Renowned Buddhist Monk talks world hunger

The Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi spoke about global hunger to an intimate crowd at Hendricks Chapel on Monday evening.

The Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi, one of the most prominent American Buddhist voices, spoke to an intimate crowd of students and adults regarding global hunger at Hendricks Chapel on Monday.

Bodhi – a Brooklyn native – has been a Buddhist monk and scholar since the early ‘70s, and is the founder of Buddhist Global Relief (BGR), an organization that works to create “small-scale, durable and sustainable solutions to hunger by dealing with the problems of hunger at its roots.”

He was introduced to the crowd as a “shining example of Buddhist teaching.”

In his lecture, Bodhi described the nature of global hunger and how citizens can work to eradicate hunger on a global scale.

From beginning to end, Bodhi exuded a humble demeanor, insisting that he was “in no way a policy expert.” With modesty he noted, “I do not consider myself an activist at all.”

Bodhi advocates for a “moral and spiritual” approach to ending global hunger, calling the public to “throw open the doors of our hearts to great compassion that connects us all to humanity.”

He stresses that global hunger is a “product of moral and spiritual paralysis” and the work to end it is a “call of conscience.”

His compassionate idealism was present throughout his speech, only matched by his overwhelming grasp on the reality of the situation. Bodhi made known the “great changes in the dominant social and economic paradigms that govern food production and distribution” that need to take place in order to fight global hunger.

With his trademark humility, Bodhi cited a wide array of harrowing statistics and facts that surround the global hunger crisis, relentlessly assuring the that these findings were not his own, but the result of research from organizations such as Oxfam and the World Resource Institute.

Bodhi touched on subjects of politics, our present “broken food system,” climate change and global warming. Bodhi cited that for every degree the Earth’s temperature rises (Celsius), crop fertility drops 10%.

By the end of the century, it is predicted that there will be a 6% rise in temperature, rendering one-third of the Earth’s surface “totally inhospitable” to agriculture.

While at times the lecture made the future of global hunger look grim, Bodhi reassured the audience there was a great capacity for change. He called for a “shift of control from elites to food producers, especially small-scale producers.”

Returning to his Buddhist roots, he encouraged each member of the crowd to reach out to politicians and those in power and “provoke in them a strong sense of conscious.”

In a brief Q&A session following the lecture, audience members expressed their gratitude to Bodhi for shedding light on such a prevalent issue and inquiring how they might get involved with BGR.

Bodhi did not accept any hotel accommodations from the university or otherwise. Instead, he is staying at the Zen Center on campus, and donated his stipend for giving the speech to his organization.

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