Vancouver BASE Mentors
Kristin Penn is a Buddhist meditation teacher with a background in social service and social action and has worked with people dying of AIDS related illness.
She is a member of the Order of Interbeing and a Dharma teacher in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh. She co-facilitated the first BASE group in Vancouver.
Margot Sangster was first formally exposed to
Buddhist practice in 1982 during one of her many trips to Asia. A ten-day retreat in Nepal, time
spent in Buddhist monasteries throughout Asia, a visit to Mother Theresa's home for the dying in
Calcutta, and a period of time spent living with a hill-tribe family in northern Thailand, all served to
set in motion what has become her life's work. What unfolded as a result of these and other
experiences is a life dedicated to service, a deep commitment to vipassana meditation within
the Theravadan Buddhist tradition, and a broader spiritual path which also includes Vajrayana
Buddhist, Hindhu and First Nations' practices. Time spent in nature has also influenced Margot greatly.
For the past ten years she has formally
practiced in Canada, the US, and Thailand. Margot has participated in classes, daylongs, non-residential
weekends, ten and twenty day retreats, and most recently in the three-month retreat at the Insight
Meditation Society in Barre, MA. She is strongly committed to integrating her practice into day-to-day
life and has lived/volunteered at the Wat Kow Tahm Meditation Center in Thailand, and at the Spirit Rock
Meditation Center in California.
Margot is currently participating in the Community Dharma Leaders' Program at Spirit Rock.
Her commitment to social engagement began as a result of that first trip to Asia and has led her
to work with people from all walks of life - immigrants/refugees in Canada/Kenya trying to make
a successful transition to life in their new homes; homeless people in the US/Canada and
youth-at-risk in Canada/Philippines struggling to move ahead in their lives in circumstances that
would overwhelm many of us; social assistance recipients attempting to overcome multiple barriers
to psychological/financial well-being; the dying who share their journey so generously with those
who are ready to listen; international students/aid workers from overseas/Canada who leave their
homes for educational or employment opportunities, and find they learn so much in all those
other moments that come with going abroad; and others ... Gratitude to all those who have
shared their lives with me, both their joy and suffering.
"I never set out to become a socially engaged Buddhist, or even a Buddhist meditator for that matter. I was
inquisitive and adventurous by nature though, and generally chose the "path less travelled". And this is where
my life choices have led me. From an early age I felt compelled to respond to suffering, perhaps in response
to my own suffering, internally and externally. And all these years later, I still feel moved to act when
confronted with suffering. My spiritual path is now anchored by the Bodhisattva vow to become enlightened
for the benefit of all sentient beings, myself included. When we serve other beings or the physical environment,
we are in service of something greater than ourselves. You may think you help to serve others. Perhaps the real
truth is by helping others, we help ourselves.
Following the Buddhist teaching of our innate interconnectedness/ interdependence, I feel it is important in
my spiritual path to commit to lessening the suffering in the world. This is particularly poignant
at this time in history." You can contact Margo here.
Vancouver BASE Coordinator
Harreson Sito stayed away from Buddhism for years because he once
over-exerted himself trying to understand the sentences in the Dhammapada. Despite his deluded
self-preservation tactics, as life would have it, he attended a Goenka Vipassana 10 day retreat in the
summer of 2001 and miraculously, the Dharma found a place in his heart.
In his past life as a yogi-wanna-be, he taught hatha yoga, practiced karma yoga and started a
non-profit organization that
provides self-care services such as acupuncture, reflexology, Shiatsu to low-income single parents.
Now as a socially engaged Buddhist, he continues to teach yoga and to coordinate services and
programs for the same non-profit organization (but more mindfully and compassionately, of course.)
He believes that part of his mission is to create opportunities for people to give.
He sits with the Mindfulness Practice Community of Vancouver which practices in the tradition of
Thich Nhat Hanh. You can contact Harreson here.
Updated August 27, 2002