Posted in Bardo News, Buddhism, teacher, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

BARDO NEWS: Walk to Feed the Hungry

Ven. Bhikku Bodhi, Founder of Buddhist Global Relief
Ven. Bhikku Bodhi, Founder and Chairperson  of Buddhist Global Relief

This just came in from Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Buddist Global Relief. Walks are happening in: San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, and Los Angles, California; Willington, Connecticut; Tampa Bay, Florida; Ann Arbor, Michigan; St. Louis, Missouri; New York, New York; Houston, Texas; Seattle, Washington; Beanteay Meanchey, Cambodia; Nagpur, India.

.
Dear Friends,

Today close to a billion people worldwide face hunger as a fact of daily life. Hunger and hunger-related illnesses claim ten million lives each year, half of them children. Hunger of such magnitude is not the result of a shortage of funds or a lack of food, but of a lack of care, a lack of will. In a world where trillions of dollars are spent on weapons and wars, the extent of hunger is a blemish on the soul of humanity. To redeem ourselves, we must learn to see ourselves in others, to recognize our obligation to ensure that all humankind can flourish together.

This fall, in different cities around the U.S. and abroad, Buddhist Global Relief will be holding its 4th “Walk to Feed the Hungry.” The walk is a gesture of care and compassion by which we express our commitment to helping our brothers and sisters in need. The purpose of the walk is to raise funds for our many projects that address hunger and malnutrition. Funds raised will support such BGR projects as right livelihood training for girls in Sri Lanka; meals and scholarships for poor kids in Haiti; food scholarships for girls and their families in Cambodia; education and vocational training for kids in Bangladesh; nutritional guidance and micronutrient supplements in Côte d’Ivoire; a tuition center for women and girls in India; urban gardens here in the U.S.; and sustainable agriculture programs in Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Haiti, India, and Malawi.

The BGR “Walk to Feed the Hungry” has become an American Buddhist tradition that is growing from year to year. Our first walk took place in New Jersey in October 2010. In 2011 we held three walks and last year a dozen walks, including solidarity walks in India and Cambodia. We expect a similar number this year. A walk like this offers us a channel to express our collective compassion in solidarity with the world’s poor. It’s also a great form of exercise and an opportunity to make new friends

I cordially invite you to join us on this walk. A “Walk to Feed the Hungry” will be held at various locations around the U.S. See our website for information about walks already planned. Please join us, register early, and mobilize members of your congregation, Dharma group, or community to participate as well. By creating a First Giving Fundraising page, you can enable your friends and relatives to share in the merits of the walk by supporting you in this worthy endeavor.

If you live too far from any of these places, you can organize a walk of your own or some other event with your friends or community members, such as a day of mindfulness, to raise funds to feed the hungry. Together, let’s show that we cherish the poor and needy of the earth like our own parents, children, brothers, and sisters.

Thank you so much.

With metta and a downpour of blessings,

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Founder and Chairperson

Photo credit ~ Ken and Visakha Kawasaki under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Posted in Essay, Guest Writer, Peace & Justice

Mindful Steps to End Hunger

Charles W. Elliot

By Charles W. Elliot

Posted here with the permission of Buddhist Global Relief (BGW)

Hunger remains a problem and we think it is not inappropriate to post this again, an essay by Charles W. Elliot that we featured a couple of years ago. On the blog roll to the right, there is a link to BGW ‘s donation page in the event that you are inspired to make a donation. We don’t take donations or any remuneration for the work on this site; but, if you get something out of what is presented on Bardo, we encourage you to support one of the organizations we support or another worthy charity of your choosing. Let’s collaborate to keep the good works going. In gratitude, Jamie Dedes

The simplest act of eating a piece of fruit is inevitably embedded in a complex web of systems: economic, agricultural, financial, and environmental. In attending mindfully to this act, we can discern myriad interdependent phenomena: the beginningless origins of its seeds, the earth from which the fruit grew, the laboring hands that brought the food to our table. The same mindfulness will show how our own lives depend upon the efforts of others, the essential kindness of countless strangers. And in recalling this kindness, we should be ready to take steps to repay it. One such way is to carefully consider the needs of others, and where we find that basic human needs remain unmet because of injustice, we should be motivated to act.

The Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition states that “society today already possesses sufficient resources, organisational ability and technology and hence the competence to [eradicate hunger].” While food supplies are abundant, access to that food is not. In 2010, 925 million people suffered from chronic hunger, representing one in seven of a global population approaching 7 billion.

Access to adequate food, as indispensable to basic human survival, is a matter of social justice. One of the earliest pronouncements of global governance on fundamental human rights was the U.N. General Assembly’s simple declaration: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food[.]” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25, paragraph 1, 1948.) If food has been recognized as a human right since the end of World War II, and if society has the resources and competence to end hunger, we should ask ourselves: why are so many millions still hungry?

Of course, there is no single answer to that question. Like all other phenomena, the persistence and spread of human hunger is a complex dependent-arising involving many interwoven causes. Two disturbing factors are financial speculation, which drove commodity prices sky-high in 2007-2008, and the increasing diversion of crops from food production to biofuel production. Thus, the portion of U.S. corn grown to produce corn-based ethanol rose from 15% in 2006 to an estimated 40% in 2011. Other factors include catastrophic weather conditions such as droughts and floods, and global climate change, which has an adverse impact on water supplies and land, especially in the developing world. At the same time, urban sprawl reduces available farmland, while the urban middle class consumes more meat and processed food, which in turn demands more land, water, and energy.

While resources for food dwindle, governmental policies, particularly in the West, have become increasingly hostile to the poor. The shredding of social safety nets puts at risk an ever-larger number of people who need help in the face of poor economic conditions. Last year, about 25% of the House of Representatives voted to eliminate foreign food aid. Such policies appeal to the notion that the world is a zero-sum game, that any help we offer another family will mean that we get less and that we cannot afford fairness. Here in the U.S. help for the poor is in jeopardy. In my home state of Pennsylvania, food stamp use has risen 50% from 1.2 million people in 2008 to 1.8 million today. Despite the increasing need driven by the Great Recession, the current governor proposes to disqualify anyone with assets of more than $5,500—for example, a bank account or a second car—from food stamp eligibility. As a result, it is estimated that 4,023 Pennsylvania households will lose their food stamp benefits on May 1 of this year.

Battling institutional and entrenched social injustice helps alleviate hunger because poverty is at the root of hunger, and the root cause of poverty is powerlessness: the “powerlessness of those who lack resources such as land and water to grow food, jobs to earn money to buy food, an adequate food safety net and food reserves, and adequate nutrition.” (The Downward Spiral of Hunger: Causes & Solutions)

There are many small steps we can take to end hunger, but we must be prepared to respond to the call of conscience to help others and to restore social justice. A key step is to rebuild and enhance small-scale local food systems and turn away from globally concentrated control of food production and distribution. Ultimately, we should reject the domination of agriculture by large corporate agribusiness, and confront corporate attempts to control the very seeds of life with their patented genetically-modified “single generation” seeds.

At the neighborhood scale here in the U.S., community food gardens are springing up even in major cities like New York City and Detroit. Food waste and post-harvest losses could be remedied to make more food available to those in need. Greater investment in small-scale agriculture in rural areas and urban agriculture in the cities would empower the poor and hungry.

At Buddhist Global Relief, we are taking our own small steps. For example, we provide village-scale training in intensified rice cultivation to rural farmers in Cambodia and Vietnam, helping to build their capacity and confidence in applying sustainable agriculture techniques. These techniques dramatically boost yields without expensive external inputs. BGR funds tools and seeds to impoverished families in Cambodia to grow cash crops and home vegetable gardens. Following each harvest, each family then gives the same amount of seed they received to another local family, thus establishing a community of mutual support. BGR helps train villagers in Kenya and Malawi in small-scale agricultural techniques that nurture healthy soil fertility, produce high yields, conserve resources, and meet the basic need of people to independently feed themselves.

