Curriculum Overview

What does the year-long curriculum consist of?

We use an online learning platform for our year-long Infinite Circle study group. The curriculum works to build three core competencies: connections to self (through study, reflective practices and compassion training), connections to others (through bearing witness, service projects, and study about the populations we serve) and connections to the system (understanding interdependence, engaging in political analysis, and cultivating perspective taking). The curriculum comes to life through monthly dialogue-based seminars and small group integration sessions, individual reading, reflection and creativity exercises, bearing witness and compassion training, and one-on-one interviews with a teacher.

DIALOGUE SERIES 1

Learning the Basics

  • Solidify a working understanding of the three tenets
  • Be able to define Community Engaged Buddhism and Socially Engaged Buddhism 
  • Understand the early Buddhist roots of contemporary engaged practice 

DIALOGUE SERIES 2 

Inner and Outer

  • Explore the inner life of Community Engaged practice and the outer life of Service from Buddhist and, to a lesser degree, Christian traditions. Inner and Outer is Not One, Not Two. 

DIALOGUE SERIES 3  

Intimacy

  • Explore Intimacy, Kinship, and Belonging 
  • Gain understanding of the textual roots of the Zen understanding of “intimacy” from three core teachings: The Heart Sutra, Sandokai, and the Precepts 
  • Understand what is meant by “Bodhisattva” and be able to imagine it in the circumstances of today’s world 

DIALOGUE SERIES 4

You are the First Leverage Point in the System

  • Develop a systems perspective on in the inner and outer causes and effects of poverty. 
  • Understand the relationships among Economics, Consumerism and Poverty, and what a Buddhist perspective on these might be.

DIALOGUE SERIES 5  

Skillful Means

  • Be able to use the Five Buddha Families as a framework. 
  • Understand and define healthy boundaries as a community member, spiritual companion, and sangha leader. 
  • Be able to use nonviolent communication. 
  • Understand harm reduction techniques as skillful means. 
  • Be able to assess when you need to get help from professionals. 

DIALOGUE SERIES 6  

Beloved Community 

  • Understand the principles of wholesome and abundant community. 

DIALOGUE SERIES 7

Motivation and Morality 

  • Deepen your understanding of the precepts in the context of today’s society
  • Deepen your ability to see your motivations clearly and to actualize selfless service to others. 
  • Understand practicing with moral resiliency, “the slender sadness” and “the moral remainder” 

DIALOGUE SERIES 8

Action, Justice and Prophetic Witnessing

  • To clarify for oneself what might be the role of your Buddhist community in shaping society through prophetic action

DIALOGUE SERIES 9

Integration:

Create a written or artistic representation of what you have learned, and communicate to the group how you intend to serve or what you intend to create in economically marginalized communities. 

Here is an example of a dialogue session: 

DIALOGUE SERIES 4 

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: YOU ARE THE FIRST LEVERAGE POINT IN THE SYSTEM 

  • Develop a systems perspective on in the inner and outer causes and effects of poverty. 
  • Understand the relationships among Buddhism, Economics, Consumerism and Poverty. 

LOJONG SLOGANS: TRANSFORMING BAD CIRCUMSTANCES INTO THE PATH

  • Turn all mishaps into the path 
  • Drives all blames into one 
  • Be grateful to everyone 
  • See confusion as Buddha and practice emptiness 
  • Do good, avoid evil, appreciate your lunacy, pray for help 
  • Whatever you meet is the path 

READINGS 

Required Reading: 

  • Fischer, Norman. Training in Compassion, chapter 4
  • Continue reading Glassman, “Bearing Witness.”
  • The Iceberg Model (Zotero) 
  • Uchiyama, Kosho. 2004. Opening the Hand of Thought. Boston: Wisdom Publications, p. 109-138. 
  • Joshin’s essay, “Systemic Poverty and Practice” will be sent two weeks before the seminar. 

Choose additional readings from this list: 

  • Desmond, Matthew. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
  • The Fullframe Initiative. “Shift: From Short-term Change to Lasting Wellbeing Through the Fullframe Approach.” January 2016. (Zotero) 
  • The Fullframe Initiative: “The Five Domains of Wellbeing and Key Aspects.” (Zotero) 
  • Giridharadas, Anand. Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. Alfred A Knopf. 2018. 
    • Video: The Thriving World, the Wilting World and You. (Zotero)
  • Hershock, Peter. “Poverty Alleviation: A Buddhist Perspective.” (Zotero) 
  • Loy, David R. “Why Buddhism and the Modern World Need Each Other: A Buddhist Perspective.” Buddhist-Christian Studies, Vol. 34 (2014), pp 39- 50. (Zotero) 
  • Loy, David R. The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory., especially chapter 2: “Buddhism and Poverty.” Wisdom Publications. 2003. (chapter 2 on Zotero) 
  • McKnight, John. The Careless Society: Community and its Counterfeits. Basic Books. 1995.  
  • Reich, Rob. “What are Foundations For?” Boston Review, 2013. Can be seen HERE
  • Reich, Rob. Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and How it can Do Better. Princeton University Press. 2018. 
  • “Why is there Poverty?” excerpt from The Forest and the Trees: Sociology as Life, Practice and Promise, rev. ed. (Zotero) 

Videos and Movies:

  • Why Poverty? Poor Us: An Animated History (On YouTube and Zotero) 
  • Poverty, Politics and Profit. Frontline on PBS. 2017 episode 11. Episode can be seen HERE
  • Poverty, Inc. Can be streamed for free with Amazon Prime. Website for the movie is HERE
  • Under the Bridge: The Criminalization of Homelessness. Available on Amazon Prime

ASSIGNMENTS 

Assignment 1: Please meditate with or reflect upon the assigned slogans throughout the entire month. In addition, please journal with them, write them on post-its and return to them frequently each day.

Assignment 2: Please write out your responses to these statements and share them with Joshin via email

Systems Reflection 

  • What are the deeper systemic forces that keep you, and the people in the system you engage with, re-enacting results that ultimately nobody wants? 
  • Which of the elements of the iceberg are most relevant to the challenge, issue, or system you want to address during these training? Share up to three responses. 

Optional Journaling Prompts: 

  • Where do you experience a world that is ending and dying? And in your response, you can refer to society, your neighborhood or community, to the organizations you are connected to, or to yourself. 
  • Where do you experience a world that is wanting to be born? In society, your neighborhood or community, organization or yourself. 
  • Where have you experienced moments of disruption and what did you notice about your inner response to these moments? 
  • How do the social-economic divides show up in your personal experience of your life: work, family, community, etc. 

In the book Evicted, a person named Larraine has her food stamps taken away. After they are reinstated, she makes a surprising purchase of a lobster, shrimp and crab dinner. What do you think of her choices and her defense that tomorrow she will still live in poverty, so she should live fully now, while she can?