Courses- straight text format

Incorporating the teachings of the Buddha into our lives nourishes what the Dalai Lama calls “our inner dimension” and encourages the practice of peace and generosity.  Ashoka courses encourage reflection, contemplation and application.

Ashoka courses offer a rich mixture of reading, listening (audio), viewing (video), contemplation, and meditation. Our courses guide and encourage you to reflect on and apply what you are learning.

An Intro to Buddhism Through Jodo Shinshu    

Rev John iwohara

What is Buddhism? Many kinds of answers are typically given, but “philosophy of life” or “way of life” are perhaps the most frequent. In these answers, the common denominator is the exploration of life. Because of this, Buddhism can be described as a religion; a system that helps to create and maintain the culture of what it means to live life as a human being.

In living as a Buddhist, human life is explored from three distinct points of view. These are the three treasures of Buddhism: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. These Three Treasures are the foundations that Buddhists anchors their lives on in order to explore life as both wisdom and compassion.

In this coursyou may approach these teachings as a way to explore the richness of human expression, to gain a greater understan of your life through the lens of another tradition, or to seek or deepen your commitment to a personal path. It is my hope as the writer, that through sharing the triple perspective of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, we can all gain a greater appreciation of the uniqueness of life and be motivated to share our joy in the ability to participate in the rarest of rare things: your own life.

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Bodhisattvas of Compassion

Taigen Dan Leighton

In this course you explore seven major bodhisattva figures of the Mahayana tradition who represent various aspects of enlightened activity and awareness and are forces for well-being in our lives. You explore the iconography, teachings, folklore and history of each bodhisattva, as well as the ways that each manifests the paramitas, the ten perfections. And for each bodhisattva you look at modern exemplars, personages from non-Buddhist spiritual traditions.

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Cultivating Compassion

Jeffrey Hopkins

What compels some people to act compassionately without giving it a second thought, while for others it almost seems against their nature? And what will become of our society if compassion dwindles?

By learning to live from a more compassionate viewpoint, we can create a better life not only for ourselves but for others. In this course you learn Buddhist meditations (including the Dalai Lama’s favorite) and visualizations to guide you in developing an awareness of your capacity for love and learning to project that love into the world around you.

This course delivers a potent message with the power to change our relationships and improve the quality of our lives. Anyone seeking release from negative emotions, such as anger, or simply wanting to increase the love and caring among us, will welcome this timely vision.

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Reconnecting with Life

Joanna Macy

We are finally becoming aware of how thoroughly we of the Industrial Growth Society have set ourselves apart from the natural world. It is our good fortune to be living in a time when countless thinkers and poets are calling attention to a profound split in the depths of the modern psyche and offering work that seeks to heal our illusory but fateful separation from the living body of Earth, and the loneliness, the viciousness, this alienation engenders. Reconnecting to Life maps ways into the vitality and determination we possess to take part in the healing of our world. This body of work has helped hundreds of thousands of people find solidarity and courage to act, despite rapidly worsening social and ecological conditions.

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Ethics of Altruism

The Dalai Lama

Explore the Dalai Lama’s framework for moral living, which rests on the observation that those whose conduct is ethically positive are happier and more satisfied and the belief that much of the unhappiness we humans endure is actually of our own making. Its ultimate goal is happiness for every individual, based on universal rather than religious principles.

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Liberating the Heart: The Brahma Viharas

Sharon Salzberg

The Buddha taught “the liberation of the heart which is love,” and he taught a systematic, integrated path that moves the heart out of isolating contraction and into true connection: the brahma-viharas, meditation practices that cultivate love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. These four qualities are among the most beautiful and powerful states of consciousness we can experience.

Sharon Salzberg, Insight Meditation Society co-founder and guiding teacher, offers a profound exploration of the deepest meanings of brahma-viharas, bringing light to the spiritual value, practical utility and psychological insight that most Westerners are longing for.

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Zen Meditation: Entering the Path

John Daishin Buksbazen

Daishin Buksbazen of the Zen Center of Los Angeles presents a clear and insightful path into the philosophy and practice of Zen by providing a practical introduction to Zen meditation. Daishin presents the essentials that any new practitioner needs to know to enter the way of Zen meditation. Topics include:

* Zen Meditation Is…
* To Be Awakened to All Things
* What Zazen Is and Is Not
* Think Non-Thinking
* Body and Mind
* The Practice: Posture, Breathing, Awareness/Mindfuless
* Zazen Is Not Only Sitting
* Developing a Practice
* If We’re Already Awakened…
* Faith, Inquiry and Perseverance

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The Metta Sutta

Andrew Olendzki

The Metta Sutta is one of the best-loved poems of the Buddhist tradition. Its message and appeal are truly timeless. The Metta Sutta speaks of universal good will towards all creatures, giving shape to one of the most beautiful and fundamentally wholesome states of mind of which the human being is capable.

