Born in Malaysia, Master Ji Ru studied Theravada Buddhism and was ordained in that tradition in Thailand in 1980. He later studied Chinese Buddhism and became ordained in that tradition as well under the late great Buddhist Master Venerable ZhuMo in 1986. Master Ji Ru has held several important teaching and administrative positions in the Malaysian Buddhist community including the Vice-Chairmanship of the Buddhist Association of Malaysia Youth and Religious Advisor to the Sabah State Liaison Committee of Malaysia where he helped establish the Sabah and Labuan Buddhist Educational Foundation. Shifu came to the United States in 1992 to give a Dharma Talk and shortly thereafter was appointed Abbot of Great Enlightenment Temple in New York. In 1993, he became Secretary of the Buddhist Union of New York. In 1996, he became the Vice-Chairperson of the Mid-America Buddhist Association (MABA). He formed the Youth Buddhist Educational Foundation in the following year. In 1999, he became the Abbot of Mid-America Buddhist Association. In 2000, he became the Abbot of the International Buddhism Friendship Association in Chicago. In 2002, he was appointed abbot of Chuang Yen Monastery and Great Enlightenment Temple in New York. He held those positions for two years before returning full-time to MABA, where he now resides.
Venerable Kōngshí was ordained under Venerable Master Ji Ru at the Shuang Lin Monastery in Tao Yuan, Taiwan in 1997. She trained for the monastic life under Bhikshuni Zhao Hui and Bhikshuni Xin Guang in Shuang Lin Monastery and joined Mid-America Buddhist Association (MABA) in July 1998.
In 1990, she went to Tzu Han Memorial Hall in Taiwan to practice as a layperson, learning Buddhist rituals, meditation, monastic duties, and basic speaking in Chinese. She was ordained as a novice in March 1992, on the Birthday of Guanyin Bodhisattva, and at the end of that year she received full ordination as a Bhikshuni. In 1993 she returned to Argentina. Since then she traveled between Brazil and Argentina, collaborating in the translation of several English and Chinese Buddhist texts into Spanish and Portuguese. She met Master Jiru when he visited Argentina in 2000. In 2008, she moved to Tzong Kwan Temple in Brazil. In 2013, when Master Jiru visited Tzong Kwan Temple to give teachings, he invited her to join the Monastic Winter Retreat at MABA.
Kōngyán is originally from Malaysia. She first learned about Buddhism in 2002 after reading “The Way to Buddhahood” by Venerable Master Yinshun. Her interest in Buddhism quickly flourished and she subsequently took refuges and precepts in December 2003. She has an undergraduate degree from Malaysia, a Master’s degree in Forest Molecular Genetics from Michigan Technical University and a Ph.D. in Molecular Plant Science from Washington State University as of May 2012. As Venerable Kongyan became more serious in learning Dharma, the interest of joining the Sangha in order to practice and share dharma with others slowly began to emerge. Consequently, she moved to MABA to practice here after completing her Ph.D. study. She was ordained in September 2012 as a novice and finished taking her full Bhikkshuni ordination on December 2014 in Taiwan.
Venerable Kōngkě was born in Kazakhstan. At the age of 13 she was interested in practicing yoga, meditation and seeking purpose in life. At the age of 14 she moved out from her parents house and was living in Russia with her elder sister in order to have a better education and a chance to be accepted in State University. She spent 7 years studying clinical psychology, received a degree in clinical counseling only to realize that this is not a path for her to take. Since then she concentrated all her effort in the spiritual path, and opened a martial art school, where she taught IliqchuanTM , qigong, meditation and yoga. Through practice of martial arts she heard about Master JiRu and after meeting him in person left the lay person's life and went forth under his guidence
Don is affectionately known as “ShuShu” (Uncle Don) in the Chinese community. He took lay precepts in 2005 and Bodhisattva vows in 2007 in the Chan (Zen) Buddhist tradition with Master Jiru. Don originally began his study and practice of meditation in 1969 under the mentorship of his first teacher, Ho Kuang-chung, from Nanjing, whom briefly taught at Washington University. Shortly thereafter, he began practicing yoga with Anita Montero Campion, T’ai Chi, Al Huang and various teachers around the U.S., including at the original Cheng Man-ching school in NYC and Sophia Delza Wu T’ai Chi School in NYC. For several years he continued his meditation training with a Tibetan Lama, Lodu Rinpoche, a disciple of the world-renowned Kagyu Master, Kalu Rinpoche. For the past decade, Don has studied and practiced with Master Jiru and Venerable Kungshih in secluded Augusta, MO. Don was a professor at the graduate school of Washington University for 17 years and currently practices cognitive behavioral therapy, traveling around the country offering seminars on CBT and mindfulness.
Katty took refuge to the Triple Gems and the Five Precepts in 1995 and took the Bodhisattva’s Vows March 2007, both under the guidance of Master Ji Ru. She has been teaching the Chinese language to students in Hong Kong. Katty has been practicing Vipassana meditation since 1999 and has attended five 10-day courses and a 9-day Satipatthana course at various Vipassana Meditation Centers. In 2004, Katty achieved a Master of Arts degree in Buddhist Studies from Hong Kong University. She is a scholar of the Pali Language, History of Chinese Buddhism; Mahayana & Theravada Buddhism, and has written research papers on different topics of Buddhism in both English and Chinese languages. She also has helped in the translation of Buddhist articles. In 2007, Katty was appointed as one of the lay Dharma teachers by Master Ji Ru.
Sherrie McMillan (Xiǎnxǐng) is a native of St. Louis and has been practicing mindfulness and meditation since 1990. The benefits she saw from those practices led her to learn more on her own, and in 2006 she realized she was ready to study with Buddhist teachers. She was delighted to find MABA so close to home. She took refuge and precepts in 2009 and bodhisattva vows the following year. She also began studying with a Tibetan Nyingma sangha in 2006. She is a writer and genealogist and enjoys homeschooling her daughter and engaging in many citizen science projects.
Cory (Xiǎnchū) started practicing the path in 2014, took precepts in 2015 and the Bodhisattva vows in 2017. His introduction to Buddhism was in 2013 after reading Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon-Kabat Zinn. He searched for Buddhist temples and monasteries in the area and found MABA. He has participated in the University of Kelaniya MABA program for the Pali Language and Buddhist studies degree. He is an IT professional for the last 11 years and enjoys 3d printing and painting.
Xiǎnhuān Francesca Williams began studying Buddhism after visiting MABA for the first time in 2010. Interested in both Theravāda and Mahāyāna traditions, Francesca found MABA’s location in the country a good place to study and attend retreats. Over time, Francesca developed her meditation practice and took Refuge and Precepts in 2015. Learning alongside like-minded people, she took Bodhisattva vows in 2017, and completed MABA’s DPBS degree program in 2021. With an emphasis on being of benefit, Francesca is an editor and writer, and enjoys photography, beekeeping, and working with animals.
Xiǎnji Lee Patton first came to MABA in 2010. After attending for several years, Lee took the Refuge and Precepts Vows in 2014. Bodhisattva Vows followed in 2017. Both vows were taken under the guidance of the Monastics at MABA. Lee has attended numerous retreats at MABA over the last decade. In 2019 the opportunity was presented to attain a college program in Pali and Buddhist Studies offered by MABA, The Right Mindfulness Training Academy and the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka. Lee graduated from the degree program in 2021. Lee credits his Buddhist practice, including mindfulness meditation, with working a profound positive change in his life. Lee has been a meditator for over 11 years and has been a practicing trial lawyer in Missouri since 1982.