“Teachers are able to advance you beyond any idea that you have of yourself. You find yourself doing great things, amazing things.”

Early life and finding the path

Samvara was born in San Francisco in 1972. At the age of 6 he started learning kung fu from a student of Bruce Lee. When he turned 14, Samvara began to study a form of kung fu and chi gong rooted in Shaolin Buddhism. At this time he also learned Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and Taoist healing.
Growing up as an inner-city youth Samvara saw the Guardian Angels, a volunteer safety patrol in a rough neighborhood. He learned that they acted to stop violent crime and help those in need. Samvara yearned to help others with his martial arts skills so he joined the Guardian Angels, where he served from the age of 16 to 20. He became the group’s martial arts instructor and trained thousands of students and community organizations in street smart self-defense.

At the age of 19, during his first year at a local university, a very refined, wealthy woman joined the Guardian Angels. This was unusual for the martial artist, male-dominated organization. The woman told Samvara that, in a dream, her enlightened teacher told her to join the group to find him and make an introduction. Soon after, Samvara met his first Buddhist teacher, Ram Rinpoche, and became a Buddhist monk in his order where he focused on meditation, mindfulness, martial arts and career as spiritual practice. Following Ram Rinpoche’s teachings, Samvara became an advanced Buddhist teacher, a martial arts sensei with 7 black belts, and ran a successful technology consulting business serving many customers, including Citibank, General Electric, and Kraft Foods.

“When you are awakened to the teachings, everything you do is a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual experience.”

Committing & Liberation

In 1998 Samvara went on a spiritual pilgrimage and visited over 400 Buddhist temples, shrines, and ashrams throughout Nepal, China, Thailand, and Japan. While trekking in the Everest region of the Himalayas, Samvara was drawn to a small Buddhist monastery and said that the meditation hall had an “uncanny familiarity”. While sitting in meditation by a stupa (reliquary shrine) next to the monastery’s meditation hall, Samvara had his first experience of spiritual awakening. There he experienced Savikalpa samadhi, an enlightening state of universal divine consciousness. Upon opening his eyes after this enlightening revelation Samvara knew without a doubt that he would share the way of spiritual liberation with many people all around the world.

After concluding his enlightening meditation, Samvara became aware of two older monks prostrating behind him. They spoke excitedly to him in Tibetan and led him into the meditation hall, bringing him to the main altar. At the altar they signaled for Samvara to pick something up. Amongst the dozen or so relics on the altar, he was drawn to lift an old bell and a set of prayer beads that were draped over a picture of the Dalai Lama. The old monks made an excited commotion and invited all of the monks of the monastery in. One of the monks who spoke English told Samvara that the senior monks believed that he was the reincarnation of Dorje Chang, the revered founder of the monastery. The monk said that before his death, Dorje Chang foretold that he would return in a future lifetime from the West and would be discovered sitting in meditation next to the stupa. After completing his pilgrimage, Samvara returned to San Francisco where he opened his school.
Samvara already had his life completely planned out before meeting Ram Rinpoche. He was going to be a kung fu teacher and acupuncturist. Becoming a computer programmer was the last thing he was interested in pursuing. Though he lacked the confidence that he could even learn to write code, Samvara began to study computer science because Ram Rinpoche convincingly described how it would develop his mind and aid his spiritual practice.

Ram Rinpoche said that similar to ancient Buddhist practices of memorizing, visualizing, and building intricate mandalas, computer programming helped in honing one’s mental focus while being a superb vehicle for practicing the Buddha’s teachings of right livelihood. After a year of arduous study, Samvara learned computer programming and began a successful career in software application development, Big Data, and AI.

Teaching & the founding of Buddha Dojo

Samvara established the Awakened Mind Buddhist Meditation Center in San Francisco in 1999. In 2002 he taught in Honolulu and then Chicago in 2005. In 2006 Samvara began regular teachings at the Pearl House Meditation Center in Budapest, Hungary. In 2008 Samvara founded the Vajranandacharya Buddhist Foundation and opened the Bodhiwoods Buddhist Mountain Hermitage where he resides as the abbot. Today Samvara also teaches in Bangalore, Reykjavik, Paris, Munich, and Vienna, as well as to students world-wide on the Buddha Dojo online platform.

Over the years, Samvara’s teachings have consistently focused on authentic Buddhist meditation practices, accessible mindfulness practices for Western practitioners, and making all of the things in modern-day life a part of spiritual development. What has changed in Samvara’s teachings is his audience. In the beginning Samvara only taught monks. As he taught in more and more locations, Samvara saw that his teachings of Buddhism for modern-day Westerners were very helpful for not only monks seeking enlightenment, but also for lay initiates seeking mystical insight through yogic wisdom, and everyday people seeking mental clarity, stress relief, successful relationships and careers. This recognition led to the creation of Buddha Dojo in 2019, which aims to provide teachings derived from Buddhist wisdom that are accessible to people anywhere in the world.