Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

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Ben
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Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by Ben » Thu Nov 26, 2015 12:10 am

Some inspiring words from Venerable:
Thanksgiving Reflections
Posted on November 25, 2015 by Bhikkhu Bodhi | Leave a comment
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

This past Sunday I attended an interfaith Thanksgiving service at the St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Peekskill, New York. I spoke extemporaneously. This is a polished version of my talk.

Thanksgiving is a time when we all gather to give thanks for the blessings we have received over the past year. Here, in the US, we have much to be thankful for, but as I reflect on the blessings that I have experienced, I also realize that almost every one of them represents a privilege that I enjoy but which too few people in the world share.

First, I realize that I live in a country that has not been subjected to devastating military assaults, and thus I enjoy relative security in my physical person. When I recognize this, I think of the millions upon millions of people around the world, especially in the Middle East, who do not have this sense of security. I think of the civilian populations in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan who have seen their own countries shattered by war, their homes demolished, their livelihoods destroyed; whose loved ones have been killed right before their eyes; who have had to flee their native lands for distant shores, often at great peril, or who stay behind, where they live in the shadow of fear and danger. I realize that I should not take my own security for granted, knowing that it is part of a global system that entails devastation and despair for many millions.

Next, I reflect on the fact that I am a white male. When I consider that this accident of birth guarantees me some degree of social and economic security, I think of the many African Americans and other people of color who are deprived of this privilege merely because of their skin color or place of origin. I think of the many young black men—and women as well—who have to worry what will happen to them whenever they step out on to the street or ride the subway train. I think of the shocking accounts of young men, women, and even children who have had their lives snuffed out merely because their dress or demeanor or gestures provoked an over-volatile police officer. I think of those who live in degrading poverty, unemployed or under-employed, herded into soul-less housing projects, their humanity slighted, their potential blocked.

I think too of the subtle war against the poor: the low wages, the reduction in social services, the cutbacks in food stamps, and maybe most appalling, the evisceration of the Voting Rights Act by a Supreme Court decision, reversing decades of inspired struggle. And I wonder why, as the wealthiest nation on earth, we can’t recognize the inherent dignity of every human being and give everyone the resources they need to unfold their potential.

Then I reflect that although I am a monk, and thus have renounced material possessions, I live in a beautiful monastery, I have sufficient clothes to keep me warm, and I never have to worry about where my next meal will come from. Each day, the gong will ring twice, and I need only walk to the dining hall to find food awaiting me. I don’t even have to cook for myself.

This leads me to think of the 900 million people around the world who are plagued by chronic hunger and malnutrition, and also of the billion more who subsist on sub-standard diets. I think of the six million people, over half of them children, who die each year from persistent hunger and related illnesses. While I give thanks that I do not share their fate, I wonder what kind of world we have created that allows a few to live in exorbitant luxury while billions must stumble at the edge of survival.

Next I consider that I’m a male, and thus don’t have to face the challenges that women face all around the world. In this country, I think particularly of the recent attempt to undermine Planned Parenthood, which provides essential health services to women. While on ethical grounds I personally don’t approve of abortion except under extenuating circumstances, I believe that women should have the right to make their own choices in such matters, and I recognize how crucial access to these services is especially for poor women.

Yet now I see access to critical health services being blocked off by the meddling hands of politicians, backed by religious zealots. In so far as I can determine, the purpose of these legal maneuvers is not to protect the right to life—if it were, one would expect the advocates to show equal enthusiasm for abolishing the death penalty. The purpose rather, in my opinion, is to punish and humiliate women and ensure that they remain under the thumbs of a patriarchal social order.

Finally, as a Buddhist monk, I realize that I have found a spiritual path that gives my life a deep meaning and purpose, a teaching that aligns my life with a transcendent ground of truth and value and leads to wisdom, contentment, and inner peace. As I give thanks for this, there comes to mind the affluent oligarchs, especially here in the US, who lack any vision of a higher purpose in life than the accumulation of wealth and power. In my mind’s eye I also see the wider population blindly revolving in the merry-go-round of consumerism. I think with sorrow of those whose entire happiness depends on getting and spending, who see no deeper source of meaning in life than the acquisition of material goods and the enjoyment of fleeting pleasures. And, I wonder, perhaps it is for them that I should feel the strongest compassion.

At Thanksgiving I am not at all inclined to revel in the blessings I have enjoyed this past year and in years further back. Instead, I believe the way I can best demonstrate thanks is by creating opportunities for others to enjoy blessings. This means bringing the light of wisdom into regions shrouded too densely in darkness, contributing to the emergence of a more peaceful world, a more just and respectful society, and a more equitable economy based on life values rather than naked market values.

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“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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SarathW
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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by SarathW » Thu Nov 26, 2015 1:00 am

This resonate close to my heart! :heart:
:bow: :bow:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by SarathW » Fri Nov 27, 2015 12:21 am

I showed this article to a person, who is an atheist.
The person said " So what, we all know this!"

