Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
When I got back to Balangoda after my first rains retreat (Vassa), spent at Island Hermitage, my teacher, Ven. Ananda Maitreya, had already returned from his rains retreat in England. By now I had steeled my resolve to discuss the diet with him and make him understand my needs. He kindly heard me out and told me he would see what he could do.
Shortly afterwards he gave me a piece of good news. He had spoken to a well-to-do ayurvedic physician, a supporter of the temple who lived across from the rice fields, and asked him to provide for my daily meals. The physician took this as an honor. He would give money to a villager who lived down the road from the temple. The villager would cook at his home and bring me my mid-day meal each day.
In the previous installment of this essay I said that I suggested BGR make hunger and malnutrition the center of our mission on the basis of my personal experience of hunger during my first years as a monk in Sri Lanka. Here is the first part of this account, which will continue in the next post.
I arrived in Sri Lanka at the end of October 1972. A week after my arrival I traveled inland to the town of Balangoda, where months earlier, while I was still living in Los Angeles, I had arranged to take ordination under Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera, a prominent English-speaking Sri Lankan scholar-monk, who was then 77 years of age. In Sri Lanka, Buddhist monks take as their first name the name of their native town or village. This explains why Ven. Ananda Maitreya’s first name is identical with that of the town where his monastery was located. I intended to stay with him and to study Pali and Theravada Buddhism under his guidance.