Venerable Bhikkhu Sona ('Ajahn Sona')
Ajahn Sona is a first wave Western Theravada ordained practitioner. After several years of practicing as a lay hermit, he took full monastic ordination at the first Theravada monastery in the United States in 1989. He trained as well in the Thai Forest Tradition and combines both Sri Lankan and Thai scholastic and meditative practice traditions with modern western sensibilities. His pre-monastic education is in philosophy, humanities, and specifically classical Western music. These have been an aid in understanding the Western psyche and trying to establish paradigm bridges between East and West. The monasteries which he has established in Canada are affiliated with a worldwide network of Western Thai Forest tradition monasteries. At the juncture of contemplative Buddhism he also is deeply interested in the ecological movements in this environmentally critical time, both at the practical and philosophical level. The monastery which he has developed over 20 years reflects a response to the psychological demands on the individual and is at the cutting edge of best practices in environmental fields. He has participated in the green monasticism movement which is a collaboration with Catholic monasticism.
Ven. Bhikkhu Santacitto ('Tan Santacitto')
Bhikkhu Santacitto has spent the last 18 years living in Asia. For almost a decade he taught English at universities in Seoul, South Korea. During his first semester break, he travelled abroad and discovered vipassana meditation while visiting Thailand. In the following years, he undertook intensive vipassana retreats in Burma, Thailand, Malaysia and Nepal. In 2008 he took full monastic ordination in northeastern Thailand. He has stayed at a variety of traditional Thai forest monasteries including several Wat Pa Pong branch forest monasteries. He spent the last three years residing at Wat Pa Phu Sanghko, a large forest monastery situated within the national forest of Udon Thani. Bhikkhu Santacitto, born in Kamloops, has a BA in philosophy and an MA in religious studies. Bhikkhu Santacitto will be spending a year at Birken in order to continue his training under the helpful guidance of Ajahn Sona.
Maechee Mon ('Sister Mon')
Sister Mon is an Eight-Precept Maechee (Thai nun). After many years of practice and service in nursing, social work and buddhist communities in Thailand, Sister Mon undertook monastic training under Ajahn Sona at Birken in 2001. After training at Birken for a number of years, Sister Mon returned to practice in her native country of Thailand for a brief period. She returned to join Birken's monastic community in the spring of 2011. In July 2016 she began a year-long silent retreat which will include time at Birken as well as on Vancouver Island.
Sāmaṇera Nandaka was ordained by Ajahn Sona in August 2016. A former member of Birken's Upasika program and a longtime steward, Sāmaṇera Nandaka will be trained as a novice monk under Ajahn Sona’s tutelage at Birken during the coming year and will then move to another monastery to pursue his higher bhikkhu ordination and training.