Shantideva Meditation Center activities are coordinated and led by Buddhist practitioners who offer their time and talent as a way of service to their spiritual mentors and to those who might benefit from our programs.
Staff & Administration
Venerable Amy Miller
Ven. Amy Miller offers ongoing guidance for the center’s growth, frequent teachings (including three-day teachings, sessions of Discovering Buddhism, and some Tuesday meditations), instructs us in developing our ritual practices, and works closely with us in retreat. We are deeply grateful for the care, encouragement, and support that Ven. Amy has offered to our Dharma family with her precious wisdom and inspiration. Venerable also teaches and leads retreats and pilgrimages around the world. Her teaching schedule and other information can be found at www.AmyMiller.com.
Desmond formally met the Dharma in 2008 through the great compassion and generosity of Venerable Thubten Chodron, which gave his life purpose by showing him how cultivating virtue while having the courage and fortitude to open his heart would lead to the eventual liberation and enlightenment of all sentient beings. Desmond has a strong background in animal rights and vegan activism, including an extended internship with Farm Sanctuary, earned a BM in harpsichord performance from Manhattan School of Music, holds PhDs in French (specializing in 17th- and 18th-century tragedy and gender and sexuality) and musicology (specializing in French opera of the 17th and 18th centuries) from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and has published widely. Desmond is an Adjunct Lecturer in French at Hunter College and a Senior Editor at the Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale (RILM), CUNY. Desmond’s life revolves around the Dharma and his dog, Ollie.
Spiritual Program Coordinator
Arnaud first met Buddhism and FPMT at Kopan Monastery in 2005 while he was traveling around Asia for one year with his wife and 2 boys. The pause for lunch on a hike lead to the 10 days Discovering Buddhism course and changed his life. Since then, he has been involved with Kalachakra Center in Paris, Jamyang Buddhist Center in London and more recently Shantideva Meditation Center (since end of 2013). Arnaud graduated ESSEC MBA one of the top French Business Schools and used the finance and management skills he learnt there to help develop microfinance in France, making a difference in the lives of unemployed people by helping them to create their own business. Moving to New York was the opportunity to fulfill a long time dream to work with children by becoming a 3-6 years old Montessori teacher. Arnaud loves how the Montessori approach resonates with some aspects of Buddhism. It lends itself naturally to help children develop mindfulness and kindness.
Gigi began formally attending meditation and Dharma study at SMC in 2015 after having been invited by former director, Jennifer Kim. Inspired by what she was learning, Gigi attended all the activities at the center during the entire year. Volunteering in a variety of capacities and Dharma activities so she could learn more and practice, Gigi quickly became part of the community. Along with her husband, Gigi manages Salomon Arts Gallery in Tribeca. She has a degree in Architectural Design from Parsons School of Design, a BA from the The New School, and a Masters in City and Regional Planning from Pratt Institute. Her projects include a documentary of the Pioneer Artists of Tribeca.
In addition to being a member of Shantideva Meditation Center, Sean attended the Light of the Path Retreat this summer with Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Professionally, he is presently a senior manager in the Internal Audit and IT Consulting practice at Protiviti Inc., a global consulting firm that provides business risk solutions and internal audit services.
Leilani-Kali Rivers has been involved with Shantideva since 2013. As she explains it, “When I first walked through the doors I knew that I had found a new home.” Leilani first encountered the Dharma in 2004 while staying at Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju, South Korea during a Fulbright Fellowship which took her throughout South Korea. While at Bulguksa she experienced a profound level of peace, generosity, and spiritual belonging like never before. Leilani is an Estate Planning attorney and has been a Dharma practitioner since 2008. She holds a BA in Political Science from Union College and a JD from St. John’s University – School of Law. She also has a background in Fundraising and Development and is a member of the Convent of the Sacred Heart’s Development Committee and Alumnae Board. Most recently Leilani assisted on Sacred Heart’s Capital Campaign which raised over $75 million over a span of two years.
Lisa formally met the Dharma and the FPMT in 2012 when she was lucky enough to have spent time living and working in Raleigh, NC. The Kadampa Center (FPMT) quickly became central to her life and changed her view of the world. She volunteered within the vast community of Kadampa Center and was fortunate to be able to help with the Light of the Path Retreat in 2014. Lisa found Shantideva Meditation Center in 2014 when she moved back to her native New Jersey. Lisa has worked in education for many years helping universities internationalize their campuses. Her master’s work in education was done at Fordham University and Columbia University Teachers College.
