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Rodney Smith (c. 1947) was a hospice caregiver for a number of years, and is currently an author and the guiding teacher of the Seattle Insight Meditation Society, an organization he founded in 1993. Smith was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan and drafted during the Vietnam War, serving in Belgium as a medic. He returned home and became a social worker, when one evening he attended a lecture by Ram Dass in Cincinnati, Ohio that made him inspect his life more deeply—becoming a vegetarian and doing meditation. In 1976 he joined the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Massachusetts as a long term yogi and later joined staff and performed menial jobs as a cook and janitor. While at IMS he developed a desire to go deeper into his vipassana practice, and in 1979 met the Burmese Theravada monk Mahasi Sayadaw. He chose to return with Sayadaw to Burma and was there ordained as a Theravada Buddhist monk—studying in Thailand as a monk for an additional four years. He then decided to return to lay life, sensing that the monastic life was not his particular calling. While in Thailand he read the book "Who Dies?" by Stephen Levine and decided he would like to work with the dying. He returned to IMS and met up again with Ram Dass, who helped him get to work at a hospice located in Houston, Texas. He served in hospice settings for 17 years, and in 1993 he founded the Seattle Insight Meditation Society—where he is now a full time Dharma teacher. He is the author of Lesson from the Dying and Stepping out of Self-Deception (Shambhala 2010).
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