Such small steps, taken collectively by Buddhist Global Relief and countless others, are helping to empower the poor, reduce poverty, and alleviate the suffering of hunger. Neither the complexity of the manifold causes of hunger nor the daunting statistics of global poverty should deter us from acting out of compassion and generosity. In the Buddhist tradition, the embodiment of compassion, AvalokiteshvaraGuanyin Kwannon, is often depicted not just with a thousand eyes to gaze upon the suffering in the world, but with a thousand hands to aid those who suffer. Of course, not even a thousand arms are enough to help the billion people who suffer from hunger. But if we recognize each motivated human heart as the eyes and hands of Avalokiteshvara, each of us acting in our own way, in our own communities, might yet help to end hunger in our generation.

Charles W. Ellliott, a member of the Board of Directors of Buddhist Global Relief, is a lawyer practicing environmental, land use, and human rights law.

© 2012, photo and essay, Buddhist Global Relief, All rights reserved

Posted in Buddhism

BUDDHIST GLOBAL RELIEF: 2012 WALK TO FEED THE HUNGRY

Ven. Bikkhu Bodhi Leading WalkBy Carla Prater – Planning for the 2012 Walk to Feed the Hungry is now in full swing. We have walks planned for the month of October in Ann Arbor, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and another in the Southern San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Sherwood Forest in England. We have a wonderful group of coordinators heading up these events, which are all run by local committees. Please check our website over the summer as we post more information about these events and look for information on how you can participate!

Walk Guides

As part of our planning for the October walks, we have compiled a Local Coordinator’s Guide and an Administrative Guide. The Coordinator’s Guide is a resource for local committees that are holding the walks, with information and tips we have learned over the last two years. The Administrative Guide will focus on what the BGR staff and volunteers can do to make the process smoother for the local committees. We hope these Guides together will make our 2012 Walks the best ever!

© 2012, Buddhist Global Relief, All rights reserved

Posted in General Interest, Teachers

VEN. BHIKKHU BODHI, on the Buddha’s birthday an update on Buddhist Global Relief

BGR logo

VESAK 2012
Remembering the Buddha and his teachings
with joy, gratitude, and generosity
[I’m sorry that I could not share this letter with you in a more timely fashion. The Buddha’s birthday was on May 6 this year. Nonetheless, the message is an important one. We are committed to supporting this effort and hope to engage your support as well. Thank you for reading …. J.D.]
Dear Friend,
Buddha statue
The most important holiday in the Buddhist calendar, Vesak, is just around the corner. Starting on the full moon day of May, the month of Vesak celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and passing away of the Buddha. It is a day – and a month – not only for joy and gratitude but also for recollection: for remembering the Buddha’s teachings and making a more earnest effort to practice them.
The first step of Buddhist practice is giving, and the most basic gift is the gift of food. The importance of food can be gauged from the Buddha’s own life story. In the Middle Length Discourses, he tells us that before his enlightenment, he undertook long fasts that reduced his body to a tent of bones. When he saw that the true path to awakening requires deep meditation, he also realized: “It isn’t easy to meditate with an emaciated body.
Boy and girl in Haiti
Let me eat sustaining food such as rice and porridge.” It was only after he regained his strength that he could reach his goal.
Not only is it hard to meditate with an emaciated body, but when one is malnourished it’s hard to do anything – except wait intently for the next meal. Yet close to a billion people around the world endure this fate. It’s to give such people a fresh chance at life that BGR came into being, and this purpose has inspired our work through the years.
We don’t just give handouts. Rather, we seek to make people productive and self-sufficient. We do so in diverse ways: by supporting the education of poor children, especially girls; by creating right livelihood opportunities for women; and by supporting ecologically sustainable small-scale agriculture. In just four years, we’ve already sponsored fifty projects around the world, in Asia, Africa, Haiti, and the U.S. Some of our recent projects include:
  • introducing sustainable agriculture techniques to farmers in Cambodia and Vietnam, thus increasing the productivity and profitability of their rice yield
  • providing seeds and agricultural tools to 150 impoverished families in Cambodia so they can grow cash crops and establish home vegetable gardens
Intensive Rice Cultivation
  • supplying hot, nutritious meals to hungry children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, through a community-based food program called Lamanjay
  • supporting the education of 200 children in India, mostly girls of the Dalit community, formerly known as “untouchables”
  • training farmers in Kenya and Malawi in ecologically sustainable agriculture
  • teaching breastfeeding practices in the Diffa region of Niger, which profoundly improve survival rates of infants
  • funding the construction of a community garden and orchard in South Africa, in a region stricken by HIV and AIDS
  • providing funds for a greenhouse to grow produce for the poor in the Maryland-Pennsylvania region of the U.S.
White House meeting of Dharmic Religions
Today BGR plays a major role in representing Buddhism on the stage of global giving. In fact, in late April we participated in a historical conference at the White House that brought representatives of the “Dharmic religions” into contact with government agencies in a common commitment to humanitarian service.
We hope to continue our mission long into the future, both in the U.S. and abroad. However, we can’t fulfill our goals without help from friends like you who share our ideals and resonate with our values. Your donations are the key to everything we do: to combating malnutrition, educating poor children, and helping those who cannot help themselves. And because we’re an all-volunteer organization, we use the funds we receive prudently, with care and discretion, to ensure that 85-90% of every dollar goes directly to finance projects.
So, remembering the great compassion the Buddha extended to us, let us extend compassion to others. This Vesak season please bring forth a heart of generosity and support the work of BGR. When you give, you become part of our mission, our partner in giving a helping hand to those who need help. And you experience the joy of knowing that you are truly making a positive difference in this world, a difference that’s transforming lives.
Childen in India
May all blessings be with you and your family, on Vesak and beyond.
Bhikkhu Bodhi's signature
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Founder and Chairperson
Buddhist Global Relief is a 501(c)(3) organization. Gifts are deductible to the full extent allowable under IRS regulations. You can either donate online via PayPal on the BGR web site or send a check to:
Buddhist Global Relief
PO Box 1611
Sparta, New Jersey 07871 USA
If your company has a Matching Gift Program, please enclose the necessary forms as well.
Posted in Buddhism, General Interest, Guest Writer

