2021-22 Senior Fellows: Daniel Ramjattan and Tony Scott
Born and raised in the Badlands of Alberta, Tony Scott was a Science Educator at the Royall Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology for almost a decade before taking up graduate studies in Buddhism. After receiving his Master of Buddhist Studies from the University of Hong Kong, Tony began his PhD work under Christoph Emmrich at the Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto. With an interest in the intersection of Pali commentary, meditation theory, and Buddhist statecraft in South and Southeast Asia, Tony’s dissertation work focuses on a modern commentary on the circa third century B.C.E.Questions of King Milinda. This commentary, published in 1948 by the scholar-monk and pioneer of modern insight meditation, the Mingun Jetavana Sayadaw (1868-1955), was controversial among monastic and government elites, with thousands of copies confiscated by federal police and national legislation introduced in response. In his dissertation, Tony articulates how this monk, by leveraging the cultural capital of his meditation teachings and his spiritual status, disrupted the postcolonial revival of Buddhism in Burma and the standardisation of the Pali canon at the centre of this revival. After finishing his dissertation work, Tony hopes to develop projects on the narratives of enlightenment that surrounded monks like the Mingun Jetavana Sayadaw, to delve deeper into the connections between insight meditation and other forms of esoteric practice in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and to explore literature produced in communities of practice on the proper code of conduct for monks and nuns confronting rapidly modernising societies.
2020-21 Senior Fellow: Kunga Sherab
Before beginning his graduate education at the University of Toronto, Khenpo Kunga Sherab was a distinguished Tibetan Buddhist scholar with several higher education degrees from an internationally recognized Tibetan academic institution in India. In 2000, he received the Khenpo degree (Mkhan po), the most senior professorial ranking possible in the Tibetan higher education system, equivalent to our PhD. Since then, Kunga Sherab travels regularly around the world for invited lectures at educational institutions and has authored two scholarly books on Buddhist philosophy in Tibetan.
In 2009, Khenpo Kunga Sherab first became affiliated with the University of Toronto’s Tibetan Buddhist Studies program in the Department for the Study of Religion, after which he began serving as academic advisor for a number of professors and graduate students in Canada and the United States. In time, Kunga began graduate studies at the DSR. In 2014, he received his MA degree, producing a thesis focused on the engagement of contemporary and classical theories of consciousness, karma and reincarnation by monastic scholars in contemporary Tibet. Kunga then joined the DSR as a PhD student in 2016. His doctoral research focuses on the long cultural history of practices invented by Tibetans between the 13-20th centuries to identify incarnate enlightened minds among children as the basis of the trülku (sprul sku) institution.
2018-19 Senior Fellow: Barbara Hazelton
Barbara Hazelton has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Art History, a Master’s in Buddhist Studies and is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto in the Department for the Study of Religion. Her dissertation concentrates on the Tibetan King Gesar of the Ling Tibetan epic, with a particular focus on the oral tradition of Tibetan epic literature and the traditional epic singers of the tale, the epic bards. The transmission of many episodes of this vast epic occurs through visionary revelations to the minds of great Tibetan masters, which form another important aspect of research on Tibetan epic literature and performance.
Barbara has a keen interest in Buddhist ritual and ritual texts. Her background in Tibetan visual imagery and ritual comes from studying with Tibetan scholars and ritual specialists, as well as from many years of meditation instruction and experience under great Tibetan Buddhist masters. She is a practicing artist training under a Tibetan painter in the Karma Gadri painting tradition. Of particular interest to her is the sacred landscape of Tibet as the confluence of an envisioned imaginative world of landscapes, structures, liberation stories, rituals, pilgrimage routes and literature. She is inspired by the popular genre of Tibetan literature, the life stories of liberation (nam thar), in particular the female models of enlightened Buddhist activity exemplified by the great realized female practitioners called yoginis, such as Princess Yeshe Tsogyal and Niguma.
Barbara has taught several courses at the University of Toronto, including “Buddhist Thought,” “Buddhist Ritual” and, presently, “The History of Buddhist Meditation,” a joint course in Religion and Buddhism, Psychology and Mental Health.
2017-18 Senior Fellow: Hali Kil
Hali Kil was a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology, specializing in social development. Her research interests include mindful parenting, multiethnic family functioning, parenting cognitions and behaviours, and children’s development of emotional regulation, positive coping and prosocial behaviours.
Her dissertation focuses on the impact of mindful individuals’ parenting on their children’s socio-emotional development. Specifically, her project assesses how specific parenting cognitions might mediate the association between parents’ mindful tendencies and children’s development of empathy and prosocial behaviour.
Hali teaches Social Development in the psychology department, as well as baby and toddler workshops through the Family Care Office at the University of Toronto. As an active community member, she works with organizations in assessing mindful parenting-intervention programs and serves as a consultant to implement greater engagement with the sciences in underprivileged schools.
