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Spotlight: Kelsang Chogo

Updated: May 27, 2022

Chogo has been our Administrative Director for over a year now, but because of the pandemic many people haven’t met her yet. She’s an ordained Buddhist nun with a wide range of experiences and a very generous heart. So we asked four questions to help everyone get to know her.

KMCC: What inspired you early on, when you first started coming to Kadampa Buddhist classes?

Chogo: [My first teacher] was very down-to-earth and real. He is very joyful, but also kind of loud and jokes around a lot. I really loved this. It was like, we didn't have to become docile and quiet, that wasn't expected, to be Buddhist. Just be yourself!

[Also,] always try out & question everything! Buddha said, don't believe everything, just because he said it. I love that you are encouraged to check, ask questions, think about it, ask more questions, and maybe even put something on the back burner for a while. ... Always question!

You’ve made volunteering a central part of your life. Why?

I have basically been volunteering from day one [my first time at a Kadampa center]. Right away I was asked to help at the branch location I was going to up in Portland, ME. I was helping with greeting, cleaning, publicity distribution and publicity creation from the very beginning. Because of this early involvement, I really felt like this space was my own, it was MY meditation center, not just the meditation center I went to. And, as Ven. Geshe-la says, all of the centers belong to all living beings. This center does not belong to me, or to any of the managers or volunteers exclusively, but actually to everyone, without exception.

Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to help people. I have learned over the years that this is the ultimate way of helping, as it is not only helping people in this life, but in all their future lives! If each person hears one teaching, sees one ordained person, reads one word of Dharma, they are creating the causes to be free from all suffering. This is why I do what I do.

What is your favorite Dharma quote lately?

"Even if someone I have helped

And of whom I had great hopes

Nevertheless harms me intentionally,

May I see him or her as my holy Spiritual Guide."

~ Bodhisattva Langri Tangpa, Eight Verses of Training the Mind

I have often referred back to this quote throughout the years. It is so helpful to remember not to expect others to always treat us or behave in a certain way just because we think we have done something to help them. Everyone at a Dharma center is working on their own minds, and has made great improvements over the years, but this doesn't mean that they will always react or respond how we want or expect them to. This quote helps me to remember that they are actually supremely kind, regardless of their actions. For, without these beings, how else would I train my mind? It is not by everyone being kind and doing everything that I want. That would only help me to become a selfish and spoiled person. No one needs that!

Why did you choose to become ordained?

When I was living in Philadelphia, I was able to work full-time for the center for the first 6 months I was there. It was such an amazing experience. I just couldn't imagine my life any different than that. This is when I realized that I wanted Dharma, helping others, and the center to be my life. For me, the most logical next step was ordination. I wanted this life so much! Granted, just because one works full-time for a center, this does not mean he or she must become ordained. But, for me, this was what I wanted and the way in which I could benefit the most people.

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