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The Story of Zen

An introduction to the stories of Zen’s 1500-year innovation and transformation within the ever-changing cultures of China and then Japan. Bringing together translations of Zen ancients with modern commentary, this course offers a treasury of Zen tradition: teachings, anecdotes, stories, legends, sayings, and wisdom culled from the classic texts of Chinese Chan and Japanese Zen.

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Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind

Robert Thurman

Robert Thurman teaches the “preliminary” contemplations that help you develop a solid basis for listening to the teachings and developing a practice. Reflecting upon the precious human birth, impermanence, karma, and the sufferings of samsara frees one of the attachment to life in the realms of samsara.

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Gil Fronsdal.

The practice of giving, or dana in Pali, has a pre-eminent place in the teachings of the Buddha. When he taught a graduated series of practices for people to engage in as they progress along the path, he always started by talking about the importance and benefits of the practice of generosity.

This is the first part of a planned course on the paramis, the ten qualities of character that can be developed to support the path of awakening.

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Genjo Koan: The Koan of Everyday Life

Dairyu Michael Wenger

To study the buddha way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things.

The Genjo Koan, Dogen Zenji’s concise, poetic expression of the practice of the Buddha’s dharma, is one of the most treasured texts in the Soto Zen tradition. In Genjo Koan Dogen presents a basic philosophy of our day-to-day lives as practice in the bodhisattva way. Michael Wenger, San Francisco Zen Center’s Dean of Studies, guides you in your engagement with Dogen’s teachings on the integration of Zen training and daily life.

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The Legacy of Chan

Ashoka and Dharma Drum

This course provides an introduction to the nature and style of Chan Buddhism, which has been practiced in China since around the 6th century C.E. and, when exported to Japan around the 11-12th century, became the source of “Zen.”

The ultimate goal of Chan is the realization of one’s true nature and the expression of this realization in our interactions with others. The goal is nothing less than the attainment of our full potential as buddhas—the embodiment of wisdom and compassion. In this course we look at Chan from three perspectives: the teachings, the methods, and the lineage of the patriarchs, masters, and teachers.

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The Buddha’s Teaching As It Is

Bhikkhu Bodhi

In this introduction to the Buddha’s teachings, Bhikkhu Bodhi presents the basic teachings of Buddhism from the Theravadan perspective. This course includes the life of the Buddha, the four noble truths, the nature of existence, dependent origination, kamma, the eightfold path, meditation, and the sangha.

When we read the words of the Buddha, we are, of course, reading someone’s translation of those words. How does translation influence the meaning and effect of the teachings? In this course you explore the Metta Sutta, the Buddha’s discourse on loving-kindness, with Andrew Olendzki, executive director of the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.

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Rest Your Weary Mind: Letting Go of the Hindrances

Joseph Goldstein

The Buddha clearly pointed out those mental states that hinder our concentration and obscure the natural ease of mind: doubt, restlessness, torpor, aversion and desire. When these states are not understood, they obstruct our meditation practice and cause confusion and suffering in our daily lives. In this workshop, you explore with in some depth how these seductive energies manifest in your day-to-day experience, and how, through investigation, wise attention, and humor, you can come to a place of greater freedom.

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Taming the Mind: Cultivating Peaceful Abiding

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, head of Shambhala Buddhist lineage, and Acharya William McKeever
Discover the natural strength of the mind through meditation. This course offers a universal guide to “peaceful abiding”—the simple practice of sitting meditation. A step-by-step guided exploration of the practice of shamatha meditation with which to strengthen, clarify and stabilize the mind.
In this course you will learn:
• Why meditation is proactive and completely natural
• How to gather in a scattered mind and dismantle emotions
• How to overcome common obstacles to practice, from muscles aches to boredom
• How to establish a meditation practice

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12 Links of Dependent Arising

The Dalai Lama – with commentary and translation by Jeffrey Hopkins

Why are we in this situation? Where are we going? Do our lives have any meaning? How should we make use of our lives? How does Buddhism view the position of beings in the world and the ways humans can make their lives meaningful?

In this course the Dalai Lama  presents the basic world view of Buddhism: how Buddhism views the position of beings in the world and how human beings can make their lives meaningful.

