Meditation in Action
Ashoka's curriculum in socially engaged Buddhism


Compassion is a verb.
Thich Nhat Hanh

The popular image of Buddhism is often an overly-austere one, and many people still consider it to teach an escape from worldly concerns into a private, hermetic realm of bliss. However, if we take the trouble to go to the words of the Buddha himself, we find a full and rich teaching encompassing every aspect of human life, with a great deal of practical advice on how to live with integrity, wisdom and peace in the midst of a confusing world.

Remaining indefinitely under the Bodhi tree will not do; to muse without emerging is to be unfulfilled.
Robert Aitken

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi has helped us in the West realize how contemporary Buddhism — beyond being a meditative vehicle for spiritual liberation — can be a vehicle for social and political change. We at Ashoka believe strongly that individual and social transformation go hand-in-hand. Ashoka will teach and encourage meditation in action—engaging the world with wisdom and ethical action. In addition to Buddhist wisdom teachings on compassion, loving-kindness, tolerance and generosity, Ashoka will offer training and teaching in such areas of applied engagement such as ethics, social justice, peacemaking, environmentalism, caring for the sick and dying, and working with the incarcerated.

This first phase of Meditation in Action is now available, with new courses coming soon. We invite you to experience these engaging courses:

The Ethics of Altruism

The Dalai Lama offers us a profound blueprint for reorienting ourselves towards that which really matters. At the heart of what matters is the reality that everyone aspires to achieve happiness and avoid suffering.

Happiness derives not from wealth or progress but from an inner peace, one that each one of us must create for ourselves by cultivating the most profound human qualities such as empathy, humility and compassion, and by eliminating destructive thoughts and emotions such as anger and hatred.

From the foundation of such an an inner peace we can develop ethical discipline founded on true compassion, a motivation to practice love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness toward all, even those who would harm us.

In this course you explore the Dalai Lama's framework for moral living, which rests on the observation that those whose conduct is ethically positive are happier and more satisfied and the belief that much of the unhappiness we humans endure is actually of our own making.

For the Dalai Lama, we act ethically when we do what we know will bring happiness to ourselves and others. When we act towards others with a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of all life, we recognize that everything we do affects others, that everything we do has a universal dimension.

In this course you explore some of the ways we can develop our heart and mind, cultivating a motivation to contribute to the well-being of others. How do we develop such compassion? You learn to cultivate those qualities such as empathy that contribute to inner peace and to eliminate the negative emotions which are obstacles to compassion.

Cultivating Compassion – taught by Jeffrey Hopkins

What compels some people to act compassionately without giving it a second thought, while for others it almost seems against their nature? And what will become of our society if compassion dwindles?

By learning to live from a more compassionate viewpoint, we can create a better life not only for ourselves but for others. In this course you learn Buddhist meditations (including the Dalai Lama’s favorite) and visualizations to guide you in developing an awareness of your capacity for love and learning to project that love into the world around you.

This course delivers a potent message with the power to change our relationships and improve the quality of our lives. Anyone seeking release from negative emotions, such as anger, or simply wanting to increase the love and caring among us, will welcome this timely vision.

Bodhisattvas of Compassion - taught by Taigen Dan Leighton


In this course you explore seven major bodhisattva figures of the Mahayana tradition who represent various aspects of enlightened activity and awareness and are forces for well-being in our lives. You explore the iconography, teachings, folklore and history of each bodhisattva, as well as the ways that each manifests the paramitas, the ten perfections. And for each bodhisattva you look at modern exemplars, personages from non-Buddhist spiritual traditions.

Green Dharma: A Buddhist Approach to Ecology


If you yourself, who are the valley streams and mountains, cannot develop the power which illuminates the true reality of the mountains and valley streams, who else is going to be able to convince you that you and the streams and mountains are one and the same? --Zen Master Dogen

An introduction to Buddhist perspectives on nature and Buddhist responses to environmental issues. Buddhism's teaching of the interrelatedness of all life forms may be critical to the recovery of human reciprocity with nature. This course explores Buddhism's understanding of the intricate web of life and aspects of the traditions which may help formulate effective environmental ethics, offering examples from both Asia and the United States of socially engaged Buddhist projects to protect the environment. This course also introduces the Earth Charter, which sets forth fundamental principles for sustainable development.

Reconecting with Life - taught by Joanna Macy


We are finally becoming aware of how thoroughly we of the Industrial Growth Society have set ourselves apart from the natural world. We have forgotten that "we are earth of this earth, bone of its bone," and so, as the poet says, "the earth is perishing." But it is our good fortune to be living in a time when countless thinkers and poets are calling attention to a profound split in the depths of the modern psyche and offering work that seeks to heal our illusory but fateful separation from the living body of Earth, and the loneliness, the viciousness, this alienation engenders.

Reconnecting to Life maps ways into the vitality and determination we possess to take part in the healing of our world. Developed by Joanna Macy and many others, this body of work has helped hundreds of thousands of people find solidarity and courage to act, despite rapidly worsening social and ecological conditions.

The Wheel of Engaged Buddhism


In this introduction to engaged Buddhism, Kenneth Kraft highlights the activities and the struggles of socially conscious Buddhists. Using a mandala as a navigational aid, he presents various paths of engagement, such as cultivating awareness, embracing family, participating in politics, and caring for the Earth. In the course's eleven lessons, you explore both the inner and outer dimensions of this growing movement. John Seed, a defender of rainforests, imprisoned Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, poet and environmentalist Gary Snyder, and a woman who spontaneously organized an effort to comfort victims of the Bosnian war are some of the examples Kraft offers.

The Engaged Life coming soon

Skillfully weaving together basic spiritual teachings, real-life examples, social context, and exercises, Donald Rothberg provides a clear, thorough, and compelling guide for those interested in connecting inner and outer transformation. At the core of the course are five spiritual principles and associated practices that will enable you to engage all the parts of your life-whether personal, interpersonal, or political-into a seamless whole.



For an extensive collection of learning resource for meditation in action, see Dharmanet's Engaged Practice resource area.. Learn about engaged practice and find people and groups who are working mindfully to help others and heal the world. m