Bonnie W. Costa
Bonnie has attended teachings at Shantideva Meditation Center since 2011 and started volunteering in 2013. She began managing Compassion in Action, gradually volunteering for other functions at the Center.
She is currently working with the developmentally disabled population at a city nonprofit organization. Bonnie graduated in 2010 with an MSW.
After attending various Buddhist talks and meditation classes in 2014, Sam finally felt he was home after being brought by a friend to an SMC Discovering Buddhism info session in December 2014. Sam completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Nevada Las Vegas in 2005. He previously worked as a public accountant at Deloitte, as controller for a start-up software company, and in corporate accounting for different retail organizations.
Teachers and Facilitators for our Spiritual Programs
Weekly Meditation Facilitator
George Michael Cuesta, Ph.D.
Weekly Meditation Facilitator
George traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand with his family in November 2005. On this trip, an interest in and passion for the Buddha and his teachings were ignited. He has been reading the Dharma, listening to teachings, meditating and engaging in daily practice since this time. George joined Shantideva Meditation Group after an inspiring teaching by Venerable Robina Courtin at Columbia University in October 2008. Over the years, he participated in Shantideva’s development and witnessed its growth into a Center affiliated with the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) and our Spiritual Director, Lama Zopa Rinpoche. George facilitates the weekly meditation series, Becoming Your Own Therapist, and Meditation 101. He also is umze for Guru Puja and Medicine Buddha Puja. George is a native New Yorker. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1978. He works as a clinical neuropsychologist at the Manhattan Veterans Administration Medical Center. He is adjunct faculty at the Disability Studies Program, School of Professional Studies, at The City University of New York. He lives in Manhattan with his spouse, Lucas.
Weekly Meditation Facilitator
Jennifer has been involved in Shantideva Meditation since 2010 and served in the director role from 2013 to 2016. She started her Buddhist journey in 2007 while tutoring English to Buddhist monks in New Zealand on her travels. After spontaneously recovering from an illness after the monks performed a puja with her, and after witnessing the depths of kindness and scholastic rigor that these monks embodied, she dived into Buddhism to better understand her experiences and learn more about the path to enlightenment. Drawn by the biography of Lama Yeshe, she served and studied at Vajrapani Institute in California from 2008 to 2010, and then managed Tibet House’s art gallery from 2010 to 2012. Jennifer currently works at Arcadia Group, a leadership and personal development company dedicated to fostering success and inner fulfillment. Prior to her Buddhist adventure, Jennifer worked as VP of Client Services in the software industry. Jennifer graduated from Columbia University, summa cum laude, in 2001 with a B.A. in Psychology and completed an honors thesis in psycholinguistics. She considers her Buddhist education the most valuable and priceless experience of her life.
Gustavo Cutz, Ph.D.
Discovering Buddhism Teacher
Gus has worked at Wisdom Publications in Boston and has been an active volunteer with Shantideva Meditation Center since 2008. He has been a facilitator for Discovering Buddhism Study Group since 2012. He also interprets/summarizes Geshe Thubten Soepa’s teachings on topics such as The Four Noble Truths, The Eight Worldly Dharmas, The Six Perfections, The Eight Verses of Thought Transformation, and recently, Shantideva’s A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, ch. 1-3.
Board of Directors
Arnaud Berger For full bio, please view “Staff & Administration.”
Robyn first met the Dharma, Lama Yeshe, and Lama Zopa Rinpoche in 1975 at the Kopan Monastery November course. Witnessing their inconceivable kindness and compassion and being exposed to the profound wisdom tradition of Lama Tsong Khapa totally changed her life. Since then, she has worked to foster the transmission of Tibetan Buddhism globally through various documentary, visual, and performing arts productions and as a trustee of the FPMT-affiliated Foundation for the Development of Compassion and Wisdom since 2008. Her NYU Masters’ degree thesis focused on the dissemination of Buddhism to the west through the Kalachakra ritual. Currently, she is working on a book about the rebuilding of the Tibetan monastic education system at the Buxa Lama Ashram from 1959 to 1970. Professionally, she has served as a nonprofit executive and philanthropic advisor at organizations that promote compassionate and sustainable solutions to issues in international development, refugee resettlement, education, health care, economic development, the arts, and cultural revitalization.
George Michael Cuesta, Ph.D. For full bio, please view “Facilitators for our Spiritual Programs.”
Desmond Hosford For full bio, please view “Administration and Staff.”
Jennifer Kim For full bio, please view “”Facilitators for our Spiritual Programs.”
Leilani-Kali Rivers For full bio, please view “Administration and Staff.”