Welcome to

The Dharma of Social and Ecological Engagement

A Wisdom Academy Online Course with David R. Loy

Join renowned teacher David Loy to explore the path that joins current social and ecological concerns with the timeless wisdom of the Buddha.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when we look to the future—but we don’t have to be. There’s a path for us. This course points the way.

What You’ll Learn

  • How your personal transformation affects social transformation
  • How to practice truly experiencing the interconnection of all things
  • How Buddhists can respond to racism and sexism
  • How to have a wiser relationship with money
  • How society encourages the clinging to self, and how you can break free of this
  • How Buddhist teachings help us more deeply understand the ecological crisis, and take action
  • The new bodhisattva path
  • and much more

About this Course

In this course we discover the path of socially and ecologically engaged Dharma practice. Delving into core Buddhist teachings on non-self, suffering, and karma, we address issues such as consumerism, the commodification of our attention, war, and climate change. We learn to integrate our individual Buddhist practice with the engagement our world desperately needs—a modern bodhisattva path.

What would Buddhist social justice look like? What is the connection between personal and social transformation? Do the ancient teachings of Buddhism still ring true in a world that has drastically changed since the Buddha’s time—and does the wisdom of the Buddha have the power to transform our twenty-first-century society?

Explore these important questions, and much more, in this exciting and timely course.



Lesson 1: Personal and Social Transformation

This first class lays the foundations for understanding the Dharma of social and ecological engagement, particularly how the Judeo-Christian prophetic tradition developed into Western emphasis on social justice (institutional transformation), and how this relates to what the Buddhist tradition teaches about individual liberation (personal transformation).


Lesson 2: The Lack of Self

This lesson offers a Buddhist perspective on the self and its dukkha, or “suffering”: how our usual sense of self is shadowed by a sense of lack, which we often misunderstand and try to resolve in ways that just make things worse.


Lesson 3: Karma: Reconstructing the Self

The Buddha emphasized the importance of our intentions, and David discusses what this means for our understanding of karma. The fundamental insight: that transforming our motivations transforms the way we experience the world.


Lesson 4: Deconstructing the Self

What does enlightenment or awakening really mean? David offers an answer by unpacking a provocative statement of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche: “Enlightenment is like falling out of an airplane. The bad news is there’s no parachute. The good news is there’s no ground.”


Lesson 5: The Three Poisons, Institutionalized

This lesson discusses how traditional Buddhist teachings about the three poisons—greed, ill-will, and delusion—can give us insight into the world’s current state: for example, how our economic system institutionalizes greed, how our militarism institutionalizes ill-will, and how the corporate media institutionalize delusion.


Lesson 6: A Buddhist Response to Racism and Sexism

This lesson offers a Buddhist perspective on racism and sexism, understanding them as collective forms of dualistic thinking based on the delusion that “we” are separate from “them.”


Lesson 7: Preparing for Something that Never Happens

Are we always preparing to live? Perceiving the world as a collection of utensils, we keep overlooking something essential about the here-and-now.


Lesson 8: A Tale of Two Icebergs

The ecological crisis is much bigger than the problem of climate change, and raises fundamental questions about the meaning and direction of our new global civilization. What do Buddhist teachings imply about how to understand and respond to this challenge, and—turning that around—what does all this mean for how we understand and practice Buddhism today?


Lesson 9: A Nondual Ecology

Traditional Buddhist teachings do not address climate change or other ecological issues because they are recent problems. Nevertheless, those teachings have important ecological implications for us today. Does that mean there is also a parallel between the solutions?


Lesson 10: The New Bodhisattva Path

This final lesson discusses the new bodhisattva path: what is distinctive about socially and ecologically engaged Buddhism? Although Buddhist teachings do not give us specific answers about what to do, they tell us a lot about how to do what we do. Such engagement is not a distraction from our personal transformation but an essential part of it. When our activities are rooted in contemplative practices, we are able to acting without attachment to results. This enables us to do the very best we can, not knowing if it makes any difference.

About the Teacher

David R. Loy’s books include the acclaimed Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist RevolutionThe Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social TheoryThe World Is Made of StoriesA Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency; and The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons, a finalist for the 2006 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award. He was the Besl Professor of Ethics/Religion and Society at Cincinnati’s Xavier University and is qualified as a teacher in the Sanbo Kyodan tradition of Japanese Buddhism.