MINDFUL STEPS TO THE END OF HUNGER

Charles W. Elliot

By Charles W. Elliot

Posted here with the permission of Buddhist Global Relief

 The simplest act of eating a piece of fruit is inevitably embedded in a complex web of systems: economic, agricultural, financial, and environmental. In attending mindfully to this act, we can discern myriad interdependent phenomena: the beginningless origins of its seeds, the earth from which the fruit grew, the laboring hands that brought the food to our table. The same mindfulness will show how our own lives depend upon the efforts of others, the essential kindness of countless strangers. And in recalling this kindness, we should be ready to take steps to repay it. One such way is to carefully consider the needs of others, and where we find that basic human needs remain unmet because of injustice, we should be motivated to act.

The Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition states that “society today already possesses sufficient resources, organisational ability and technology and hence the competence to [eradicate hunger].” While food supplies are abundant, access to that food is not. In 2010, 925 million people suffered from chronic hunger, representing one in seven of a global population approaching 7 billion.

Access to adequate food, as indispensable to basic human survival, is a matter of social justice. One of the earliest pronouncements of global governance on fundamental human rights was the U.N. General Assembly’s simple declaration: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food[.]” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25, paragraph 1, 1948.) If food has been recognized as a human right since the end of World War II, and if society has the resources and competence to end hunger, we should ask ourselves: why are so many millions still hungry?

Of course, there is no single answer to that question. Like all other phenomena, the persistence and spread of human hunger is a complex dependent-arising involving many interwoven causes.  Two disturbing factors are financial speculation, which drove commodity prices sky-high in 2007-2008, and the increasing diversion of crops from food production to biofuel production. Thus, the portion of U.S. corn grown to produce corn-based ethanol rose from 15% in 2006 to an estimated 40% in 2011. Other factors include catastrophic weather conditions such as droughts and floods, and global climate change, which has an adverse impact on water supplies and land, especially in the developing world. At the same time, urban sprawl reduces available farmland, while the urban middle class consumes more meat and processed food, which in turn demands more land, water, and energy.

