Our Teachers and Lineage
Our teachers are part of a lineage that has handed down the Buddha's teachings - the Dharma - in an unbroken chain since the lifetime of Shakyamuni Buddha more than 2,500 years ago. Our principal teacher, Fred Eppsteiner, teaches in the tradition of Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, whose lineage goes back to the ninth-century Chinese Chan master Lin Chi (known as Rinzai in Japanese) and ultimately back to the Buddha.
Our lineage emphasizes consciously integrating daily life and spiritual life so that our practice of mindfulness meditation and the development of wisdom and compassion can permeate and transform all aspects of our lives and relationships.
Fred Eppsteiner, a Dharma teacher in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh, has been a student of Buddhism and a practitioner of meditation for more than forty years and has devoted himself to teaching the Dharma since 1996. Although Fred has practiced primarily in the Zen and Tibetan Buddhist lineages, he bases his teachings on the full breadth of Buddhist philosophical, psychological, and meditative traditions.
In addition to giving regular Dharma talks at our meditation groups in Naples, St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida, Fred leads intensive practice periods, days of mindfulness, and multi-day retreats as described elsewhere on this website. He maintains relationships with meditation groups and students in north and south Florida, North Carolina, other areas of the United States, and Canada.
Fred began his Zen practice in the late 1960s with Roshi Philip Kapleau, the first Japanese-trained Westerner to establish a Zen center in the United States and the author of “The Three Pillars of Zen,” at the Rochester Zen Center in upstate New York. In the mid-1970s, Fred established a close relationship with Thich Nhat Hanh, who has become one of the most widely known, beloved and respected meditation teachers and authors in the West today. Fred became a member of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing in 1983 and received Dharma Transmission and permission to teach from Thich Nhat Hanh in 1994.
Fred also has a long-standing relationship with the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. His teacher was Dzongnar Rinpoche, a profound Dharma practitioner in the Tibetan Nyingma lineage, from whom Fred received oral teachings from the Dzogchen (Great Perfection) tradition in India during the mid-1970s. He has received teachings from other modern masters of Tibetan Buddhism as well.
Fred is the editor of two books on Buddhism, “The Path of Compassion: Writings on Socially Engaged Buddhism” and “Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism.” Many of Fred’s teachings have been recorded and are available on this website.
Before moving to St. Petersburg, Fred lived in Naples, Florida, where he practiced psychotherapy and where he founded the Naples Community of Mindfulness in 1998. Fred’s experience as a psychotherapist helps him to understand how to apply Buddhist psychology, mindfulness teachings, and meditation practices to the everyday lives of American practitioners. Fred has two grown children, Ty and Karuna.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Our sanghas practice in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, a living Vietnamese Zen master, Buddhist scholar, peace and human rights activist, and poet. One of the most tireless and beloved Buddhist teachers in the West, Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings and practices appeal to people from wide-ranging religious, spiritual, and political backgrounds. Known to his students as "Thay" (pronounced "tie," Vietnamese for "teacher"), he teaches a practice of mindfulness that helps us to become fully aware and alive within the present moment and to transform the seeds of suffering in our modern society into flowers of understanding and love.
Born in 1926, Thich Nhat Hanh became a Buddhist monk at the age of 16. During the Vietnam War, he founded the School of Youth for Social Services, a grassroots organization based on Buddhist principles of nonviolence and compassionate action. The organization rebuilt bombed villages, set up schools and medical centers, resettled displaced families, and organized agricultural cooperatives. Exiled from Vietnam for his activism to end the war, Thich Nhat Hanh traveled to Europe and the United States, where he continued his work for peace. He was nominated for the 1967 Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr., whom he had persuaded to publicly support ending the Vietnam War. Having seen the anger and inner turmoil within many U.S. antiwar activists, he turned his work toward teaching Buddhism to Westerners in cultural terms they could understand. Thay eventually established Plum Village in southern France as his residence and primary monastic center (www.plumvillage.org).
In 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh founded the Order of Interbeing, a community of monastics and laypeople committed to living for the benefit of others in accord with Buddhist ethical precepts. “Interbeing” is a word Thay coined to represent the Buddhist principles of impermanence and the interconnectedness of all things.
Thich Nhat Hanh has established monastic and practice centers around the world, including Deer Park Monastery in California and Blue Cliff Monastery in New York. After almost 40 years of exile, Thay was allowed to return to Vietnam in 2005 and again in 2007. During these visits, he gave teachings at retreats attended by tens of thousands of Vietnamese. His most recent tour of the United States was in 2009, when he and his monks, nuns, and members of the Order of Interbeing led retreats in California, Massachusetts, Colorado, and New York.
Between teaching tours, Thich Nhat Hanh lives at Plum Village, which is visited by thousands of people annually for retreats and programs. Thay places a special emphasis on programs for children, with whom he has a wonderful rapport. He and the Order of Interbeing have established the European Institute of Applied Buddhism near Cologne, Germany, to hold retreats, offer training for practitioners, and bring people of varied interests together to shine the light of mindfulness on critical world problems.
Thich Nhat Hanh has written more than 100 books, many of which are published in English by Parallax Press. His life and teachings have deeply influenced many millions of people around the world.