Mitra Lee was born in Glen Cove, New York. She graduated from Mt. Holyoke College with a BA in English Drama, and later from The Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. Her acting career led her to discover Buddhism in 1973 while attending a theater conference in Boulder, Colorado, where she was invited to teach acting at the Naropa Institute. While teaching, she began meditating and attending talks by Naropa’s founder Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
In 1975, Chogyam Trungpa asked Lee to head the Theater Studies program at Naropa. While shepherding the theater program through its early years, she also helped launch the Ngedon School of Buddhist Studies. In 1996, Lee received an MA in Buddhist Studies from Naropa University.
Lee met Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche at Naropa and became his student. She took on the role of practice coordinator in Boulder, and then of national practice coordinator for Nalandabodhi. Lee was appointed as a Mitra in 2005, and currently oversees the Path of Meditation within the Mitra Council.
As a practitioner, Lee aims to be a champion of meditation both on and off the cushion. “I look for the truth that underlies the dharma,” she says, “and seek ways to bring it into moment-to-moment life beyond any dogma.” Mitra Lee lives in Boulder, Colorado, where she is a recently retired Professor of Theater and Contemplative Education at Naropa University.
The “Mitra” title: In 2005, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche empowered a group of his long-time students to be senior teachers of Nalandabodhi. He gave each of them the title Mitra, which is drawn from the Sanskrit term Kalyanamitra, “spiritual friend.” The Mitras guide Nalandabodhi’s three paths of Study, Meditation, and Mindful Activity and teach throughout the world.