Dharma Council

Dharma Council Vision Statement

The Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple is an American, Mahayana Buddhist Temple and spiritual community (Sangha). The Dharma Council, the body of four ordained clergy who support the Sangha by offering the teachings of the Buddha, come from a variety of Buddhist backgrounds including Korean Zen, Soto Zen, and Tibetan lineages. We teach what we know—and all of our teachings originate from the Mahayana vehicle of Buddhism, meaning we share the Dharma (Buddha’s teachings) for the benefit of all living beings.

As a Dharma Council, our collective goal is to not only share Buddhist teachings with the Sangha in a variety of forms and expressions, but also to serve the spiritual health and well-being of the Sangha. Because our Sangha consists primarily of working individuals and families, we work to offer practical approaches to the Buddha’s teachings in the form of Sunday Dharma Talks, Sangha School for children from September to May, basic and advanced Buddhism classes, retreats, and meditation offerings. Social gatherings are held after each Dharma Talk, as well as potluck and Sangha discussions throughout the year.

The Dharma Council operates as a shared leadership team, meaning our structure is horizontal in nature. In decision-making, we vote by consensus and we only move forward with the unanimous consent of all Dharma Council members. This assures that we are of one mind as we make decisions for the benefit of the Sangha.

The Dharma Council’s vision is to be of diligent service to our Sangha and the greater West Michigan community by offering Buddhist teachings that are relevant to today’s social challenges. We carry out our vision through an inclusive, welcoming approach to Buddhism that allows the Sangha to best integrate the Buddha’s teachings into their own lives through their own experience and practice.

The Dharma Council welcomes everyone to the Buddhist path.

Ven. Ai Su Kimberly Hillebrand
Sangha Life Abbot

Ai Su (she/her/hers) received the gifts of the Five Moral Precepts at the Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple in 2016, followed by ordination as a Dharma Teacher and Teaching Monk. With training in both Zen and Dzogchen, Ai Su has experience teaching specifically within a Buddhist context, as well as working to build common spiritual ground within a diverse workplace. Ai Su’s foundational practice is metta, or loving-kindness, a practice that she has undertaken almost daily for the last twenty years.

As Sangha Life Abbot, Ai Su’s focus is on the culture and spiritual well-being of the Sangha. She facilitates the Sangha Care Circle, creating a weekly space comprised of part conversation and part meditation that is open to all to talk about topics relating to the times we're living in and is an opportunity to connect through our shared experiences.

Ai Su is a program manager with the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at GVSU and has earned degrees in biological sciences and cultural anthropology, with more than twenty years’ experience in community building, environmental justice work, refugee resettlement, and other types of non-profit service, including interfaith work.

Ven. Hung Su Stephen Sampson
Abbot Emeritus

Hung Su trained at the Van Hanh Temple in Lansing, MI in 2007 and Muddy Water Zen Center in Royal Oak, MI. He was ordained as a Dharma Teacher and Teaching Monk at the Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple in 2015.

Hung Su retired from active clergy duties in the summer of 2019. He continues to facilitate the weekly Dharma and Sutra Discussion groups on Thursday mornings and also serves as the “temple gardener,” taking care of the bodhi tree and plants during the week.

Additional Experience: Trained with GVSU Physics professor and veteran meditation practitioner, Dr. Karen Gipson for 17 years. Former Brother Superior of the Los Angeles and Houston Texas Houses of the Catholic Missionary Brother of Charity.

Ven. Yong Su Mark Hepper
Assistant Administrative Abbot

Yong Su joined the Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple in 2012, received the gift of the precepts in 2013, and received the gift of the Bodhisattva Commitments in 2016. He was ordained as a Dharma Teacher in 2019 and ordained as a Monk in 2021.

Yong Su manages all correspondence and the calendar for all Dharma Council events. He also oversees the Buddhist-Based Recovery program.

Additional experiences: Yong Su completed a five-year course in Teacher Training in the Unity School of Christianity. He facilitated a weekly interfaith service for eight years and coordinated chaplaincy activities in The Friends Meeting in Grand Rapids, MI. Prior to moving to Grand Rapids, he was employed in several companies in Silicon Valley in various management positions. He is a Navy veteran.

Board of Directors

Jan Ensing, President/Secretary
Jacob Luker, Treasurer
Kent Robbins, Director
Gail Heathcote, Director