While resources for food dwindle, governmental policies, particularly in the West, have become increasingly hostile to the poor. The shredding of social safety nets puts at risk an ever-larger number of people who need help in the face of poor economic conditions. Last year, about 25% of the House of Representatives voted to eliminate foreign food aid. Such policies appeal to the notion that the world is a zero-sum game, that any help we offer another family will mean that we get less and that we cannot afford fairness. Here in the U.S. help for the poor is in jeopardy. In my home state of Pennsylvania, food stamp use has risen 50% from 1.2 million people in 2008 to 1.8 million today. Despite the increasing need driven by the Great Recession, the current governor proposes to disqualify anyone with assets of more than $5,500—for example, a bank account or a second car—from food stamp eligibility. As a result, it is estimated that 4,023 Pennsylvania households will lose their food stamp benefits on May 1 of this year.

Battling institutional and entrenched social injustice helps alleviate hunger because poverty is at the root of hunger, and the root cause of poverty is powerlessness: the “powerlessness of those who lack resources such as land and water to grow food, jobs to earn money to buy food, an adequate food safety net and food reserves, and adequate nutrition.” (The Downward Spiral of Hunger: Causes & Solutions)

There are many small steps we can take to end hunger, but we must be prepared to respond to the call of conscience to help others and to restore social justice.  A key step is to rebuild and enhance small-scale local food systems and turn away from globally concentrated control of food production and distribution. Ultimately, we should reject the domination of agriculture by large corporate agribusiness, and confront corporate attempts to control the very seeds of life with their patented genetically-modified “single generation” seeds.

At the neighborhood scale here in the U.S., community food gardens are springing up even in major cities like New York City and Detroit. Food waste and post-harvest losses could be remedied to make more food available to those in need. Greater investment in small-scale agriculture in rural areas and urban agriculture in the cities would empower the poor and hungry.

At Buddhist Global Relief, we are taking our own small steps. For example, we provide village-scale training in intensified rice cultivation to rural farmers in Cambodia and Vietnam, helping to build their capacity and confidence in applying sustainable agriculture techniques. These techniques dramatically boost yields without expensive external inputs. BGR funds tools and seeds to impoverished families in Cambodia to grow cash crops and home vegetable gardens. Following each harvest, each family then gives the same amount of seed they received to another local family, thus establishing a community of mutual support. BGR helps train villagers in Kenya and Malawi in small-scale agricultural techniques that nurture healthy soil fertility, produce high yields, conserve resources, and meet the basic need of people to independently feed themselves.

Such small steps, taken collectively by Buddhist Global Relief and countless others, are helping to empower the poor, reduce poverty, and alleviate the suffering of hunger. Neither the complexity of the manifold causes of hunger nor the daunting statistics of global poverty should deter us from acting out of compassion and generosity. In the Buddhist tradition, the embodiment of compassion, AvalokiteshvaraGuanyin Kwannon, is often depicted not just with a thousand eyes to gaze upon the suffering in the world, but with a thousand hands to aid those who suffer. Of course, not even a thousand arms are enough to help the billion people who suffer from hunger. But if we recognize each motivated human heart as the eyes and hands of Avalokiteshvara, each of us acting in our own way, in our own communities, might yet help to end hunger in our generation.

Charles W. Ellliott, a member of the Board of Directors of Buddhist Global Relief, is  a lawyer practicing environmental, land use, and human rights law.

© 2012, photo and essay, Buddhist Global Relief, All rights reserved

Posted in Buddhism, Teachers

UPDATE: Buddhist Global Relief

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, American Buddhist Monk, Theravada Tradition

Founder and Chairperson

Buddhist Global Relief

Photo ~ Ken and Visakha Kawasaki under Creative Commons Atribution-Share Alike 3.0 Uported License via Wikipedia

This is just in from the Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi. J.D.

