Bhikkhu Bodhi: The Buddha on Social Harmony
This episode of the Wisdom Podcast features our second interview with renowned Buddhist scholar-monk Bhikkhu Bodhi. Ven. Bodhi tells us about the process of creating his book The Buddha’s Teachings on Social and Communal Harmony and how it arose from a real need in various Buddhist communities. Bhikkhu Bodhi shares what “right view” means in the context of social harmony, explaining the meaning of “mundane right view” and its usefulness in promoting social harmony.
Ven. Bodhi then tells us how Buddhist teachings hold the key to promoting communal peace, tolerance, and understanding. He also reflects on how changing our consciousness can produce changes in our society. Then he tells us about the types of government at the time of the Buddha, and how that affected the development of the Buddha’s thoughts, including his ideal of the “wheel-turning king”–the king who ultimately serves the Dharma. Bhikkhu Bodhi then shares his thoughts on which of Buddhism’s three poisons is causing the most suffering in our time.
Bhikkhu Bodhi then advises us how to understand and use the teaching of “right speech” in the present day, and shares what the Buddha taught about how to be a good friend. He also imagines what advice the Buddha might give world leaders today, especially when dealing with conflict and social strife in their own countries. Ven. Bodhi reflects on what the Buddha might have thought about how to approach ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).
Bhikkhu Bodhi then tells us how he came to found Buddhist Global Relief, a nonprofit organization that focuses on addressing global hunger. He also shares what he’s working on now: a translation of the Sutta Nipata, which includes advice for both lay life and monastic life. Bhikkhu Bodhi imagines, based on his studies of the Pali canon, what the Buddha’s daily life might have been like. Bhikkhu Bodhi also shares with us the different words that the Buddha used for meditation, and what the subtleties are between different terms such as jhana, samadhi, vipassana, and bhavana. He then reflects on modern definitions and understandings of mindfulness. At the end we hear Bhikkhu Bodhi’s own definition of mindfulness.
Find out more about Buddhist Global Relief here.
About the Interviewee
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi is an American Buddhist monk from New York City, born in 1944. He obtained a BA in philosophy from Brooklyn College and a PhD in philosophy from Claremont Graduate School. After completing his university studies he traveled to Sri Lanka, where he received novice ordination in 1972 and full ordination in 1973, both under the leading Sri Lankan scholar-monk, Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya (1896-1998). From 1984 to 2002 he was the editor for the Buddhist Publication Society in Kandy, where he lived for ten years with the senior German monk, Ven. Nyanaponika Thera (1901-1994), at the Forest Hermitage. He returned to the U.S. in 2002. He currently lives and teaches at Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, New York. Ven. Bodhi has many important publications to his credit, either as author, translator, or editor. These include The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Majjhima Nikaya, 1995), The Connected Discourses of the Buddha (Samyutta Nikaya, 2000), and The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Anguttara Nikaya, 2012). In 2008, together with several of his students, Ven. Bodhi founded Buddhist Global Relief, a nonprofit supporting hunger relief, sustainable agriculture, and education in countries suffering from chronic poverty and malnutrition.