No, I’m not on the list, but that’s OK. I’m not really a Buddhist.
That said, these superlative lists always are great at showing established practitioners where their preferences and attachments may hide. I’m sure Waylon will get his share of anger about his post. Still, I liked it.
Waylon Lewis, over at the Huffington Post, suggests you take a look at his suggestions, in spite of his predisposition to the Tibetan tradition.
So here’s my Top 10 Buddhist Teachers You Can Study With list. I’ve disqualified charlatans (Genpo Roshi, who is well-loved in many circles, has recently been accused of such), promising youngsters who have yet to prove themselves…and those who you can’t really study with because they’re too famous (Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh), in private meditation retreat all the time (Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche), or rarely in the West (The Karmapa, Khandro Rinpoche). If I’ve forgotten or overlooked anyone, I’ll be happy to add them to the must-check-out list if I get a groundswell of vicious comments.
1. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche ~ he’s young but not too young, experienced, thoroughly Westernized (though exotically Tibetan, heritage-wise), a great teacher and frequently accessible at programs around the US, Europe, Canada, even South America. But because he’s a rising star, you’ve got to make an effort if you want personal training.
2. Pema Chodron ~ though Pema is a best selling, accessible, wise, safe teacher, and Oprah loves her…I nearly disqualified her because she’s no longer frequently accessible. But she’s just too good to overlook. So check out her teaching schedule, and connect with her before she retires or goes into retreat.
3. Sharon Salzberg ~ like Pema, she’s a best-selling author and accessible teacher. While less magnetizing than Pema, she‘s deeply experienced and warm-hearted. With her partners-in-crime Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield, she teaches mostly out of the Insight Meditation Centre in Barre, Mass.
4. Ponlop Rinpoche ~ like Mipham Rinpoche and Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche (below), a young, well-trained teacher who belongs to the first generation of Tibetan Buddhist raised and trained in the West. He’s got an avid, small-but-fast-growing community–perfect if you want personal attention and training.
5. Joan Halifax Roshi ~ a strikingly-lovely, wise and venerable American Zen teacher, she’s based out of her Upaya Zen Center in New Mexico, and works with the yoga community extensively. A superstar.
6. Dr. Reggie Ray ~ while he’s been caught in that “I’m American yet folks treat me like a guru vortex” that’s chewed up and spit out Osel Tendzin and Richard Baker Roshi before him, Reggie is like Pema a magnetic, accessible teacher. Unlike Pema, he’s got a small community with whom he works closely. Perfect if you want personal attention and training.
7. Columbia professor, Free Tibet activist and co-founder of The Tibet House, righthand man to the Dalai Lama, one of TIME’s most Influential People and father of Uma, Robert Thurman is charismatic, wild and wise–perfect for those who want to connect with the Dalai Lama’s teachings.
9. Dr. Judith Simmer-Brown, Dale Asrael, Frank Berliner ~ alright, I’m cheating–combining three in one–but if you’re college-age, you can find ’em all (and other gems, too) at little Naropa University. Dr. Simmer-Brown is an expert in feminism, or the feminine principle in Buddhism, Ms. Asrael is wise and kind, Mr. Berliner is deeply serious, knowledgeable, caring, and impossibly good looking–the Marlboro man of Buddhism.
10. Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche ~ like Ponlop Rinpoche, if you’re looking for a small community, personal attention and deep study, he’s perfect for you. If however, like me and most, you’re looking to simply inject a little mindfulness and awake-ness and peace and sanity into your daily life, stick with the superstars listed above.