Graduation Date

Summer 2018

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Social Science, Environment and Community

Committee Chair Name

Dr. Anthony Silvaggio

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Dr. Erin Kelly

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Dr. Janelle Adsit

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Fourth Committee Member Name

Venerable Ajahn Pasanno

Fourth Committee Member Affiliation

Community Member or Outside Professional

Subject Categories

Environment and Community


As a Buddhist, teacher, and a graduate student, coming to know the conflicts and misconceptions that stem from partial views and experiences, I have found it difficult to locate where to stand and how to engage. Buddhist teaching and practice (Buddhadhamma) offers a pragmatic approach to an overarching series of questions and a method of practice designed to address them: What is suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the way leading to its cessation? These are the Ariya-sacca, the four noble truths (or four ennobling realities), which can be applied to the arising of suffering anywhere in nature—whether internal (mind/culture) or external (environment). This study is situated within the conversation on socially engaged Buddhism. It is a Theravada Buddhist response to ecological degradation and social suffering and the forces that proliferate these conditions, which I call the consumer narrative. I look at examples of Buddhist social action, and how the eightfold path applies as a framework for it. Utilizing an immersive, practice-led research, interviews and textual interpretations, arising from a grounded theory methodology, I explore how the application of central Buddhist teachings and practices lead to social action.

I conclude that Buddhadhamma, the teachings and practices, cultivate a mind and heart that is clear, open, and responsive to suffering as it arises, enabling individuals or communities to engage in ways appropriate to the problem as well as the means, ability, and inclination of the individual or community—the Dhamma of each person or group. This conclusion is made evident in the diversity of activisms demonstrated by the individuals interviewed in this study, as well as in my own experiences and insights when immersing my daily life in the teachings and trainings of Buddhadhamma. In addition, I conclude the Buddhist way of life, properly developed, is itself a form of activism, resisting the trends of selfishness and consumerism that form the roots of social and ecological suffering. The personal way of life and its consequent expression in social action form a mutually benefiting, interdependent social transformation.

Citation Style