Category Archives: Background history

Why Does BGR Focus On Global Hunger? Part 3

 Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

 When I got back to Balangoda after my first rains retreat (Vassa), spent at Island Hermitage, my teacher, Ven. Ananda Maitreya, had already returned from his rains retreat in England. By now I had steeled my resolve to discuss the diet with him and make him understand my needs. He kindly heard me out and told me he would see what he could do.

Shortly afterwards he gave me a piece of good news. He had spoken to a well-to-do ayurvedic physician, a supporter of the temple who lived across from the rice fields, and asked him to provide for my daily meals. The physician took this as an honor. He would give money to a villager who lived down the road from the temple. The villager would cook at his home and bring me my mid-day meal each day.
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Why Does BGR Focus On Global Hunger? Part 2

In the previous installment of this essay I said that I suggested BGR make hunger and malnutrition the center of our mission on the basis of my personal experience of hunger during my first years as a monk in Sri Lanka. Here is the first part of this account, which will continue in the next post.

I arrived in Sri Lanka at the end of October 1972. A week after my arrival I traveled inland to the town of Balangoda, where months earlier, while I was still living in Los Angeles, I had arranged to take ordination under Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera, a prominent English-speaking Sri Lankan scholar-monk, who was then 77 years of age. In Sri Lanka, Buddhist monks take as their first name the name of their native town or village. This explains why Ven. Ananda Maitreya’s first name is identical with that of the town where his monastery was located. I intended to stay with him and to study Pali and Theravada Buddhism under his guidance.
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Why Does BGR Focus On Global Hunger? Part 1

Buddhist Global Relief was born in response to an essay I wrote in 2007 for Buddhadharma magazine about the need for Buddhists in the U.S. to be more vocal advocates of social and economic justice in today’s world. I saw this task, not as a “politicization” of Buddhism, but as a natural extension of the Buddha’s mission of saving sentient beings from suffering. Too often, I felt, we use the notion of “benefiting all sentient beings” as an excuse for inaction. We think it’s sufficient to subscribe to such vague and sentimental slogans while investing most of our energy in a private spiritual quest aimed at personal fulfillment.

This call for greater engagement is in no way intended to devalue the role of contemplation, meditation, and Dharma study. These constitute the core of the classical Buddhist quest and are central to my own life as a monk. But, I felt, a balance between contemplation and ethical action is critically necessary, and under present circumstances, responsible ethical action entails more than simple adherence to precepts of abstinence and restraint. The very foundations of civilization are in danger, being eroded by a free-for-all economy driven by greed and religious fundamentalism driven by dogmatism and hate. To usher in a more just and equitable social order we are called to act: to act from the ground of the wisdom and compassion generated by our practice, to act on the basis of what I call “conscientious compassion,” a compassion that takes responsibility for the fate of humanity and sentient life on earth.
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