Ted Lemon

When I was in my early thirties I got interested in Buddhism as a result of reading a book by one of my favorite authors, Kim Stanley Robinson.  The book, Escape from Kathmanduis a humorous bit of fiction about some characters who go trekking in Nepal and find the legendary Shambhala. Hijinx ensue, but what hooked me was the story one of the characters tells about realizing bodhicitta.

This led me to go trekking in Nepal myself, and eventually led me to start looking for a teacher.   The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying got me started—after reading the book, a basic practice of compassion toward others started.   Later I spent about fifteen years studying with another teacher, Geshe Michael Roach, an American who studied Tibetan Buddhism for many years and is very knowledgable in Tibetan scripture, and also skilled at teaching it in the english language in a way that really connects for a lot of students.

But one of the goals of Buddhist practice is awakening, and I felt completely blocked on that front.   I didn't even know if such a thing was possible, but when you decide to become a bodhisattva, that is what you are setting out to do. So after wandering away from Geshe Roach's group (we are still in touch and I still appreciate his teachings), I began studying with John Yates, Upasaka Culadasa.

Culadasa's teachings on meditation are the clearest and most effective I've encountered.   My meditation practice immediately took off under his tutelage, and I have since become one of his teachers in training.   John told us to start teaching as part of the training, and so I began to teach online a few years ago.   Because this teaching didn't involve formal classes, it took the form of debugging sessions, where somebody would come to the Mind Illuminated subreddit with a question, and I would try to help them find an answer.   Over time I've grown quite fond of this method of teaching—it has the virtue that because the student had a question, and some answer was provided, they have strong motivation to actually use the teaching and not just treat it as entertainment.

I use the name Abhayakara on the subreddit, and this has become my nom de plume as a meditation teacher. It's not intended to imply anything special about me; it's based on a name that Geshe Roach gave me during my time as his student; the meaning of the word is something like “conqueror of fear” and refers to the first path of awakening, at which one becomes free of a certain kind of fear that is characteristic of suffering existence.

I don't currently teach formally, but you can find me on reddit, and I run a meditation meetup on Zoom on Saturday mornings at 10am eastern U.S. Time.