Blank studied history at Yale University, and worked as the financial editor of the largest English language newspaper of Japan, where he first immersed in an Asian culture. He later completed graduate studies in anthropology at Harvard (where he won the David L. Boren Fellowship, which provided funds for research outside the United States), and wrote his first book, Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God: Retracing the Ramayana through India in the same period.
Blank has traveled extensively across India and Pakistan, and learned the ancient language of Sanskrit, as well as the languages Hindi, Gujarati and Urdu. He has also extensive knowledge and experience of the traditions and teachings of Hinduism, Islam and other religions in Asia.
Blank used the Boren Fellowship to work with the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community, primarily based in the Indian city of Bombay. He was the first anthropologist to work with this usually conservative community, publishing his work in Mullahs on the Mainframe.
Blank earned a Ph.D. in 1998 from Harvard University, and joined the staff of U.S. News and World Report, as well as writing for The New Yorker and Foreign Affairs. But Blank decided to leave the magazine to work actively to influence the foreign policy of the U.S. government on Near Eastern affairs, becoming the policy advisor on South Asia/Near East policy to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
He is also a member of the influential and prestigious body, the Council on Foreign Relations.