Leading Faculty

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen share the primary leadership and teaching responsibilities at Nitartha, including curriculum design and teaching the principal courses at the Summer Institute. Rinpoche and Acharya graduated with high honors from the nine-year training program at Karma Shri Nalanda Institute in Rumtek, Sikkim, India (an affiliate of the Sanskrit University of Varanassi).

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Nitartha’s president and spiritual director, founded Nitartha Institute under the guidance of Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, two of the leading contemporary teachers of the Karma Kagyü and Nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche is renowned as one of the foremost scholars of his generation in the Kagyü and Nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. He is a graduate of the Karma Shri Nalanda Institute at Rumtek and has completed courses of study in English and comparative religion at Columbia University. Rinpoche is an accomplished meditation master, calligrapher, visual artist, and poet. He travels and teaches widely and is well-versed in Western culture and technology. He is known for his warmth, humor, and lucid presentation of Buddhist teachings in a manner relevant to contemporary life.

Recent Publications

  • Wild Awakening: The Heart of Mahamudra and Dzogchen
  • Penetrating Wisdom: The Aspiration of Samantabhadra
  • Mind Beyond Death
  • Rebel Buddha
  • Emotional Rescue

Further Information

Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen

Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen excelled in his studies at Karma Shri Nalanda Institute under some of the greatest living masters in the Kagyü lineage. Acharya served as a faculty member of the Religious Studies Department at Naropa University, where he specialized in teaching graduate courses in Tibetan tradition based on Nitartha Institute’s curriculum. Acharya works closely with Ponlop Rinpoche in all aspects of leadership for the Institute, especially in the design of our curriculum. After Ponlop Rinpoche, he is the Institute’s most revered teacher.

Visiting Acharyas

Visiting Acharyas who are also graduates of Karma Shri Nalanda Institute often teach courses in the foundation, intermediate, and advanced programs at the Summer Institute. Visiting Acharyas have included Acharya Kelzang Wangdi, Acharya Sherab Gyaltsen Negi, and Acharya Tashi Wangchuk.

Year-round Faculty

Nitartha’s year-round faculty are highly educated and long-term students and practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, with many years of combined experience teaching advanced courses in Buddhism and meditation. They are skilled in engaging students and bringing the teachings to life by pointing out their practical applications to our lives and our meditation practices.

Teachers in Training

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche is committed to training teachers as an essential key to establishing the living Buddhadharma in the West. Nitartha’s Teachers in Training program is for approved students who have completed the Foundation and Intermediate curricula and who are passionate about teaching the Nitartha curriculum.



Mitra Dr. Karl Brunnhölzl

Mitra Dr. Karl Brunnhölzl has been a teacher, translator, and oral interpreter at Nitartha Institute since 1999 in both North America and Europe. Originally trained and having worked as a physician for 20 years, since 2006, Karl works as a full-time author and translator from Tibetan and Sanskrit to English in Seattle. He has published fifteen books in several languages (in the US with Snow Lion Publications and Wisdom Publications) on Madhyamaka, Prajñaparamita, Yogacāra, buddha nature, and other topics, including commentaries by several of the Karmapas and other major Kagyu lineage figures. Currently, he has been working on the collection of Indian Mahamudra texts (including many songs of realization) compiled by the Seventh Karmapa.


Mitra Tyler Dewar

has been attending Nitartha Institute since 1999, has served as a translator at the Institute since 2000, and joined the Institute’s faculty in 2003. He has contributed written translations to various Nitartha Institute courses and serves as a Tibetan-to-English oral interpreter for Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche.


Dr. Phil Stanley

Dr. Phil Stanley has been involved in Nitartha Institute since its founding in 1996 and serves as its Dean of Academic Affairs. He is an Professor of Religious Studies at Naropa University where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Buddhism and Tibetan language. He is Co-Director of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon Catalog of the Tibetan and Himalayan Library at the University of Virginia, Co-Convener of the Union Catalog of Buddhist Texts, and Vice-Chair of the International Association of Buddhist Universities.


Scott Wellenbach

Scott Wellenbach has been part of the leadership of Nitartha Institute since its founding in 1996. In 1998, he was appointed Co-Director and serves as head of the Translation Department. A translator of the buddha-dharma from Sanskrit and Tibetan for more than twenty years, and a long-time member of the Nalanda Translation Committee, he served as co-translator and co-editor of the Rain of Wisdom.


Stephanie Johnston

Stephanie Johnston, a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner since 1985 and student of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s since 1996, is Nitartha Institute faculty and developed its Science of Creativity and the Arts courses. As a graphic designer and avid practitioner, she trains and supports practice instructors for Nalandabodhi. An alumni of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and certified in Museum studies, Renaissance Art Techniques, and Graphic Design, she loves digging into the symbolic and its applied meaning in art and everyday life.


