Engaged Buddhism: Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi
Though many know him well as the Pali scholar responsible for prodigious English translations of huge pieces of the Tripitaka, the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi has emerged in the last few years as one of the globe’s most important and industrious Engaged Buddhist leaders.
Born Jeffrey Block in Brooklyn in 1944, he was ordained in the Theravada Buddhist tradition of Sri Lanka at age 28. In 1984, he succeeded the great Venerable Nyanaponika Thera as editor of the Buddhist Publication Society. By 1988, the venerable was named president of the organization. He would hold these positions until 2002, when he returned to the United States.
He now lives at Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, NY, and teaches there and at Bodhi Monastery in Lafayette, NJ. He also serves as chairman of the Yin Shun Foundation, an organization devoted to translating into English the works of the late Chinese Mahayana Buddhist Master Yin Shun.
The Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi’s published works include The Noble Eightfold Path: Way to the End of Suffering, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya (with the Venerable Bhikkhu Nanamoli), Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: An Anthology of Suttas from the Anguttara Nikaya (with the Venerable Nyanaponika Thera), The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma: The Abhidhammattha Sangaha of Acariya Anuruddha, and the enormously popular collection In the Buddha’s Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon.
Since his return to the United States, the venerable has been actively involved in global relief and environmental efforts. He played a primary role in founding Buddhist Global Relief, a visionary humanitarian organization based in the United States. In addition, he co-authored (with David Loy and John Stanley) the Buddhist Climate Declaration—a pan-Buddhist declaration on climate change that an international collection of Buddhist clergy (including myself) signed. He was also one of the many diverse religious leaders who converged on Copenhagen during the recent United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
I asked the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi if he would be willing to answer a few questions about all that he has been up to lately, and he graciously agreed.