Olaf and Ama Samy at Bodhi Zendo
© Koteshwar Rao
Ama Samy, Zen master and Jesuit priest
Ama Samy (Gen-Un Ken) was born to Christian parents in Burma in 1936. There, early on he had some contact with Burmese Buddhism. Driven by poverty, his parents put him in the care of his maternal grandfather in India, who was a devotee of a Muslim saint. Soon after, his grandfather died in an accident, leaving him as a young boy without support and guidance. Nevertheless, he finished school and joined the Jesuit order.
After becoming a Jesuit priest, his heart was still restless after God. He began visiting Hindu ashrams and Buddhist meditation centers. He was introduced to Ramana Maharshi by Swami Abhishiktananda and was moved by Ramana's vision. His searching led him to become a wandering beggar for a period and to settle down as a hermit near a holy shrine where the village people fed him.
In time, it was the Zen way which drew him most. With the help of Father Enomiya Lassalle, he visited Japan and trained with Yamada Koun Roshi of Sanbo Kyodan. In 1982, Yamada Roshi authorized him to teach Zen.
Ama Samy later founded his own Zen school, Bodhi Sangha. His method of teaching embraces both Soto and Rinzai Zen traditions and draws from the resources of Christianity and other religions. He is rooted in Christianity and in Zen. Standing in-between Buddhism and Christianity, he remains true to Christ, true to Zen and true to the human heart-mind. He lives and teaches at Bodhi Zendo Zen Center in Southern India and spends several months leading retreats in Europe, Australia, and the US (in September). With the help of his students, he runs Little Flower, a non-profit organization supporting women, children and landless people in Southern India.
Read questions and answers with Fr. Ama.
Listen to an interview with Fr. Ama on ABC Radio Australia.
Watch "Zen and the art of compassion," a film portrait of Ama Samy by Dutch film maker Pat van Boeckel.
Olaf Strelcyk, Sensei
Olaf (Muyōju Bodhi Ken) received Dharma transmission in the Bodhi Sangha lineage from Ama Samy in 2018 and was appointed as Zen master. He grew up in Germany, where he started practicing Zen with Stefan Bauberger in 2001. He has studied with Ama Samy since 2008 in Europe, the US, and during extended stays at Bodhi Zendo in India.
Olaf studied physics in Germany and did a PhD in psychoacoustics in Denmark. He has lived in the US since 2009, doing research on hearing impairment and hearing aids. While living in Berkeley, CA, he also studied with Diane Eshin Rizzetto. He and his partner Nicky live in Cincinnati, where they both communicate Zen.