"The next buddha will be a sangha [community]." - Thich Nhat Hanh.
The core teachings of Buddha (Dhamma) are set out in the Theravada Buddhist texts known as the Tipitaka. In their simplest form, they consist of a system of inter-related principles (dhammas), to be applied by individuals, for personal development and conscious awakening. In Social Dhamma, these core principles are re-interpreted as social principles to be applied by groups of people, for community development and collective awakening.
The practice of Social Dhamma involves cultivating a dual awareness of the inner and outer worlds, the personal self and the social self, the individual and the collective. By viewing these two as reflections of each other - as microcosm and macrocosm - we gain the ability to apply the wisdom of awakening to address the critical issues of our time. This is community development from within.
Through this practice, we become aware of the diverse ways in which each one of us participates in co-creating our shared suffering and our shared happiness. We observe the underlying psycho-social causes of our common social problems arising within our own minds and playing out in the ways we communicate, relate and behave. And we apply the principles of Social Dhamma to determine ethical, wise and compassionate responses to these same social issues, both internally and in the outer world.
In this way, Social Dhamma empowers us to engage the inner resources cultivated in meditation, in the act of co-creating social realities that express humanity's most noble potential.
Social Dhamma is best practiced in small group format, viewing the group as a model community. Herein, participants learn basic mindfulness meditation, practice remaining mindful of feelings, thoughts & mental states, and support each other in sustaining this mindfulness while communicating.
They are then guided through a collective meditation process, which uses mindful communication to approach -- and ultimately enter into -- a state of group communion. As participants move from separation towards communion, strong or conflicting feelings, thoughts and emotions may arise. These are depersonalized, viewed as the ‘social issues’ of the group, and addressed collectively.
Through this process, participants learn how to apply the principles of meditation to consciously co-create community, while generating collective insight into how our common social issues arise and how they can be addressed using the principles of Social Dhamma. Whatever is learned within the group can then be applied externally to the group, in the outer world.
The teaching of Buddha, as preserved in Theravada Buddhism.
The principles of Dhamma, such as mindfulness, effort, etc. These are already well-defined by Buddha. Social dhammas are corresponding social principles, such as mindful communication, social praxis, etc. These are redefined by each group as they are applied in group practice.
The psychological causes of suffering, which urge us to behave in ways that harm ourselves and others. They find their fullest expression in psychopathic and sociopathic personalities and make us vulnerable to manipulation and social control by such people.
Groups & associations, which may be based on a common place of residence, a common work- place, or common interests, goals, issues etc.
Co-operatively creating new ways of communicating, relating & behaving in community.
Dhamma is practiced to awaken to the true nature of reality. Social Dhamma is practiced to awaken our power to co-create social realities of our choosing.
Social Dhamma contains more than 120 pairs of principles, each pair consisting of a core Buddhist principle (dhamma) and a corresponding social principle (social dhamma).
Of these 120 pairs, Social Dhamma groupwork focuses on those which relate most directly to our shared happiness and our shared suffering.
It establishes and develops the 7 social conditions which support collective awakening and which serve as the building blocks of politically aware, socially energised, joyful, peaceful, connected, dynamic and socially sustainable communities.
Along the way, it inquires into, and collectively addresses, those psycho-social attachments which would otherwise inhibit community building and reinforce separation and social unrest.
The Middle Way
Social Dhamma practice is non-violent. It does not sacrifice individual freedom for the sake of the common good, nor does it sacrifice the common good for the sake of individual freedom. Instead, it steers a middle path between the two, by shifting the inner and outer worlds into a harmonious alignment. This alignment is the natural result of the experience of communion, in which we experience ourselves both as individuals and as a collective. We can then choose the manner and extent to which we align the pursuit of self-interest with the shared vision of the group or community.
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© Social Dhamma™ Julian Robinson, 2005-2017. All rights reserved.