The resident community of the monastery consists usually of four to six monks, one or two novices (Anagarika) and a secretary. Presently, the following people are living on a long-term basis at Dhammapala:
Ajahn Khemasiri was born in Magdeburg in former East Germany in 1950. He first became interested in Buddhism in 1977 in Berlin, after having met two respected monks from the Tibetan tradition, the late 16th Karmapa and Kalu Rimpoche. In early 1978 in London, he encountered Ajahn Sumedho – the senior Western disciple of the Thai meditation master Ajahn Chah – and was inspired to begin Dhamma practice under his guidance. Eventually he moved to England and in 1984 became a postulant (Anagarika) in the newly opened Amaravati Buddhist Centre. In 1986 he was granted acceptance into the Bhikkhu Sangha at Chithurst Forest Monastery (Cittaviveka). He spent his primary monastic years in several British monasteries and then moved on to Dhammapala Monastery in the Swiss Bernese Oberland in 1993. His time at Dhammapala was interrupted in 1995 by an extended visit to the Buddhist holy places in Nepal and India and an almost four-year stay in monasteries and secluded places in Thailand and Burma. He returned to Switzerland at the end of 1999 and in 2005 became the successor to Ajahn Thiradhammo as the leader of the small monastic community in Kandersteg.
In 2018 he relinquished his administrative and leadership duties, passing on the responsibilities to his successor Ajahn Abhinando. During the following approx. two years he visited several European branch monasteries, which included extensive stays at Santacittarama in Italy, Tisarana Monastery in Ontario/Canada and Amaravati Monastery in England. He returned to Dhammapala in July 2020 as a GEM to the local community – a Guiding Elder Monk – which is a gracious but deliberately nebulous description of his new role within the Swiss monastery.
Bhante Sukhacitto, born 1963 in Bad Nenndorf, first came into contact with the Buddha’s teaching in Thailand at the age of 23 in 1986, when he met Ajahn Buddhadasa. He has been a bhikkhu in the Theravada tradition since 1990. In 1993 he returned to the West and gained experience in various other Buddhist traditions. He lived for several years in monasteries of the Ajahn Chah tradition in England and at Dhammapala monastery. In 2005 he got to know Insight Dialogue (after Gregory Kramer) and teaches it worldwide. From late 2016 to early 2020, he headed the Kalyana Mitta Vihara – House of Noble Friendship in his home-town. He is visiting Dhammapala Monastery for several months since June 2020.
Ajahn Abhinando was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1966. His first Dhamma teacher was Godwin Samaratne from Kandy in Sri Lanka, whom he met during a weekend course in Hamburg in 1991. The following year he encountered Ajahn Sumedho in Hamburg and was deeply impressed by him. So he moved over to Chithurst Monastery in England, where he was accepted into the Bhikkhu Sangha with Ajahn Sumedho as his preceptor in 1994. Initially he stayed for five years at Chithurst, with Ajahn Sucitto as his abbot and mentor. After that he also lived at Santacittarama Monastery in Italy and at Bodhinyanarama Monastery in New Zealand. Eventually in 2002 he was drawn to Aruna Ratanagiri Monastery in the North of England. There he served the community as the second monk behind Ajahn Munindo for fifteen years and also started to offer teachings to the many supporters and visitors of the monastery. Since 2004 he is also teaching meditation courses in other places within Europe. In the summer of 2017 he became a member of the monastic community at Dhammapala which, since the hand-over from Ajahn Khemasiri in October 2018, he is now serving as abbot.
Ajahn Kāñcano was born in Montijo, Portugal, on 22nd July 1968. He lived in England for almost nine years, where his interest and practice of Buddhism began. In late 2003 he moved to Thailand with the intention of further developing his practice and seeking higher ordination. He lived for two years at Wat Pah Nanachat and on 6th July 2005 he received upasampadā (bhikkhu ordination) with Luang Por Liem Thitadhammo as preceptor. He then lived for a further nine months at Ajahn Anan’s monastery, Wat Marp Jun, near Rayong. In November 2006 he returned to England and lived at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery until July 2012, at which time he was invited along with Ven. Ajahn Vajiro and Ajahn Subbadho to initiate the project for a monastery in Portugal. Since December 2012 he has been offering his solid support to the community in Dhammapala.
Bhikkhu Balado was born in 1960 in Austria. After commercial school and army service he worked in accounting for some years. Then studied social work and worked most of the time in the field of addiction therapy.
In 1992 he attended a zen sesshin (retreat) led by the Jesuit Father Gebhard Kohler, where he learned the practice of sitting in stillness and appreciated the simple structure of formal meditation with the focus on the body-mind. Two years later he turned his interest to the teachings of the Buddha and joined sesshins with Fumon Nakagawa Roshi.
In 2006, he took a 4-month-sabbatical in Thailand with the aim to deepen the meditative practice monthly on 10-day-retreats. He was particularly affected by the teachings on the five hindrances which brought a new understanding to the practice of meditation with regard to experiences of distress in daily life. And the teachings on anapanasati also became a substantial support as a way of coping with distress and developing an anchor for the body-mind. It was at this time, that the vision of a simple life as a monk first crossed his mind, but the household life still seemed gratifying enough.
In 2014, after another time-limited work contract, he decided to take up the ‘homeless life’ and become an anagārika. His anagārika precept ceremony was held at Amaravati on 2 May 2015. He then received the pabbajjā or novice ‘going forth’ on 20 May 2016, and full acceptance into the Bhikkhu-Sangha on 2 July 2017, with Ajahn Amaro acting as preceptor.
Since beginning of July he is spending a year of training abroad in the monastic Sangha at Dhammapala.
Doris Eckstein was born in Lausanne in 1965. After working as an electrical engineer for a number of years, she changed over to study psychology. From 2000 until 2016 she explored human consciousness and memory at research institutes in Switzerland and in England. In 2006 she encountered the Buddhist way of heart-and-mind training. Since then she has a regular meditation practice at home and attends longer retreats elsewhere. Her meditation practice was influenced strongly by a small booklet with discourses by Ajahn Chah, called ‘A taste of freedom’, which happened to fall into her lap accidentally in 2010. She is an active member of the Vipassana meditation group in Bern, and since September 2017 she is working as the secretary at Dhammapala Monastery.