Abbot of Blue Lotus Buddhist Meditation Center
Picture this. When a Buddhist monk walks into a Sri Lankan business where there’s a line, everyone steps aside so he can go first.
If he is an Abbot, he has a temple in which to hold classes. He has resident monks who help with community and administrative work. He has benefactors who provide an income so he does not have to work outside the temple. This is the community that provides him with food, a residence, vehicle, and other basics.
It's not that way in Florida for Bhante Chandrasiri Thumbage, Abbot of the Blue Lotus Buddhist Meditation Center (BLBMC). He knows first-hand (and has adapted to) cultural differences between Sri Lanka and Florida. Despite challenges along the way, he always enjoys sharing what he knows about Buddhism.
“Buddhist teachings allow us to sit with ourselves and understand life and the world around us as it is,” says Bhante Chan about his journey.
The road Bhante Chan traveled to Florida began when he joined a monastery at the age of 11. He received his monastic training in Kegalle, Sri Lanka, and continued his studies in Buddhist philosophy at the University of Kelanlye, Sri Lanka. As a young monk, he met his teacher, Bhante Sujatha, at the Singapore Buddhist Vihara. This led to his coming to the U. S.- to Woodstock, Illinois - to join Bhante Sujatha in establishing Buddhist communities in Illinois and Pennsylvania.
In 2010, Bhante Chan moved to Florida to volunteer his services to the Suncoast community. He and other monks traveled the area giving classes on Buddhism and meditation. To be financially independent, Bhante now works in the health care field. He also brought his mother from Sri Lanka to join him and his dog at his home in Clearwater.
Setbacks in building a community? Yes.
In 2019, BLBMC acquired a building for meditation and wellness classes in Venice but had to demolish it due to extensive storm damage. Then, of course, there was the Covid pandemic.
However, because there is a strong interest in meditation in the area, Bhante was adamant about continuing classes with Zoom meditations during the Covid crisis. He established a new board of directors that is focused on fundraising for a new meditation and wellness center. Then along came Hurricane Ian that inflicted so many losses to the Suncoast community.
Bhante says his journey continues to be about the practice of Buddhist philosophies. In fact, he designated the month of October for the teachings of the Four Noble Truths - dukka - at the Wednesday evening meditations at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice. He continues to dedicate his time to help people understand their situations and to apply a loving- kindness – metta - practice in their day-to-day lives.
Picture this. Loving kindness. Bhante Chan does.