At Nitartha Institute, Western faculty, translators, and students from around the world closely study core texts and commentaries with Tibetan masters. Joining the wisdom and scholarship of the East with Western scholarship and ways of inquiry, the quality of awakening intelligence is advanced.
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche founded Nitartha Institute under the guidance of Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, two of the leading contemporary teachers of the Karma Kagyü and Nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen share the primary leadership and teaching responsibilities at Nitartha by designing the curriculum and by 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 at Rumtek, Sikkim, India (an affiliate of the Sanskrit University of Varanassi).
Visiting Acharyas, also graduates of Karma Shri Nalanda Institute, often teach in the foundation, intermediate, and advanced programs at the Summer Institute. Visiting Acharayas have included Acharya Kelsang Wangdi, Acharya Sherab Gyaltsen Negi, and Acharya Tashi Wangchuk. The principal faculty are assisted by Western faculty, senior students, and translators. The faculty vary at any particular session of Nitartha Institute (summer or regional).
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Nitartha’s President and spiritual director, is acknowledged to be one of the foremost scholars of his generation in the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. He is the founder of Nitartha International, a non-profit educational corporation dedicated to preserving the literary and artistic heritage of the dharma in the East, particularly that of Tibet, and bringing it to the world community. He is a graduate of the Karma Shri Nalanda Institute at Rumtek and has completed courses of study in English and comparative religions 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.
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 lives in Boulder, Colorado and serves as a faculty member of the Religious Studies Department of Naropa University, especially teaching Tibetan tradition Nitartha Institute-based graduate courses. Acharya works closely with Ponlop Rinpoche in all aspects of leadership for the Institute, particularly in the design of our curriculum, and, after Ponlop Rinpoche, is the Institute’s most revered teacher. Acharya is currently teaching Advanced courses in the Nitartha curriculum that are based in Boulder, Colorado and are broadcast to students around the world through online streaming video.
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche is committed to training Western teachers as an essential key to establish the living Buddhadharma in the West. He has authorized several senior western translators and students to teach the foundation, intermediate, and advanced Nitartha curricula. Committed to training Western teachers, Nitartha Institute has a teachers-in-training path of study and practice.
Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl has been a translator, oral interpreter, and teacher at Nitartha Institute since 1999. He is a principal resource for the contents in the entire Nitartha Curriculum. In his daily life, Karl works as a full-time Tibetan to English translator. He is the author of a number of books published by Snow Lion Publications and Shambhala Publications on Madhyamaka, Prajnaparamita, Yogacara, and buddha nature, including commentaries by several of the Karmapas and other major Kagyu lineage figures.
Mitra Tyler Dewar has been attending Nitartha Institute since 1999, has served as an oral interpreter at the Institute since 2000, and joined the Institute’s faculty in 2003. He has contributed written translations that have functioned as source material for Nitartha Institute classes on the topics of Madhyamaka, Mind-Only, and Valid Cognition, and served as oral interpreter for various classes by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen, Acharya Tashi Wangchuk, and Acharya Kelzang Wangdi. Tyler serves as a Mitra (appointed senior teacher) in the Nalandabodhi Buddhist community, has written for Buddhadharma, Bodhi, and Shambhala SunSpace, and published two volumes of translation, Trainings in Compassion (2004) and The Karmapa’s Middle Way (2008), with Snow Lion (now a division of Shambhala Publications). He is currently working on several translation projects and teaches, mostly under the auspices of Nalandabodhi, regularly throughout North America and the world.
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 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 and Publication 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 has been a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner since 1985 and a student of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s since 1996—the first year of Nitartha Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies. Since then she has been active with the Institute as a faculty member and student, and also with their publications. As a graphic designer and avid practitioner, she trains and supports practice instructors for Nalandabodhi under the guidance of Ponlop Rinpoche, manages its study and practice publications, and works with Nitartha International’s art collection.
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.
The Nitartha community is saddened by the passing of Dr. Stuart Horn on Saturday, April 10. 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 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, and was authorized as a full faculty member in 2010. He is currently Director of the non-sectarian Tibetan Buddhist Center in Morelia, Mexico.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Michelle Lin became a student of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche in 2010, and started her systematic Buddhist philosophical study at Nitartha Institute in the same year. She served in several administrative positions at Nitartha, from 2012 to 2017, as the Finance Officer and Managing Director. She began to teach Lorik in Chinese starting 2019, and is the translator and editor of the Chinese Lorik text. A Chinese native, Michelle lived in the US and Canada from 1996 to 2019. She moved back to China in October 2019.