:shrug:
Last edited by SarathW on Fri Nov 27, 2015 12:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by Pasada » Fri Nov 27, 2015 12:36 am

SarathW wrote:I showed this article to a person, who is an atheist.
The person said " So what we all know this!"

:shrug:
Looking at the state of the world, I don't think that's true at all.

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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Nov 27, 2015 3:00 am

Pasada wrote:
SarathW wrote:I showed this article to a person, who is an atheist.
The person said " So what we all know this!"

:shrug:
Looking at the state of the world, I don't think that's true at all.
Clearly one doesn't have to be Buddhist to know about and appreciate the ideas in the reflections. There's nothing specifically Buddhist there. Acting on the ideas is a different issue from knowing.

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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by DNS » Fri Nov 27, 2015 6:00 am

Several years ago when I was in East Africa on a visit we ate dinner at the home of a Christian family and before we ate, the parents asked their 12 year old son to say grace. My first thought was okay, here comes a long Christian prayer in Jesus' name . . . and then he simply said, "thank you lord for the food we are about to eat and may no one ever go hungry" and then I thought, wow, what a great prayer and metta-like thought before eating a meal.

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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by SarathW » Fri Nov 27, 2015 7:04 am

How does thanks giving reconcile with Buddha's teaching.
Is it Brahama Vihara?
Do Buddhist give thanks?
:thinking:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by pulga » Fri Nov 27, 2015 1:36 pm

...thus he is one who reunites those who are divided, a promoter of friendships, who enjoys concord, rejoices in concord, delights in concord, a speaker of words that promote concord. MN 41
Unfortunately Ven. Bodhi takes simplistic views on such serious and complex concerns: views more divisive and inflammatory than reconciliatory and healing.

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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by Anagarika » Fri Nov 27, 2015 3:05 pm

pulga wrote:
...thus he is one who reunites those who are divided, a promoter of friendships, who enjoys concord, rejoices in concord, delights in concord, a speaker of words that promote concord. MN 41
Unfortunately Ven. Bodhi takes simplistic views on such serious and complex concerns: views more divisive and inflammatory than reconciliatory and healing.
Actually, he has taken a very complex approach to issues of food insecurity, poverty and disease very seriously, and founded BGR to address in a very meaningful and substantial way these concerns in various countries around the world. How auspicious that a Pali scholar in the Theravada tradition has acted to mitigate some of the most serious problems present in the world. The amount of healing that BGR has delivered is beyond measure. Pulga, take a few moments to research what Buddhist Global Relief is about, its mission, and the partnerships that it enters around the world to mitigate human suffering.

Ven. Bodhi has always been careful to state that we all must act in the world according to our own aptitudes and abilities. He does not demand that Buddhists engage with the world, or act to alleviate global poverty. He has stated that for himself, he could not embrace the Dhamma as he does, and not attack with a compassionate energy these serious problems. What could be more reconciliatory or healing than these dynamic, large scale, compassionate acts to alleviate global food insecurity?

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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by pulga » Fri Nov 27, 2015 5:09 pm

I'm sure that BGR has much to be commended for, though the plight of the poor in less affluent countries is a far more pressing concern than the state of affairs here in the United States.

What I find problematical is the one-sided political nature of Ven. Bodhi's rhetoric:

Putting forth the idea that Republicans are out to punish and humiliate women in order to preserve a patriarchal social order is not only simplistic, but is incendiary and doesn’t conduce at all to the social harmony that the Dhamma idealizes. Even Dianne Feinstein found the videos that prompted the threat to defund Planned Parenthood disturbing. The central point of contention that the videos brought about was whether PP was doing anything illegal, and whether it was shielding itself from illegality by such legerdemain that would only hold their franchises accountable, leaving it immune from prosecution. An investigation is in order, though I concede that the Republicans are being heavy handed in its execution.

Linking police misconduct to racism is misguided and only leads to a sense of victimization, anger, and excuses for failure in minority communities. As for helping the poor, there is a preponderance of evidence that shows that the social welfare system has done considerable harm to their communities, leaving those dependent on it feeling vulnerable, helpless, and incapable of supporting themselves. I get the sense that Ven. Bodhi has never lived amongst the American poor, his only familiarity with their situation coming from the media and from social workers whose means of livelihood depend upon their poverty and need.

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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by Pasada » Sat Nov 28, 2015 11:15 pm