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View: The Role of Correct View

Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche

Before we decide how we are going to assimilate Buddhism into Western culture, we must first understand the meaning of what the uniquely Buddhist concepts are trying to convey. As with many new ideas, it will take time for them to be integrated and make their meaning apparent.

In this lesson you will explore some of the ways in which you can make use of basic Buddhist concepts in order to make sense of and make the most out of your meditation practice.

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The Heart Sutra

The Heart Sutra has been beloved by Buddhists of many traditions for over 1500 years. With its radical economy of expression, the Heart Sutra’s concise rendition of the meaning of emptiness has captivated and challenged the minds and hearts of Buddhist thinkers in India, Tibet, China, Japan, Korea, Central Asia, and now the West.In this getting started module we introduce the Heart Sutra, its history, and background information on the setting and story it tells. Although the Heart Sutra can be read and chanted without understanding the historical bases for what it, the Heart Sutra is, it is agreed my most scholars and teachers, to be a ___ of Mahayana Buddhism and a challenge to the Buddhist teachings prevalent at the time.

This getting started module is not a line-by-line commentary but rather a prelude to the many voices we are offering.

Zen Art for Meditation

This course offers you an opportunity to encounter 18 classical Chinese and Japanese ink paintings and, by reflecting on them, to experience certain insights into human nature and the universe. Each picture is accompanied by a brief commentary focused on a Zen tenet and illuminated by haiku poems.

You can view the pictures and read the accompanying commentary and haikus. Or you are invited to use these offerings as a meditation instrument.

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Reconnecting to LIfe

Joanna Macy

Reconnecting with Life is a guide that maps ways into the vitality and determination we possess to take part in the healing of our world. Developed by many people over the past thirty years, this body of work has helped hundreds of thousands of people find solidarity and courage to act, despite rapidly worsening social and ecological conditions.

Much of the work presented here is best done with others in a group workshop setting. But it can be done alone; it is in the end work we ourselves must do. And so we present the work in this course for those of us who will first encounter and engage this work by ourselves. Hopefully your experience with this work will inspire you to engage in these processes in a workshop setting and perhaps become workshop facilitators.

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Meditation for Life

Martine Batchelor

This course offers various ideas, suggestions, techniques and reflections that will enable you to explore meditation for yourself. Doing so will help you to uncover the qualities of compassion and wisdom that are already within you. I have not followed any specific Buddhist school, but explain a variety of practices and ideas from different traditions, which I have found work for ordinary people in the modern world.

This course is meant to be tested and tried not merely read. The reflections provided encourage you to engage with what I am teaching, to bring these practices into your life.

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The Heart Sutra   Buddhism in the Light of Quantum Reality

The convergence between science and religion, between Eastern thought and Western pragmatism, and the consequent emergence of a new paradigm in recent times, offers a renewed hope that we may yet be able to transform ourselves and the world around us. The dangers of failing to do so are readily apparent, mostly in the near-destruction of the ecological system of the planet. There are many tools of transformation but the only place where transformation really takes place is in the human heart. The ancient traditions of the East have always sought to understand the nature of reality within one’s own heart.

The Heart Sutra, an ancient scripture from the Mahayana wisdom schools of Buddhism, is an insight into the nature of ultimate reality through intuitive wisdom. The spaciousness of this insight allows the heart to beat in its naturalness, beyond disputations and ideological arguments. Now that quantum physics has found some very interesting parallels to the basic insights of the Heart Sutra, perhaps the intellectual and the intuitive can meet in the new paradigm. 

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The Wheel of Engaged Buddhism

Kenneth Kraft

Today, Buddhists around the world seek to apply the teachings and practices of traditional Buddhism to contemporary issues. They believe that true liberation must include the social and political dimensions of freedom as well as the spiritual. Many regard the family and the workplace as valid arenas of engagement, a notable development in a tradition that originally emphasized monasticism. This course explores both the inner and outer dimensions of this growing movement. A mandala (circular diagram) depicts ten paths of practice, offering a coherent picture of engaged Buddhism as a whole.

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Green Dharma

An introduction to Buddhist perspectives on nature and Buddhist responses to environmental issues. Buddhism’s teaching of the interrelatedness of all life forms may be critical to the recovery of human reciprocity with nature. This course explores Buddhism’s understanding of the intricate web of life and aspects of the traditions which may help formulate effective environmental ethics, offering examples from both Asia and the United States of socially engaged Buddhist projects to protect the environment. This course also introduces the Earth Charter, which sets forth fundamental principles for sustainable development.

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