Monastics & Lay Teachers

Master Ji Ru (Shifu) - Sangha Member

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.

Bhikshuni Kungshih (釋空實) - Sangha Member

Venerable Kungshih 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.

Bhikshuni Zhaozhan (釋照湛) - Sangha Member

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.

Bhikshuni Kongyan (釋空岩) - Sangha Member

Kongyan 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.

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Don Sloane (Xiankuan) - Lay Dharma Teacher

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.

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Katty Choi (Xianzhi) - Lay Dharma Teacher

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.

Toni Staicu (Xian Ning) - Lay Dharma Teacher

Toni took the precepts in 2013 and Bodhisattva vows in 2014 under Master Jiru. Toni came to the United States from Romania in 1991 and currently lives in Eureka, MO with her two children. She divides her time as a dental hygienist and yoga teacher. In her 20s, she became interested in Eastern philosophy and read books like Tao Te Ching, Jiddu Krishnamurti and Patanjali Yoga Sutras, which lead her to become a yoga teacher and prompted her to explore meditation. In her early 40s, she studied Qigong with international master, Lin Kai Ting. She first came to MABA in 2005 and became a regular in 2012. She joined the 2-year teacher’s training program lead by Master Jiru and now participates in retreats including Vipassana and Metta. She contributes at MABA by organizing grocery shopping for the winter retreat, leading the morning study group, giving Dharma talks, leading yoga and cooking for retreats as necessary.

Tracy Turner-Bumberry (Xianwan) – Children’s Program Director

Tracy began attending MABA with her daughter in April, 2006. She was drawn to the Buddhist concepts of compassion and equanimity, and was eager to practice with a spiritual community. Tracy took her Refuge and Precept Vows in 2007, and her Bodhisattva Vows in April of 2009. When MABA began a monthly children’s program in 2014, Tracy became the Director. She loves working with the children on the Buddhist concepts in a simple and fun manner. Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist who is in private practice in St. Charles, MO.

Brett - Lay Dharma Teacher

Bret Scott had been involved with Buddhism and MABA since 2010. He succinctly summarizes his practices experiences as: “No question I have found benefit through reflection, examination and contemplation. Practicing calming the mind and less self-centeredness (ego), also very beneficial. Karma, Cause & Effect, non-Duality, Mind; WOW!” Moreover, he adds, “You cannot help others without helping yourself. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.”

Sherry McMillan (Xianxing) - Lay Dharma Teacher

Sherrie McMillan (Xianxing) 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.