The Sangha Harmony Advisory Council

As part of our efforts to advance equity and inclusion within the Mountains and Rivers Order community, a new leadership body was recently formed to represent the sangha in all its vastness. The Sangha Harmony Advisory Council (SHAC) is composed of diverse and dedicated sangha members who will endeavor to represent the needs of historically excluded groups as well as the larger sangha as a whole.  Although SHAC is empowered by the MRO teachers and Board of Directors, its authority ultimately derives from its trusted representation of the entire sangha.

Keep scrolling and get to know the inaugural SHAC team.

While the SHAC may not have ultimate decision-making authority, in the spirit of collaborative leadership, any proposals it puts forth will be given serious consideration and the reasons for not acting on any of its recommendations will be made clear to the SHAC members and/or the greater sangha as is appropriate. The intention is for SHAC to become a trusted and credible representative body of the larger sangha. The MRO believes that decisions informed by the wider sangha will contribute to the realization of a harmonious, inclusive community where dharma practice is part of a joyous human collective experience.

Reflecting on this joyful work, Hojin Sensei offered the following:

There are strong aspirations to realize one’s true self in the midst of lay practice, monastic life and in all intersections of humanity. I want our sangha to see this, feel this, and be able to say: “Oh! There is a body that looks like mine, there is a heart I resonate with that is immersed deeply in this human project. Maybe I can speak, trust and be trusted. Maybe I can truly enter here.” 

Mission statement

The chief purposes of the SHAC are:

  1. To help promote unity, harmony, inclusivity and diversity within the sangha, and to help create an MRO culture in which people of all identities and a range of abilities feel welcome and supported, particularly those from groups that have been historically underrepresented or excluded
  2. To empower people from diverse backgrounds to promote horizontal leadership within the MRO.
  3. To hold decision-making bodies accountable for a timely response to specific suggestions and requests from the SHAC, and to advocate for open and trustworthy governance.
  4. To represent the lay sangha’s perspectives and suggestions regarding matters relevant to practice and training within the MRO, and to share these with the MRO teachers, senior training staff, Board of Directors, Temple Advisory Council, Affinity Groups and Program Committees.
  5. To model deep respect for each other’s humanity and identity in order to help manifest a beloved community through the MRO.

Activities:

  • Work with teachers and staff to promote initiatives that foster diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) within the MRO.
  • Convey the concerns of the affinity groups to the MRO leadership and wider sangha community.
  • Hold twice yearly meetings with the sangha at large, one of which may be the annual Sangha Treasure meeting, to report on the SHAC’s activities, and to seek input regarding the sangha culture that is being collectively created within the training environment. This includes both formal and informal points of contact in person and online.
  • Help lead a timely sangha response to tragic or consequential events, both publicly and internally.

Please stay tuned for more news on the Sangha Harmony Advisory Council as the group gets up and running in the new year. In the meantime, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to reach out to us at shac@dharma.net.

Founding SHAC Members

Tasha Sonju Ortloff
Tasha Sonju Ortloff (she/her) has been practicing at Zen Mountain Monastery since 1997. A single mother of two, coming sporadically in the early years and then gratefully accessing Zen kids (with her neurodiverse child), she became a formal student in 2018 and received Jukai in 2022. She has studied and practiced Nonviolent Communication and has worked in the nonprofit field in operations and programming for the past eight years with a focus in gender and racial justice work. Tasha enjoys wild food foraging and connecting to the natural world.
Ajay Chandra
Ajay Chandra (they/them) has been practicing within the Mountains and Rivers Order since 2017. They have a continual curiosity around community organizing and facilitation, with experience working within collectives tackling climate justice, housing justice, and disability justice. They also have a continual curiosity around mathematics which they teach and research at a university in London where they are currently based.
Jude Kushu Dinan

Jude Kushu Dinan (she/her) has been practicing with the MRO at Zen Mountain Monastery since 2009, becoming a formal student in 2010 and receiving jukai in 2016. Kushu has a degree in Business and Finance with 31 years of government service. She is also a veteran having served 4 years on active duty in the US Marine Corps. Kushu holds a third degree black belt in traditional Japanese karate and taught martial arts for many years (Seido, Budokai). She is an avid cyclist and runner and currently volunteers with hospice and is a master gardener with Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Simon Sekku Harrison
Simon Sekku Harrison

Sekku (he/him) earned a degree in Management and a Postgraduate qualification to teach elementary school in his native UK before moving to the US in 2009. He worked for renowned nature educator Tom Brown Jr., finding and nurturing a love for the natural world. Sekku founded a non-profit in Boulder, CO, supporting children to reconnect with nature before moving into residency in 2016. He has been part of the planning team bringing the Beyond Fear of Differences work to Monastery residents for a number of years and currently serves as a monastic.

