Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
The Buddhist Education for Social Transformation (BEST) course is an innovative yearlong certificated course focused on transformation of individuals, communities, the environment, and the world. The program is open to anyone seeking a Buddhist perspective in his or her approach to personal development, social justice and social change work.
The program is organized by International Women’s Partnership for Peace and Justice (IWP), based in Chiang Mai, Thailand and builds on our experience working with social change agents from the grassroots to the government levels over the past 15 years.
BEST is founded on the pillars of non-violent activism, spiritual practice, and anti-oppression feminism. It is intended to support participants’ integration of spiritual practice and social action, grounded in structural analysis and an understanding of the interdependence of personal transformation and structural change. BEST spans one year, with two intensive residential periods at the IWP center outside Chiang Mai, Thailand – July 1 – 21, 2016 and ten days in June 2017. The interim time (August 2016 – June 2017) is designed to include participant self-study, small group study, and an independent project that will be presented during the second residential period. The intention is to form a strong community/sangha among participants as they journey through the yearlong program together.
BEST is open to people of all identities, welcoming of all genders and sexual identities, spiritual/faith traditions and beliefs, ages, ethnicities, education levels, professions, etc. First priority will be given to activists living and working in the Asian region.
The course aims to:
Specific topics covered in the course include:
In order to fulfill the requirements of the yearlong training program, participants will be expected to complete the following:
Buddhism emphasizes experience as a basis for learning and transformation. Different forms of daily mindfulness practices and meditation are designed to help participants form the foundation for their peace and justice work. The teaching methodology combines learning through experiential learning activities, discussion, skill building and spiritual practices. Experiential learning activities help participants move beyond the intellectual and informational levels to a more holistic model, in which participants use head, heart, hands, and spirit (intellectual, emotional, kinesthetic, and spiritual modalities) in the learning process. Learning methods include small group discussions, role-plays, group challenges, audio-video and visual aids, exposure trips to witness from real situations, and daily meditation, mindfulness practices and yoga.
Faculty for the program include international teachers and activists with years of experience in engaged Buddhism and their specific fields. Ouyporn Khuankaew and Ginger Norwood, co-founders of IWP, will be guiding instructors for the course. Invited faculty include: Dr. Kathryn Norsworthy, Phra Paisal Visalo, Dhammananda Bhikkuni, Maia Duerr, Jeyanthy Siva, and Anchalee Karutach. Click on each name for a short biography and/or link to her/his work.
The investment for the yearlong BEST course is $850 USD. This cost covers all tuition, food, lodging (in shared rooms), and program costs (e.g. student handbook and relevant reading materials) for the required 30 residential days, as well as mentoring and conference calls. We have made every effort to keep tuition as affordable as possible, given the costs we need to cover to offer this program. Please consider ways to fundraise within your organization and community and contact us for suggestions.
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and early application is encouraged. Applications need to be received by April 1, 2016 to be considered for this year’s program.