Last spring Russell Rodgers, author of Essays on the Shambhala Buddhist Chants (PDF), taught a five-week Earth Dharma course at the Kootenay Shambhala Centre. He has revised the syllabus and is willing to share it with anyone interested.
The course is outlined below. It is designed around a basic buddhadharma understanding of mind, and much of the material could be applied to any social issue.
If you are interested, contact Russell Rodgers at email@example.com.
EARTH DHARMA COURSE OUTLINE
Class I: Duality, the Source of the Problem
The foundation of our ecological problems begins with the human mind. Conventionally, our ecological problems are ascribed the human proclivity for grasping, aggression and ignorance. In this class we’ll take a deeper view: the nature of the mind and how these tendencies come about.
Class II: Sacred World
If we do not view the world as sacred and basically good, there will be consequences to our relationship with nature. In this class we’ll look at our monotheistic cultural background, and its division of the world into the material and the spiritual. We’ll look at theism’s successor, science, and its view of the world as mechanical, dead matter. Then we’ll look at polytheistic cultures and their view of the earth’s sacredness, and finally the non-theistic attitudes to the earth according to the Buddhist views of basic goodness, ultimate purity, and non-theistic sacredness.
Class III: Practices for Interbeing
We will work with Thich Nhat Hanh’s concept of interbeing, or interdependence, from the point of view of how the nature of our conceptual thinking functions to isolate us from the cosmos. We’ll also look at how thoughts can lead us back into a sense of being connected. We will work with the notion of soft spots where the world can touch us and the practice of tonglen to explore our inter-connectedness on an emotional level.
Class IV: Presence and Drala: The World Speaks
In this class we will look at how the world speaks to us. We’ll look at drala from the point of view of depth of perception and from the point of view of drala as unseen presences. We’ll look at the gods and nature spirits of other cultures and how we can relate to them non-theistically.
Class V: Buddhist Activism
In this class we will look at Buddhist responses to environmental problems and at how one can engage in movements to help the planet without experiencing reaction, anger, frustration and burnout. We will introduce some lojong slogans as a guide to compassionate action.
Each class will have a contemplation question for the week preceding the class. The classes will begin with participants splitting into dyads to discuss the question. The meditation period before the class will also have contemplation questions and meditation exercises in order to stimulate students to look at their experience during meditation.