Brian Daisen Holeman

A native of Southern Virginia, Brian Daisen Holeman (he/him) began structured Zen practice in 1996 within the Zen Studies Society. Under the stewardship of his original Rinzai teacher, Eido Shimano Roshi, he took jukai in 2005. In 2010, Daisen left Eido Shimano and practiced for two years with Genjo Marinello Roshi, the abbot of the Rinzai Cho Bo Ji Zendo in Seattle, Washington. Between 2012 and 2017, Daisen practiced with both Genjo Marinello Roshi and Shugen Arnold Roshi until he became a formal student of the MRO in 2017.

Daisen has 30-plus years of experience as a business systems integration consultant and continues providing services to many large North American telecommunications companies. He has been married to his wife, Jeanne Lipscomb, since 1989, and they have two loving adult sons. He lives in a suburb of Philadelphia with his wife and a dependent sister.

Julia Jiryu Krupa

Jiryu (she/her) is originally from Long Island, loves to spend time with dogs, and enjoys being a maker of functional things. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design and a Bachelor of Architecture, and worked as an architect in Florida, Indianapolis and New York City for about 18 years. While in residence at Fire Lotus Temple in 2013, she trained in culinary arts, and worked briefly as a cook in New York City. Prior to entering residential training at ZMM in 2018, she practiced with San Francisco Zen Center/City Center, and trained at Tassajara for 2 years. Jiryu has been training with the MRO since 2007, became a formal student of Shugen Roshi’s in 2010, received Jukai in 2019, and entered postulancy in 2021.

Edmund Green Langdell

Edmund Green Langdell (they/them) became a student of Hojin Sensei in 2022. Before joining the MRO, they had a solo spiritual practice for eight years. They grew up on a homestead where their family grew eighty percent of their own food. They have a background in trans inclusive and eco friendly fashion design. They worked as a facilitator and educator in university settings, youth detention centers, and summer camps educating about health and wellness, gardening, trans inclusion, and youth theater. Edmund helps out at multiple community gardens in Brooklyn, and cares for many houseplants, an aquarium, and a mouse.

Degna Chikei Levister

Degna Chikei Levister works as the Associate Dean for Enrollment Management and Access Initiatives at the City University of New York School of Law and is the Executive Director of the Pipeline to Justice program, providing access to law school to those historically excluded from the legal profession. Chikei has been a practicing member of the MRO for over twenty-five years. She currently serves as a member of the MRO Ethics Committee, the Sangha Harmony Advisory Council and co-leads the MRO’s Women’s Affinity group. She is a former member of the MRO Board of Directors. She lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Ravi Mishra
Ravi Mishra (he/him/they) is an entrepreneur, activist, and Buddhist, currently working in software product management at Indeed and living in San Francisco. Previously, he founded the Awaken Meditation app (now a podcast) alongside Rev. angel Kyodo williams and Lama Rod Owens. He has been practicing meditation in the Zen tradition since 2009, completed the yearlong meditation teacher training with the Interdependence Project in NYC, and served on the board of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship from 2020-2022. When not working, you can find him rollerblading, running, or biking around San Francisco, or pursuing one of too many hobbies (current favorite: learning how to spin fire poi).
Manwai Ng
Manwai Annie Ng (she / they) was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to the US with her parents when she was 1 1/2 years old. In an effort to heal her own racialized trauma, she trained in somatic abolitionism with Resmaa Menakem and the communal consultation for bodies of culture community two years in a row. She has been practicing at ZMM since 2019 and is an integral part of MRO’s BIAPoC and Asian Sangha Gathering communities. Manwai lives with her partner, Sekku, at the Monastery where she developed a love for the forest and all its inhabitants. She is well traveled, loves to cook, and in particular, eat.
Carmen Phelps

Carmen Phelps (she/her) is a clinical social worker who has worked in the child protective services field for ten years. She is also a member of a private therapy practice which provides individual counseling services.    

Inspired by Japanese women writers, Carmen moved to Japan in the late 90s to teach English at a Japanese High School. She says her formal sitting practice didn’t take shape until 2020 when the pandemic, job stress and the overall political climate became overwhelming. ZMM’s online dharma offerings and affinity groups provided much needed refuge and Carmen has been an active practicing member ever since.

Prior to being a social worker, she was the Director of Residential Life at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in DC, and the US House of Representatives Congressional Page Program.  

Jacob Romm
Jacob Romm (he/they) is a graduate student in Renaissance Studies at Yale University, as well as a letterpress printer and translator of French, Yiddish and Hebrew poetry. He began practicing at Zen Mountain Monastery in 2013, and spent time in residency after finishing college. Jacob now lives in New Haven, CT and is active in the Trans and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) and LGBTQ affinity groups.
Robin Wells bio tk