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Buddhist Roots of Radical and Eco-Dharma
Dates: May 03, 2021 - Jun 21, 2021
Online Course

Instructor(s): Karin Meyers

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Radical Dharma and Eco-Dharma represent two critical movements in contemporary American Buddhism. While Radical Dharma frames spiritual liberation as inseparable from collective social liberation and racial justice, Eco-Dharma frames spiritual liberation as inseparable from ecological care. Both movements draw heavily on Mahāyāna (and especially Zen) Buddhism. However, there are also rich roots for radical social and ecological engagement grounded in early Buddhist teachings. In this course we will explore these roots, and trace their growth in the modern development of socially and ecologically engaged Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia. We will focus especially on the engaged work of B.R. Ambedkar, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, Sulak Sivarksa, A.T. Ariyaratne and Thich Nhat Hanh, attending to their interpretations of early Buddhist teachings in particular. To help contextualize these figures and movements, a few sessions will outline the broader history of socially engaged Buddhism, and major figures and theories in the development of Mahāyāna approaches to engaged Buddhism.

This course is designed for intellectually curious Buddhist practitioners, and is suitable for anyone who wishes to have a stronger historical and theoretical grounding in engaged Buddhism. 

Each week students will receive a brief essay summarizing academic research on the topic, short reading(s) from primary texts (classical or modern), discussion questions, and a select bibliography for further study. Some weeks may involve an additional video recording. Live class sessions will review and expand on previously distributed materials with an emphasis on discussion.

There is no prerequisite for this course. Some students may be interested in reading Radical Dharma (by Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Lama Rod Owens, and Jasmine Syedullah, Ph.D.) and Ecodharma (by David Loy) ahead of the course. Summaries of key ideas from these texts will be provided prior to the first class session. It should be noted that these texts and their particular articulations of Radical and Eco-Dharma are the starting point rather than primary focus for the course. In that regard, we will not be delving into how the Black Radical tradition or modern ecological thinking have informed these movements, but will focus on how their conceptions of social and ecological engagement are complemented and supported by early Buddhist teachings and their modern Asian interpretations.

As we work to become a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse community, we invite feedback/suggestions you may have regarding ways that we can make participation in the program more accessible and welcoming; please email us at contact@buddhistinquiry.org.

Online Course: Our intention is to build sangha and provide meaningful virtual interactions with each other and with teachers in our online courses. When registering for an online course, please plan to attend as many sessions as possible.

The schedule of Zoom meetings for this course (shown in US Eastern Time) is as follows:

Meeting Time: Mondays, 7:30 – 9:00 pm between May 3 and June 21

Meeting Dates: May 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 and June 7, 14, 21

Please check the time of the group meetings in your timezone here, and please note that sessions will not be recorded.

Registration fees for online courses are nonrefundable after the course start date. Cancellations prior to the start date of the course will incur a $25 admin fee. Thank you for your understanding.

  • Karin Meyers is Academic Director of Mangalam Research Center in Berkeley. She has taught Buddhist studies at several colleges in the US, and for seven years at Kathmandu University and Ranjung Yeshe Institute’s Centre for Buddhist Studies in Nepal, where she directed the Masters Program in Buddhist Studies. Karin has done engaged Buddhist work with the International Campaign for Tibet, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and more recently organizing Extinction Rebellion Buddhists.

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