pulga wrote:I'm sure that BGR has much to be commended for, though the plight of the poor in less affluent countries is a far more pressing concern than the state of affairs here in the United States.
Actually, if you read the talk you would know that Ven. Bodhi begins by talking about global poverty:
Bhikku Bodhi wrote:This leads me to think of the 900 million people around the world who are plagued by chronic hunger and malnutrition, and also of the billion more who subsist on sub-standard diets. I think of the six million people, over half of them children, who die each year from persistent hunger and related illnesses. While I give thanks that I do not share their fate, I wonder what kind of world we have created that allows a few to live in exorbitant luxury while billions must stumble at the edge of survival.
But given that Bhikku Bodhi is an American citizen living in the United States, I think it makes more sense that he would also emphasize the poor who live on his doorstep, rather than the poor that live halfway around the world. We can do more, and are more directly responsible, for those in our own communities.
pulga wrote:Putting forth the idea that Republicans are out to punish and humiliate women in order to preserve a patriarchal social order...
Ven. Bodhi doesn't mention Republicans, or any political party, in his message.
pulga wrote:...is not only simplistic, but is incendiary and doesn’t conduce at all to the social harmony that the Dhamma idealizes.
Is cutting off access to critical health services (which is what Bhikku Bodhi objected to) conducive to social harmony?
pulga wrote:Linking police misconduct to racism is misguided
Is it?
pulga wrote:As for helping the poor, there is a preponderance of evidence that shows that the social welfare system has done considerable harm to their communities, leaving those dependent on it feeling vulnerable, helpless, and incapable of supporting themselves.
What evidence would this be?
pulga wrote:I get the sense that Ven. Bodhi has never lived amongst the American poor, his only familiarity with their situation coming from the media and from social workers whose means of livelihood depend upon their poverty and need.
And I get the sense that your only familiarity with socio political matters comes from Fox News and AM talk radio.

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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Nov 29, 2015 7:00 am

In my opinion a monk should not venture outside of his proper range and resort.

Sakunagghi Sutta: The Hawk

I often do too, but its not a pretty sight to see monks being attacked by lay people. Politics is a topic best avoided.
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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by Ben » Sun Nov 29, 2015 12:01 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:In my opinion a monk should not venture outside of his proper range and resort.

Sakunagghi Sutta: The Hawk

I often do too, but its not a pretty sight to see monks being attacked by lay people.
I couldn't agree more.
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Politics is a topic best avoided.
Unfortunately, sometimes it can't be avoided. The saffron revolution of 2007 is a case in point.
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by pulga » Sun Nov 29, 2015 2:33 pm

The problem with political agendas -- both from the right and from the left -- is that they tend to be furthered through coercion and half-truths. It's something the various parties should keep in mind when trying to work out a compromise.

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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by SarathW » Sun Nov 29, 2015 8:29 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:In my opinion a monk should not venture outside of his proper range and resort.

Sakunagghi Sutta: The Hawk

I often do too, but its not a pretty sight to see monks being attacked by lay people. Politics is a topic best avoided.
I tend to agree with you.
Perhaps Bhikkhu Bodhi should be more general than specific.
Monks should increase the awareness of people in general sense like Buddha did.
When you are specific you will have political enemies.
:thinking:
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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by retrofuturist » Sun Nov 29, 2015 9:03 pm

Greetings,

I agree with Bhikkhu Pesala and Sarath.

Indeed it is not good to attack anyone, ever, but just as it is legitimate to disagree with the opinions of a monk in relation to the Dhamma, it is particularly legitimate to disagree with a monk when they step out of their ancestral range and resort, and venture into the realm of political activism. As important as secular matters are, I prefer the Dhamma and the Sangha to remain out of the firing line of politics. Once they step into politics they step into a polarised world whose language is full of false perception of absolutes, and which exposes them (and by association, the Triple Gem) to a greater risk exposure. With all respect, the Dhamma is the greatest truth, the greatest cure for dukkha, and answers can be found there without wandering unprotected into the unrestrained and emotionally inflammatory realm of politics - with its craving, attachment, partiality, power struggles, cronyism, corruption and ideologically-motivated hawks.

Metta,
Paul. :)
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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Nov 29, 2015 9:30 pm

.


          • Ven Bodhi -- More power to him.
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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by The Thinker » Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:07 pm

This is just a reflection, not a call to arms, I imagine many monks think about these topics in private and talk about between each other, this is human nature,, if parts of society are seen to be exploiting another, then they should expect opinions to be voiced, I agree religion should be kept away from politics in a call to arms nature, but this is just a reflection and much welcomed.
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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by The Thinker » Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:29 pm

What is this thing we call craving and how can we alleviate it?
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Re: Thanksgiving Reflections by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Post by Anagarika » Thu Dec 03, 2015 2:26 pm

I was reading a posting yesterday about "safe spaces," but decided not to contribute to the discussion. I will mention, on reading again this "Thanksgiving Reflections" section, on how all of us that read this posting, and all that posted on it, did so in a thoughtful, intelligent way.

This forum isn't a safe space, nor should it be. People that I respect and like ( even in a virtual way ...) posted responses that I may not agree with, but we do it in a way that cultivates thought, that inspires disagreement and opposition, but all in a reasonably respectful way. And in this process, we get a chance to grow just a bit. Someone once said that the greatest growth comes not from being told you're right, but being informed that you're wrong on an issue.

Being in the company of these good Venerables that we have at DW, and in the virtual company of all of us that participate here, even when we disagree or find another's opinion to be ridiculous, or 'aDhammic,' we stretch ourselves, and grow and learn to occupy happily a space that is sometimes discordant ... as others have pointed out, that is the safest space, the ones where all of us can be found wrong, be found wanting in our analysis, and be given a chance to improve our positions and grow.

I still prefer my positive view of Ven. Bodhi's essay...just sayin' :)

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