Remembering the Buddha and his teachings
with joy, gratitude, and generosity
The most important holiday in the Buddhist calendar, Vesak, is just around the corner. Starting on the full moon day of May, the month of Vesak celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and passing away of the Buddha. It is a day – and a month – not only for joy and gratitude but also for recollection: for remembering the Buddha’s teachings and making a more earnest effort to practice them.
The first step of Buddhist practice is giving, and the most basic gift is the gift of food. The importance of food can be gauged from the Buddha’s own life story. In the Middle Length Discourses, he tells us that before his enlightenment, he undertook long fasts that reduced his body to a tent of bones. When he saw that the true path to awakening requires deep meditation, he also realized: “It isn’t easy to meditate with an emaciated body. Let me eat sustaining food such as rice and porridge.” It was only after he regained his strength that he could reach his goal.
Not only is it hard to meditate with an emaciated body, but when one is malnourished it’s hard to do anything – except wait intently for the next meal. Yet close to a billion people around the world endure this fate. It’s to give such people a fresh chance at life that BGR came into being, and this purpose has inspired our work through the years.
We don’t just give handouts. Rather, we seek to make people productive and self-sufficient. We do so in diverse ways: by supporting the education of poor children, especially girls; by creating right livelihood opportunities for women; and by supporting ecologically sustainable small-scale agriculture. In just four years, we’ve already sponsored fifty projects around the world, in Asia, Africa, Haiti, and the U.S. Some of our recent projects include:
- introducing sustainable agriculture techniques to farmers in Cambodia and Vietnam, thus increasing the productivity and profitability of their rice yield
- providing seeds and agricultural tools to 150 impoverished families in Cambodia so they can grow cash crops and establish home vegetable gardens
- supplying hot, nutritious meals to hungry children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, through a community-based food program called Lamanjay
- supporting the education of 200 children in India, mostly girls of the Dalit community, formerly known as “untouchables”
- training farmers in Kenya and Malawi in ecologically sustainable agriculture
- teaching breastfeeding practices in the Diffa region of Niger, which profoundly improve survival rates of infants
- funding the construction of a community garden and orchard in South Africa, in a region stricken by HIV and AIDS
- providing funds for a greenhouse to grow produce for the poor in the Maryland-Pennsylvania region of the U.S.
Today BGR plays a major role in representing Buddhism on the stage of global giving. In fact, in late April we participated in a historical conference at the White House that brought representatives of the “Dharmic religions” into contact with government agencies in a common commitment to humanitarian service.
We hope to continue our mission long into the future, both in the U.S. and abroad. However, we can’t fulfill our goals without help from friends like you who share our ideals and resonate with our values. Your donations are the key to everything we do: to combating malnutrition, educating poor children, and helping those who cannot help themselves. And because we’re an all-volunteer organization, we use the funds we receive prudently, with care and discretion, to ensure that 85-90% of every dollar goes directly to finance projects.
So, remembering the great compassion the Buddha extended to us, let us extend compassion to others. This Vesak season please bring forth a heart of generosity and support the work of BGR. When you give, you become part of our mission, our partner in giving a helping hand to those who need help. And you experience the joy of knowing that you are truly making a positive difference in this world, a difference that’s transforming lives.
May all blessings be with you and your family, on Vesak and beyond.
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Founder and Chairperson of Buddhist Global Relief