Gen Chodor

Image: Robert Castro

Every morning Gen Kelsang Chodor, a soft-spoken Brit, wakes up at the Kadampa Meditation Center just north of downtown Sarasota, where he teaches hundreds of people from all backgrounds how to find peace in their daily lives. Chodor, 44, once worked as an IT specialist for the Bank of Ireland. “Externally, I had the nice house and the things people strive for but something was missing,” he says. He became an ordained monk 17 years ago and has been the main teacher in Sarasota since September 2017. Kadampa Buddhism, founded in 1991, now has 1,200 centers around the world (seven in Florida), and teaches that anyone can integrate Buddhism into a daily life with the practice of patience, kindness and compassion. “The main message is how happiness is a state of mind,” he says. “You can find peace within your heart.”

Image: Robert Castro

7 a.m. “I begin the day with prayers and make water bowl offerings in front of Buddha as an expression of faith. This increases our connection with our own Buddhist nature, which we all have, but which is obscured by busy thoughts.” 

Image: Robert Castro

10 a.m. “I’m holding a mala, a mantra rosary, at one of our group meditations. We have quite a few group meditations throughout the week for different levels. The group setting helps people discipline themselves. You’re in an environment where you have to shut off your mobile phones.” 

Image: Robert Castro

11 a.m. “Because I used to work in IT, I work on the website every day, keeping it up to date with all of our courses. We use modern technology because it’s the way to reach so many people. We’re on Facebook. We advertise our courses. We don’t want to be in a bubble. We’re very much in the world, but not of the world.” 

Image: Robert Castro

Noon “We sometimes do a temple maintenance morning where a mixture of people volunteer, and then we have lunch. People can stay after lunchtime meditation, too. The meal is all vegetarian. I would have to say a favorite is an Indonesian stir fry with tofu and vegetables.”

Image: Robert Castro

1 p.m. “The temple has to be maintained, so I do a lot of maintenance, like switching out all of our lighting to LED bulbs. I don’t see this as work. It’s something I enjoy. It’s not a busy stress. I just see my life as being full.” 

Image: Robert Castro

4 p.m. “I enjoy the outside on our veranda. I took my ordination vows, and I won’t marry now. Everyone follows the Buddhist way of life according to their circumstances. This felt right to me. Most people will be the layperson. Buddha doesn’t distinguish between the two and what they can accomplish.” 

Image: Robert Castro

4:30 pm. “We have a bookstore called the World Peace Café with statues, cards and books that people may find useful in their meditation practice. I sometimes take the deliveries and like to look at what’s new.” 

Image: Robert Castro

7 p.m. “Evening class is the busiest time for the temple. Probably 40 to 50 people come to learn about meditation. We talk about different stresses, anxiety, irritation people may be having and how we can change our ways of thinking.” 

Image: Robert Castro

8:30 p.m. “After the class people stay for refreshments. You don’t have to pay a membership. We have drop-in classes and do a free meditation for world peace on Sunday mornings and prayers through the week. A bit of everybody comes.”

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