This online course explores the importance of ethics in our contemporary world, from both a yogic and Buddhist perspective. In doing this, we will discover how ethics is not so much something that we think about, but rather becomes a practice, something that we do – both individually and collectively — within our lives and communities. Moreover, given the climate, ecological and social justice crises we are living within, the practice of ethics is a necessary prerequisite for responding creatively and appropriately and bring about effective change.
We will first be inquiring into ethics as yoga practitioners. Does yoga, as it is commonly taught in the western world, enable us practitioners to become the sorts of people we aspire to be? (The etymology of ethics, ethikos from the Greek, means character.) How does the practice of ethics align with and inform one’s own formal yoga practice?
To do this, we’ll look again at the role of ethics in one of the most famous classical yoga text, the yoga sutras of Patanjali, through the work of Michael Stone in his book: Yoga for a World out of Balance, which is required reading for this course. This book emphasises particularly the link between ethics and social action.
We’ll also review two main teachings of Buddhism: the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eight Fold Path, firstly outlining what a traditional understanding of these may be and then looking at how Stephen Batchelor interprets and reworks these teachings from a secular dharma perspective.
And finally, we’ll look at a version of the five precepts of Buddhism re-worked for our contemporary world by the great Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Thanh.
Required reading for this course are:
- Yoga for a World out of Balance by Michael Stone
- Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World by Stephen Batchelor
- Chapter 2 of any translation of The Yoga sutras of Patanjali. We recommend Alistair Shearer’s translation. There are also a number of translations available online, for example
- Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life, by Charlotte Bell
- For a future to be possible by Ticht Nhat Han