·

BGR Logo
let the lotus
of compassion
enfold the world

Buddhist Global Relief came into being in June 2008, born of the conviction that Buddhists should play a more active role in helping our unseen brothers and sisters around the world emerge from the crushing weight of poverty and social neglect. Inspired by the Buddha’s great compassion, we chose chronic hunger and malnutrition as our special focus. Our programs are intended to help people escape this brutal trap by promoting more sustainable methods of food production and more equitable systems of food distribution. We also sponsor the education of poor children, especially girls, and right livelihood opportunities for poor women, enabling them to earn more to feed their families.

In only three years, we’ve already launched over twenty-five projects in Asia, Africa, Haiti, and the U.S. The most recent include:

  • regular nutritious meals for hungry children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
  • wells to provide water for poor families in Cambodia
  • training in employable skills for indigent girls in Sri Lanka
  • educational assistance for slum children in Nagpur, India
  • training farmers from Malawi in ecologically sustainable agriculture
  • a community garden and orchard to produce nutritious organic vegetables and herbs in Mqatsheni, South Africa
  • a greenhouse to grow produce for the poor in the Maryland-Pennsylvania region of the U.S.

Today BGR is playing a major role in representing Buddhism on the stage of global giving. Last year, we were even invited to participate in conferences on collaboration in poverty alleviation at the White House and the National Cathedral. These led to several partnerships with Oxfam America on projects in Cambodia and Vietnam. Recently Tricyleand Buddhadharma, two major American Buddhist journals, featured articles about BGR (please see Tricycle’s Feeding the world’s hungry and Buddhadharma’s Buddhist Global Relief articles). We want this Buddhist presence to flourish, visibly representing the compassionate spirit of the Dharma in ways made urgent by the terrible persistence of poverty and malnutrition.

We’re doing our utmost to turn back this tide, but we can’t achieve our goals without help from friends who share our ideals and resonate with our values, good-hearted people like you. Your donations are the key to everything we do: to combating hunger and malnutrition, to educating poor children, to helping those who cannot help themselves. And because we’re an all-volunteer organization, we use the funds we receive prudently, with care and discretion, to ensure that over 90% of every dollar goes directly to finance projects.

As we come to the end of 2011 — the time for selfless giving — please bring forth a heart of generosity for the world’s poor and hungry people, who need a helping hand in order to rise up and stand on their feet. Please give generously. When you give, you become a part of our mission, a partner in our endeavor to express compassion in action. Bear in mind that to give is to receive, to experience the joy of offering others the chance to live with dignity and hope.

May all blessings be with you and your family,

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi signature

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Founder and Chairperson

Buddhist Global Relief is a 501(c) (3) organization. Gifts are deductible to the full extent allowable under IRS regulations. You can either donate online at the BGR website or send a check to:
Buddhist Global Relief
PO Box 1611
Sparta, New Jersey 07871 USA

If your company has a Matching Gift Program, please enclose the necessary forms as well.

Posted in Buddhism

BUDDHIST GLOBAL RELIEF: Walk of Compassion

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

Found of Buddhist Global Relief

The gift of food is the gift of life. ~ The Buddha

Buddhist Global Relief 2nd Annual Walk to Feed the Hungry

3.5 mile walk • Saturday, September 10, 2011
9:30 a.m. Check-in • 10:00 a.m. Walk • Rain or Shine!
Riverside Park, W. 83rd St. & Riverside Dr., New York, NY
(Please register by September 1st)

-BHANTE BUDDHARAKKHITA: WALK LEADER
-GUEST SPEAKER: MICHAEL ROEHM, BGR Adviser
-FREE VEGETARIAN PICNIC LUNCH AFTER THE EVENT!

Today we can send men into space, but here on earth chronic hunger and malnutrition still cast their shadows over the heads of far too many people, claiming ten million lives a year, more than half of them children. Though we may never know or see these folks, we should recognize that they are human beings just like ourselves, worthy of our deepest concern. Together we can make a difference, and it doesn’t take much to help them live in dignity and hope! All proceeds from the walk will go to support BGR’s global hunger relief programs. MORE

Photo credit ~ Bhikku Bodhi, American Buddhist monk, taken in 2003 by Ken and Visakha Kawasaki licensed under the Creative Commons Attritution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikipedia.