Compassion in Action

What Can We Do?

In 2005, Vin Harris and a group of friends were on a pilgrimage in India which culminated in Bodhgaya where they attended the Kagyu Monlam, an international prayer festival dedicated to peace and well-being in the world. They were struck by the extreme poverty and suffering they witnessed on the streets of India. They asked themselves “what can we do?” Following the example of their teacher Akong Rinpoche who lived by the principle of putting compassion into action, they decided to give food to the local people even if it was for just one day.

From this small beginning the Soup Kitchen became a regular event that ran alongside the annual Kagyu Monlam which brings together people from many different countries to listen to Buddhist teachings and make prayers that resonate throughout the world. The Soup Kitchen has continued to develop and for many years it has been offering nutritious hot food to the people of Bodhgaya, regardless of their religion or caste, during the week-long prayer festival.

A team of cooks prepare enough rice, dahl and vegetables to feed around 400 people per day. Everyone is welcome. There are children from all different backgrounds, rickshaw drivers, men crippled by polio and other disabilities, elderly women, mums and babies, some dads with their young children too. They are served by volunteers from many different countries including France, Germany, Scotland, England, America, Tibet, India, Nepal, New Zealand, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Peru, Lithuania and Taiwan.

It was never just about giving food. It was about showing respect and kindness to the people of Bodhgaya. It was an opportunity for volunteers to express their compassionate aspirations through serving others. In accordance with Akong Rinpoche’s advice, all who ask for food are given it in a spirit of friendship, equality and with no expectations. The seeds of kindness and compassion are within all of us and the Soup Kitchen creates conditions for these innate positive qualities to flourish.