2015-16 Senior Fellow: Sean M. Smith
Sean was a PhD candidate in the department of philosophy at the University of Toronto. His research is focused on the nature of consciousness. Sean’s work draws on many different domains of philosophical inquiry including, philosophy of mind, phenomenology and Buddhist philosophy. He also utilizes the resources of empirical science, including cognitive science, affective neuroscience, developmental psychology and evolutionary biology.
His dissertation is on the relation between subjectivity and affect. Much of the contemporary discussion of consciousness centres around questions of content as they figure in perception and thought. Sean’s work emphasizes the need to think about feeling as the most basic mode of consciousness. Re-framing the concept of consciousness around the feeling body of the living organism has the potential to yield two powerful explanatory upshots. One is that we can provide consciousness with an explanatory role, we can start to explain what consciousness does and what it is for. The other is that we can start to talk more precisely about how consciousness ought to be. This latter point points towards towards other important facets of Sean’s philosophical interests which include evolution, moral psychology, democratic theory and the question of human flourishing.
Pedagogically, Sean is a passionate teacher. He has taught courses in the departments of philosophy and cognitive science and hopes to teach a course a Buddhist philosophy and psychology before he finishes his PhD. In the 2014-15 academic year, Sean was the recipient of the TATP Teaching Excellence Award, a University-wide teaching award for outstanding TA’s.
When not researching or teaching philosophy, Sean spends most of his time with his amazing wife and child. Hobbies include, playing drums in various bands, dancing and practicing and teaching meditation.
2014-15 Senior Fellow: Mariana Bockarova
Mariana was completing her Ph.D. on narrative medicine at the University of Toronto, where she was elected into the Junior Fellowship of Massey College and awarded the TATP Teaching Excellence Award in 2014. During her undergraduate years at the University of Toronto, Mariana started a mental health awareness group targeting adolescent girls, which amassed over 40 volunteers and helped launch a nation-wide campaign with the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC). Because of her academic and philanthropic work, she was named a finalist of Canada’s Top 20 Under 20 in 2009 and was awarded the provincial June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award. In 2013, Mariana graduated from Harvard University, where she earned a Master’s degree concentrating in Psychology. She continues to be passionate about her research exploring alternative medicines for improving mental health and spreading mental health awareness.
2013-14 Senior Fellow: Melanie Viglas
Melanie Viglas was a candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy program in the department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto (OISE). Her research interests include exploring the benefits of mindfulness in education as well as self-regulation and prosocial behaviour in early childhood. She is a registered Early Childhood Educator and a certified teacher with the Ontario College of Teachers. After teaching kindergarten for 5 years, she returned to OISE to pursue her doctoral studies in the PhD Early Learning Cohort program. Her research study involved implementing an age-appropriate mindfulness-based program in four kindergarten classrooms to explore its impact on young children’s self-regulation and prosocial behaviour.
2012-13 Senior Fellow: Rameet Singh
Rameet Singh was a candidate for the Doctor of Education program in Counselling Psychology at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Her research interests include examining multicultural issues in counselling and psychotherapy and looking at South Asian healing traditions and approaches to mental health. She has been an active member at the Centre for Diversity in Counselling and Psychotherapy (CDCP) at OISE since Sept 2010. Her projects at the CDCP centre included coordinating the 7th Critical Multicultural and Diversity Conference, Integrating Asian Healing Traditions into Mental Health Care. Rameet is a practitioner of yoga and meditation for over 16 years. Her desire to help others achieve mental, emotional and spiritual well-being has motivated her to lead yoga and meditation classes and workshop in Toronto and GTA for over 5 years.
2011-12 Senior Fellow: Jennifer Motha
Jennifer Motha is an elementary public school teacher in the inner city of Toronto and is currently on leave, in the 4th year of her doctoral studies in the department of Curriculum Teaching and Learning at OISE. She has a long time interest in issues involving inclusion, equity and social justice; and continues to advocate for quality holistic public education to serve its diverse student population. Her doctoral dissertation under the supervision of Jack Miller is an exploration of meditation, contemplation and teacher reflection as it informs the teacher’s intuitive knowledge and teaching practices. Jennifer has recently published a chapter in the book Spirituality, Education and Society an Integrated Approach edited by Njoki, N. Wane, Energy, M. Manyimo and Eric J. Ritskes.
Jennifer was one of the teaching assistants for the Buddhism and Psychology: Theories and Applications course and worked with Njoki Wane compiling and editing a book on the Sociology of Indigenous and Alternative Approaches to Health and Healing Practices: Implications for Education. During her doctoral studies at OISE, Jennifer worked as a graduate assistant for Jack Miller supporting and mentoring the teaching staff at the public alternative, Equinox School. Additionally as a Teacher Education Program Assistant at the Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study she worked with and supported pre-service teachers in their practicum and internship placements. Jennifer is a yoga and pilates instructor, most recently with East to West Yoga and Pilates, Toronto.