Meeting a Buddhist Monk

This week I had the pleasure of meeting Kelsang Zopa, a resident Buddhist monk at Joyful Land Buddhist Centre.

I was a little jarred when I first saw Kelsang. He was wearing a maroon and dark yellow robe, the same kind the Dali Lama wears. I quickly got over his robe, however, as we began to talk, it turned out he was not so eccentric. In fact, I am now certain he is more sane than I am.

I asked Kelsang what made him choose to be a monk: “It works,” he answered simply. “I am much happier now.” Zopa left behind a successful career doing what? when he became a Buddhist monk. Not surprisingly, the career change came with a significant pay cut.

I also asked Zopa what he does with his free time. He seemed puzzled with this question, almost as if there was no such thing as spare time. After some thought, he told me that he likes to go to Bridgehead and drink tea. He also said he keeps up with the news because it helps him with his lectures. His life  – as far as I could tell – is committed to helping others.

Zopa also told me that his Guru was another monk named Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Gesh Kelsang is the author of nearly all the books you will find at Joyful Land. He explained that he merely transmits his Guru’s message, and that Geshe Keslang is a transmitter for the Buddha.

Zopa was not afraid to point out his shortcomings as a teacher. He told me when he first began giving lectures on Buddhism he would inject psychology into the lessons. In time however, he discovered that his add-ons only diminish the profound messages in Buddhism.

When I told people I was going to interview a Buddhist monk, I got funny looks and even some laughs. In the age of life coaches and anti-depressants, guidance from a Buddhist monk is not commonplace. For this reason, it is all too easy to dismiss Buddhism and other ancient teachings as a means to improve our lives.

 “We think we are so smart,” Zopa explained, as to why ancient wisdom like Buddhism is overlooked. Buddhism has adjusted though, to fit with modern times, he assured me. But, the core messages in Buddhism have not changed.  Dedicating his life to this now 2000-year-old religion, Zopa certainly seemed happy when I took his photo that afternoon    











Michael Myers

 Michael is a misplaced Trent Business Administration grad exploring Buddhism.  He has recently traded in a career in accounting for a student card and a student budget. His other interests include: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Graphic Design. In this blog he will explore the bizarre and the profound at various Buddhist temples in Ottawa.

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