Jirka Hladiš

Jirka Hladiš has studied under the guidance of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche since 1997. He joined Nitartha Institute in 2002 and was authorized as a faculty member in 2007. Jirka’s interest is in approaching study, analytical meditation and debate as a unified tool for spiritual transformation. Jirka holds graduate degrees both in engineering from Prague Technical University and in Buddhist studies from Naropa University.


Dr. Stuart Horn

The Nitartha community is saddened by the passing of Dr. Stuart Horn on Saturday, April 10, 2021. Stuart first came to Nitartha as a student, served as the chair of our board, and in time came to be among the most valued members of our faculty. A prodigious teacher with an incisive intellect, he had a gregarious nature and was friend and confidant to many of us. There was nothing you couldn't tell him, nothing he wasn't willing to think through with you, nothing that he flinched from in serving the Institute and its family. He was always there, for all of us, and will be deeply missed.


Israel Lifshitz

Israel Lifshitz holds degrees in Physics and Mathematics from the National University of Mexico. He is involved with Tibetan Buddhism since 1992 and has studied under Kagyu, Gelug and Nyingma teachers. His teaching activities include courses and retreats in more than 35 cities throughout North, Central and South America and has served as translator into Spanish to more than 25 Tibetan and Western teachers. After meeting DPR, he joined Nitartha Institute in 2005, started teaching there in 2008, was authorized as a full faculty member in 2010, and translated all the root texts of the foundational and intermediate curriculum into Spanish.


Dr. Sandra Roscoe

Dr. Sandra Roscoe has been a practitioner of Buddhism since 1984 and a student of Tibetan Buddhism since 1996. She began her Tibetan studies and practices in earnest when she met Khenpo Tsultrim Rinpoche in 2000. She started studying at Nitartha Institute in 2002 and she became a student of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche the same year. Sandra holds a PhD in psychology with a focus on family systems and was a graduate and undergraduate professor at NSU. Sandra was on the Nalandabodhi Executive Council (NEC) for several years and was director of Nitartha Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies for 3½ years. She began teaching at Nitartha Institute in 2013 and became a fully authorized faculty member in 2016. She loves engaging in dharma conversations with her partner and Frisbee games with her Australian shepherd.


Mark Seibold

Mark Seibold joined the Nitartha faculty in 2005. A student of both Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and his son and dharma heir, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, he is member of the Nalanda Translation Committee. An active member and teacher in the Shambhala community, he lives in Greenfield, MA with his wife, Elizabeth. He is currently collaborating with Lama Tsöndrü Sangpo on a translation of the Padma Khatang, The Chronicles of Padmasambhava. Attributed to Yeshe Tsogyal, the Chronicles recount the life, teachings and enlightened activity of Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche, as he better known in Tibetan culture.


Alison McKee

Alison McKee has been attending Nitartha Institute since 2010 and was authorized as a member of the faculty in 2019. She has been a student of Ponlop Rinpoche since 2012. Her passion is in teaching debate as a way to joyfully and playfully examine and deconstruct one’s habitual concepts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and works as a library administrator.


Susan Stewart

Susan Stewart became a student of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche in 1999, first attended Nitartha in 2004, and joined Nitartha faculty in 2019. She regularly facilitates and teaches Nalandabodhi study curriculum in Vancouver, and for many years served as study director for Nalandabodhi Canada. She is a professional artist, educator and Associate Professor at Emily Carr University of Art & Design where she was the founding Dean for the Faculty of Culture and Community, and currently teaches.


Dr. Francis Sullivan

Francis Sullivan has been a practitioner and a student of Tibetan Buddhism since the early 1980s. He began his studies at Nitartha Institute in 2008 and in 2019 was made a fully authorized faculty member for the Shedra program. Francis holds a PhD in Biochemistry and lives and teaches in Boulder Colorado.

Guest Faculty


Mitra Lee Worley

Mitra Lee Worley was a founding faculty of Naropa Institute where she has taught Performance, Mudra Space Awareness, Buddhist Studies and Contemplative Education since 1976. A student of Chogyam Trungpa, she learned Mudra Space Awareness under his guidance. She holds an MA in Buddhist Studies from Naropa University, was a faculty member of the Ngedon School of Buddhist Studies and, since 1998, is a Vajrayana student of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and is one of four Western teachers or “mitras” appointed by Ponlop Rinpoche.


Dr. Gerry Wiener

Dr. Gerry Wiener began studying Tibetan Buddhism under the guidance of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1971. After Trungpa Rinpoche passed away, he continued his studies under Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche in 1996. Gerry began his studies of the Tibetan language in 1974 and is a member of the Nalanda Translation Committee and the Nitartha Translation Network. He has translated a number of texts in collaboration with Khenpo Gawang from Namdroling Monastery. Gerry has worked on the Sambhota Tibetan fonts, the Nitartha Digital Library, and is generally interested in using computer technology in the support of the study of Tibetan Buddhism. Gerry has a Ph.D. in mathematics.