a Dharma teacher in 1995 and received teaching authorization from Zen Master Ji Bong, (an independent heir of Zen Master Seung Sahn), in the Golden Wind Zen Order in April, 2006. 

He has practiced with more than thirty different Zen Buddhist masters during his time and maintains an eclectic approach to spirituality. Having founded the Five Mountain Zen Order, he no longer participates with the Golden Wind Order. 

Having obtained a BA in Psychology from California State University, he earned his Masters (M.Dh) and Doctorate (D.Dh) degrees from BSI-LA before becoming a primary staff member. Ven. Dr. Wonji  has practiced with more than thirty different Zen Buddhist masters during his time and maintains an eclectic approach to spirituality.

Ven. Dr. Joshua Wanji Paszkiewicz (Provost and Dean)


Venerable Joshua Wanji Paszkiewicz is a fully ordained Monk in the Korean Zen tradition, having received the sixteen Bodhisattva precepts as well as the fifty-eight precepts of the Brahmajala Sutra. 

Having experienced a wide range of religious traditions from his since his childhood (spending ten years in Christian ministry training) Ven. Dr. Wanji has adopted a very pluralistic approach to engaging the dharma, and thus strives to foster an atmosphere where truly all are welcome to explore and integrate Buddhist teachings.

Ven. Dr. Wanji has been practicing meditation formally since age seven, and traditional life protection (“martial”) arts for slightly longer, having attained the title of Master in several martial arts (along with black belt level in a few others), and having founded his own method of Buddhist Life Protection Arts called Bupmudo, which he actively instructs through programs at in Kansas City.

Currently, in addition to his duties at Beyond Walls Zen, Ven. Wanji is serving as the National Abbot of the Five Mountain Zen Order. After graduating from BSI-LA in July of 2012, Ven. Dr. Wanji was installed as Provost and Dean by Ven. Dr. Karuna Dharma and Ven. Dr. Kelsang Chitta Karuna, and charged with continuing the mission and vision for the Institute as laid out by Ven. Dr. Thich Thien-An.

Ven. Dr. Geri P’arang Larkin


Ven. Dr. Geri P’arang Larkin is the daughter of a former marketing director of IBM and a painter of all things oil. She grew up in various cities in the United States and spent her teenage years in Sydney, Australia. Larkin graduated from Barnard College and has a doctorate in Policy Analysis from Portland State University. She has been a student of Zen since 1988, attending the Maitreya Buddhist Seminary in Toronto and Chicago from 1993 through 1995. During much of that period she was a resident at the Ann Arbor Zen Buddhist Temple in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

Larkin was ordained as a dharma teacher by Venerables Samu Sunim, Haju Linda Murray, Mahagosananda and Diane Bennage in 1995. In 1999 she started Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple in the heart of Detroit, and served as its guiding teacher for its first five years. Geri now lives at Laughing Moon Hermitage in Eugene, Oregon. She is the author of several Buddhist books written for lay people. The most recent one, Close to the Ground: Reflections on the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, is scheduled to be published in 2013. 

Ven. Dr. Richard Jishou Sears


Ven. Dr. Jishou holds a PsyD, MBA, and ABPP. He is lead author of the book Consultation Skills for Mental Health Professionals and is co-author of “The Clinical Uses of Mindfulness” in the book Innovations in Clinical Practice. He runs a small private psychology and consulting practice (www.psych-insights.com). Ven. Dr. Jishou also serves as the Director of the Center for Clinical Mindfulness & Meditation

A Dharma holder and Monastic (Sunim) in the Five Mountain Zen Order, Ven. Dr. Jishou is also ordained as a lay practitioner in Japanese Tendai Buddhism where he received extensive teachings on sutra and Tantra and has been fortunate enough to be able to practice these teachings both in everyday life. 

Ven. Dr. Jishou is a fifth degree black belt in Ninjutsu (receiving the warrior name Watoshi), a licensed private pilot, and received past certification as an Emergency Medical Technician. He once served as a personal protection agent for the Dalai Lama of Tibet with his teacher, Stephen Jien Hayes.

Ven. Dr. Brian Chong’an Denton


Ven. Dr. Chong’an is a licensed psychologist in the state of Ohio (#6540). He runs a small private practice in Cleveland, Ohio (Robert B. Denton, Psy.D. LLC). He attended Case Western Reserve University, receiving his Bachelor’s degree (B.A.) in Psychology. He received a master’s degree in Clinical and Counseling Psychology (M.A.) from Cleveland State University, and his doctorate in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) from the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

Ven. Dr. Chong’an is on the advisory board for the Center for Clinical Mindfulness & Meditation at the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, OH, and for the Society for Clinical Mindfulness & Meditation. He is a reviewer for the upcoming Journal of Clinical Mindfulness & Meditation. He is lead author of the chapter “Clinical Uses of Mindfulness” in Innovations in Clinical Practice (with Ven. Dr. Jishou) and third author of the book “Mindfulness in Clinical Practice” (with Dr. Sears and Dr. Tirsch) available through Professional Resource Press.

Outside of his studies in Psychology, he is a first degree black belt in To-Shin Do Ninjutsu and runs a small training group teaching martial arts in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. He has studied the Eastern Wisdom traditions extensively, having traveled to a variety of training centers and monastic institutes around the United States and overseas. He is currently a Dharma Holder and Monastic (Sunim), receiving the ordination name of Chong’an (meaning “clear vision”) following the Zen tradition of Zen Master Seung Sahn. 

Ven. Dr. Pannavati Karuna


Ven. Dr. Pannavati is the Co-Abbot, spiritual director and founder of Embracing Simplicity Hermitage. A Buddhist monk ordained in both the Theravada and Mahayana (Chan) traditions, Ven. Pannavati is also a former Christian pastor, Taoist monk and initiated yogi, holding a doctorate in religion. Ven. Pannavati has received Dharma Holder transmission under Roshi Bernie Glassman in 2011, in addition to being personally honored by Her Royal Highness Chulabhorn Walialak Mahidol of Thailand, for “Peace-Building and Meritorious Deeds Performed unto Humanity” in 2009. 

Ven. Pannavati’s insight comes not just from study, but deep personal commitment to practice and understanding of the central truths in the various spiritual traditions. While doing her own work, her great wish is that each sentient being seize the essence of this human life to attain enlightenment for the sake of all.

Ven. Pannadipa Bhikku


Venerable Pannadipa is the Co-Abbot, meditation counselor and Founder of Embracing Simplicity Hermitage. An excellent counselor taking a very pragmatic approach to spirituality, Ven. Pannadipa is a Buddhist monk, ordained in the Theravada and Mahayana (Chan) traditions. A former Taoist monk and an initiated yogi, he taught Tien Shen Pai Kung Fu, Qigong, Tai Chi and Fitness for more than 25 years and currently focuses on facilitating wellness retreats and Tai Chi certification.



One response to “Buddhist Studies in Instaute~ Los Angeles

  1. Ven. Dr. Karuna Dharma is the Abbess of International Buddhist Meditation Center, Los Angeles CA, and a past president of American Buddhist Congress. She serves as vice-president of the Buddhist Sangha Council and College of Buddhist Studies, Los Angeles, and was a founding president of Sakyadhita. She was ordained by the late Ven. Dr. Thich Thien-An in the Lieu Quang school of Zen (Thien) from Vietnam.

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