Lauren Benjamin was born in New York City to Jewish parents. She began seeking an alternative to the modern western lifestyle in 1968 when, at the age of 16, her “career” as a dancer with the Pacific Ballet Theater in Los Angeles ended. In the same year, her family moved into Synanon, a resident-drug-program-turned-alternative-community. Lauren lived, attended school and worked in Synanon for 20 years. Although overt spirituality was not a part of that community, it was based on the understanding that anyone interested in changing the world must first and foremost change oneself, and the way to do that was to dedicate oneself to taking care of others.
Just prior to Synanon’s closing in 1989, Lauren found that while the principles and teachings of that community were profound, its confines limited her experience and its value. She moved back to Los Angeles where she graduated from Antioch University and Claremont Graduate University with a master’s degree in Cultural Studies. While attending Antioch and Claremont, Lauren made a broad sweep across religious studies, during which she was introduced to Buddhism and began to explore it as an intellectual curiosity. Also during that time, she became re-acquainted with her extraordinary parents, who had dedicated their lives to founding an organization that provided psycho-social support to people with cancer.
In 1999, Lauren began studying Buddhism through the Asian Classics Institute with Venerable Sumati Marut. The events of 9/11 in 2001 shocked her into becoming a serious practitioner. By 2010, she completed a 36-course curriculum, primarily under Lama Marut’s guidance, involving the open and esoteric texts of the Gelugpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. She also studied with Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally at Diamond Mountain University and attended teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Lauren took various levels of vows and initiations from each of them along the way.
In 2005, Lauren co-founded ACI-LA (Asian Classics Institute of Los Angeles), now known as Mahasukha – A Middle Way Center, serving on its board initially as Secretary-Treasurer and then President. In 2010, she retired from Mahasukha Center’s Board and became a member of its Advisory Committee. She serves as a senior teacher at Mahasukha and teaches nationwide as well.