It was a real pleasure to meet Bhikkhu Bodhi, the renouned Buddhist Scholar and founder of Buddhist Global relief. I had the chance to ask him some questions:
Q: Bhante, What do you think is important for the future of Buddhism to be bright and for a better world in general?
‘I think its important to lay a firm foundation in your practice and not be too ambitious for ‘quick results’ but to take a long term view. Develop faith and spend time with noble friends (Kalyanamitta). I think Buddhists need to be more socially engaged to respond to the terrible sufferings and inequalities of our time.
In America we have a flourishing lay Buddhist scene, with Vipassana, Secular Buddhism, Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. What is missing from American Buddhism is Monasticism, which is an important element.
It’s not easy to find a solution for the future of monasticism, it goes against so much in American culture. In Protestant communities, the ministers live in the community. Monks are different, they live in seclusion. I think its the responsibility of the Sangha elders and long term Buddhists to do something. To keep the real dharma alive we need monastic communities.
Bhiksuni Thubten Chodron has made an impressive monastery, mostly through her own independent efforts. I met a Trappist monk, father Keaton, who said that mostly people in the 50s and early 60s are ordaining, people who have experienced lay life. It seems that many Western monastics are that age too.’
Q: Bhante, you were a well respected Scholar for most of your life. What made you become socially engaged?
‘I feel it’s the job of a monk (as well as to meditate and study) to alleviate suffering. Around the world so much suffering arises because of systems that are designed to benefit the wealthy elite and to keep down the masses. For a long time Buddhism in the West was disconnected from the world and community, it was a personal practice. People would ask each other; ‘How is your practice.’ But not talk about what was going on in the world. This is why we started Buddhist Global Relief. For me a mix of the early sutras and bodhicitta works best.’
Q: Bhante, you have been ordained since the age of 28. What have you gained from being a monk so long?
‘As a monastic one has a chance to fully devote oneself to the dhamma. After a time the urge to share Dhamma arises.
I feel its very powerful to wear the same robe the Buddha wore and follow the training he laid down.’