The Buddhist Faith Fellowship is blessed in having committed dharma teachers and other volunteers who assist our founding teacher, Rev. Senpai, in sharing the Buddhist teachings. Together, they are committed to spiritually lead, teach, and equip others on their journey into awareness, compassion and understanding.
Rev. Senpai – B.B.A. M.A.S. O.D.T.
Rev. Senpai is the founder and guiding teacher (acharya) of the BFF of CT. With over 30 years of experience with Buddhism, he infuses insight, compassionate action, and enthusiasm into the Fellowship’s activities. Additionally, he has served as the Board of Director and Executive Director of the Buddhist Faith Fellowship since 2001.
Earning a B.S. in Business and a M.A. in Spanish from Central Connecticut State University, Senpai also received an extensive international education, studying in Spain, Costa Rica, Brazil, and Quebec, Canada, and traveled to over 15 countries. After several years of formal seminary study and practice, he received lamp transmission and ordination in the Dharma Teacher Order, in the year 2000, under his original dharma-name, Source of Wisdom, from the Venerable Thich Tri Hoang of the Lieu Quàn Lineage who is also a 43rd generation member of the Thièn Lâm Te (Linji) school. Through the guidance of the Venerable, he studied Theravada and Mahayana traditions focusing on Thièn (Vietnamese Zen) and Pure Land Buddhism. Later, he attended teachings and workshops with the renowned Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche of the Karma Kagyu Tradition and he completed the 3-year Northampton Shin Sangha’s Lay Teachers Program under North America’s foremost Shin Buddhist teacher, Rev. Taitetsu Unno.
Over the years, Senpai has been an incessant community organizer, by establishing a variety of organizations, and online and local groups in order to promote the Buddhist teachings in the contemporary American context. While some of these organizations no longer exist, others are still vibrantly active; they include the New England Institute for Buddhist Studies with its Sangha leadership program to train new teachers, the North American Shin Buddhist Association (NASBA), the 12 Step Buddhist Sangha in Middletown, the Connecticut Buddhist Film Festival, the mindful environmental group called Buddha Gaia, and the Shin Buddhist Prison Ministry.
Presently, Senpai has organized the Stoa Buddhist Philosophy Group in Wethersfield, Connecticut and offers bimonthly meetings exploring the blending of Stoic and Buddhist teachings and practices. Besides being a well-known Buddhist teacher, mindfulness instructor, and promoter, he is an experienced World Language teacher and is an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut
Melissa Lewis RN BSN (Ikuse)
Known for her compassionate and warm personality, Melissa brings into the Fellowship a depth of experience in Zen practice. Practicing Buddhism since the mid-1990’s, she dedicated herself to learning Zen and Body/Mind practices; living and extensively training with the founding Director, Patricia Shelton, of the Clear Light Zen Meditation Center in Florida. There, she helped minister to the terminally ill/dying and their families using the Clear Light practices as described in the book, Ten Thousand Joys, Ten Thousand Sorrows. Among her many roles, Melissa once served as our Buddhist Sunday School Director and Mindful Kids programs. Currently, she facilitates our seasonal mindfulness retreats, Emotional Mastery Body Mind training, Clear Light practices, and end of life training, and serves as a board of director. She is honored to be part of our spiritual family’s journey in planting seeds of insight, joy, gratitude, and compassion.
Harry Simonsen (Kisen)
Harry was a long time “bookstore Buddhist” before joining the Fellowship in 2006. At his first Sunday morning gathering, the fellowship recited the Five Remembrances which captivated him with their frankness, honesty, and acknowledgment of reality-as-it-is. Eagerly enrolling in all the available Fellowship’s courses, and enrolling in the Lay Ministerial track, he finally became an Associate Dharma Teacher in 2008. Harry seeks out the Dharma in everyday life and his quest is to develop a modern interpretation of the core Dharma, unconstrained by mythology and cultural influences. He is a retired software developer and earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Connecticut. Also, Harry is a licensed Emergency Medical Technician, a certified NRA Pistol Instructor, and a Motorcycle Safety Instructor.
Family Practice Teacher
Rich Sudusky (Jitsuro)
Rich serves as our Assistant Buddhist Family Practice Director. He joined BFF in 2014 after a long search for a spiritual community that felt like “home”. He quickly became involved in BFF activities, such as assisting with the roll-out of the new BFF website and publishing BFF podcasts. While taking the Buddhism 201 class, he and an other class members become inspired to offer to help grow the Mindful Kids program and later they developed a new Buddhist Family Practice program especially for families with young children. Rich is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, majoring in Computer Science. He also holds a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). His spiritual practices are influenced strongly by the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, especially his books “The Miracle of Mindfulness and Peace Is Every Step”.
Gordon Bermant, Phd.
Gordon is a Lecturer in Psychology and the Benjamin Franklin Scholars Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, he teaches a seminar in Buddhist psychology for graduate students at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, through the Institute of Buddhist Studies.He has spent way too much time in school, getting a Ph.D. in Psychology from Harvard University and a J.D. from George Mason University. Wherever his head is from time to time, his heart is in the truths of Shin Buddhism known in Japanese as Jodo Shinshu. He became a student of Kenryu Tsuji (1914-2004) in 1986 and never looked back. He was greatly honored to be the President of the Buddhist Churches of America in 2006-2007.
Dr. Sean Ross (Ryozan)
Sean’s spiritual journey includes growing up a Mormon in Oregon and as part of that experience participated in a mission to Peru. After 30 years as an active Mormon, he radically changed spiritual directions and began a search to understand universal compassion that eventually lead him to Shin Buddhism. Currently, he also practices martial arts, plays classical guitar, gardens and studies the ‘great books’. Sean is an instructor in our Distance Learning Program and our Non-violent Communication workshops.
Gary E. Link (Tinh Tán)
Gary first became involved in Buddhism in 1999. He began studying Buddhism in 2000 under the Venerable Thich Tri Hoang of the of the Lieu Quàn Lineage. In 2002, he devoted his time to Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, New York. In 2005, Gary began studying both Japanese and Chinese forms of Pure Land Buddhism and from 2005 to the present he has devoted his practice to Jodo Shu Buddhism under his teacher Rev. Kosen Ishikawa. Currently Gary teaches Buddhism at Chuang Yen Monastery and the New England Institute for Buddhist Studies, as well as being a member and serving on the Board of Trustees for the Buddhist Association of the United States (BAUS).
A meditation teacher since 1970, Ms. Shelton began her spiritual journey as a student of the famous Tibetan teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and engaged in intensive koan study and meditation practice with Zen Master Seung Sahn. In her extensive career, she founded of the Clear Light Society and taught an accredited course in meditation at Boston University, which she taught from 1985 to 2000. She currently divides her time between Florida and New England as well as giving teachings in other locations by invitation. Currently, she focuses on Body Mind and Moment of Death training.
Lori Rugle, Ph.D. (Dojin)
Lori is a clinical psychologist whose work has focused on the treatment of addictive disorders and is an internationally recognized teacher in the field of gambling addiction. She is particularly interested in the integration of spirituality and mindfulness into clinical practice. She has been a dedicated student of Buddhism for the past 20 years with a practice that largely focused on vipassana and metta meditation. She has been an active member of the Buddhist Faith Fellowship since she moved from Ohio in 2008. She is also one of the founding members of the 12- Step Buddhist Group. She is currently lives out of the state.