At a time when she inexplicably felt something was 'deeply missing' from her life, Gen Kelsang Suma began a spiritual search for a remedy.
She found Buddhist teachings helped her and she decided to stick with it, and now, about 30 years later, the Buddhist nun continues to practise and teach Buddhism in an effort to show others how impactful meditation techniques and teachings can be.
“I was suffering when I came into it and I recognized the suffering was internal because I was unhappy,” she said. “It was inexplicable because I had a good career and lovely family, but something was deeply missing.”
The Canadian Buddhist nun and spiritual teacher at Jampa Ling Kadampa Buddhist Centre in Barrie, Suma will be coming to Newmarket on Oct. 12 to host Peaceful Minds, Happy Lives, a public talk exploring the teachings of Buddhist master Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche.
It's an opportunity to introduce those interested in Buddhism and meditation to a way of looking inward when dealing with external pressures.
“When my kids got older, I became ordained as a nun and it’s not a career, I will never retire from this nor want to stop sharing what has helped me,” she said. “That’s been my path to this point.”
Coming out of the pandemic and with many individuals and families feeling the stresses caused by cost of living or climate change, Suma believes that meditation techniques can help relieve some of that pressure.
“It’s a very foundational teaching of Buddha that our suffering, the cause of it, lie within the mind,” she said. “We’re very externalized in our culture, we turn outward and look for security and well-being outside. Of course that’s valid, but Buddha is saying you need to look inside… this is what meditators do. You turn inward and begin to see the root of our anxiety can be how the mind is responding to that stress.”
While those external impacts are real and do matter, Suma explains that what happens internally can dictate how we respond.
“It depends on how the mind is responding to that,” she said. “The truth is, I can’t control the cost of living. It is what it is, but I can learn to control the way my mind is responding to it, such that it isn’t as debilitating mentally and emotionally for me. That’s what we’re trying to look at. The missing component to most of our responses in Western culture is that we’re trying to solve problems entirely externally.”
Suma said that there’s a lot of emotional turbulence, anxiety, and mental pain in the world today, and that it’s becoming more and more prevalent.
“There are a lot of meditative techniques in Buddhism that can be very helpful to help people deal with their mental and emotional well-being,” she said. “For those interested in going deep into it, there’s spiritual well-being.”
Surprisingly, Suma says in her experience that since the pandemic there have been fewer new individuals trying meditation for the first time.
“Honestly, it’s almost the opposite,” she said. “People have been slow to come to it and I find that we’re all just still sort of recovering. I don’t know if this will be a longstanding trend post-pandemic, but there hasn’t been a move toward developing the inner refuge, strength, and resilience. But looking at our world situation with how unpredictable and scary it can be, it will get more and more demanding internally.”
Based in Barrie, the Jampa Ling Kadampa Buddhist Centre has been holding sessions at the Newmarket Public Library, but is hoping to introduce meditation and Buddhist teachings to more residents at a larger venue.
“It’s an opportunity to share with people some essential parts of Buddhist teachings,” said Suma. “It’s not about people becoming Buddhist, it’s about people seeing if they find something helpful. We want to share teachings and meditation techniques that might be a good starting point for people. Our bottom line is we really hope it helps people.”
One reason Suma is looking forward to a public talk like this one is because she thinks it will remove some of the obstacles that come with going to a Buddhist centre for the first time. She views this as an introduction to something that can help.
“This is very introductory and the meditation is the first place you’d start in our tradition of Buddhism,” she said. “It’s going to be addressing meditation, but also an introduction to Buddhist thought. People are invited to take from it what they find helpful and leave what they don’t.”
For those interested, there will be weekly classes in Newmarket in the weeks following the talk.