PRINCIPLES & PRACTICES
Dharmalaya is a neo-traditional NGO, meaning that we endeavor to learn from the past and experiment in the present to forge a more harmonious and sustainable future. We work to preserve traditional wisdom and to carry it into the future by developing and promoting concepts and practices that can be readily understood and applied in the present.
Foundational Principles: Ahimsa, Karuna, Maitri & Seva
Dharmalaya is rooted in the traditional Indian principles of ahimsa (non-harming), karuna (compassion), maitri/metta (loving kindness), and seva (service). An holistic understanding of these values as applied in the modern world includes not only caring for all living beings, but also ecological responsibility expressed in a commitment to sustainable living.
To take the four values above together is to seek the integration of compassion, contemplation, and action. In the terms of the wisdom traditions of India, this has been described as socially-engaged spirituality and spiritually-infused activism, but these are not exclusively ‘spiritual’ aims: They are universal human values shared by the secular and the spiritual. It is in this universal spirit that Dharmalaya seeks to understand and apply these principles in our work, in our world, and in ourselves.
Policies & Practices
Dharmalaya is nonsectarian and committed to promoting mutual understanding, respect, and altruistic collaboration among people of all backgrounds and beliefs. We do not discriminate on the basis of nationality, ethnicity, religious belief, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status; we celebrate diversity and we warmly welcome all respectful and considerate people to participate in our programs.
We value compassion and respect for all life as taught in both the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, as exemplified by Mahatma Gandhi, and as expressed in H.H. the Dalai Lama’s philosophy of ‘Universal Responsibility’. As a part of this commitment to ahimsa, compassion, and Universal Responsibility, like most ashrams and Dharma centres, we serve only 100% plant-based vegetarian food in our centres (with no animal products, so our kitchen is vegan and therefore suitable for the diets of the vast majority of spiritual traditions). Likewise, we use natural, eco-friendly building methods and grow food organically, without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides.
Also, we observe a code of compassionate conduct that respects both the Hindu yamas (virtues/disciplines) and the Buddhist panchasila (five virtuous commitments) as a way of maintaining harmony in ourselves, in our community, and with our environment.
Finally, we aspire to evolve beyond mere ‘sustainable living’ to embody and promote the Earthville Network’s principle of ‘Sustainable Thriving’.
All of the above practices are motivated by simple caring. They are not put forth self-righteously as moralistic absolutes, nor should they be misconstrued as implied criticism of anyone. Rather, we hold these practices as opportunities to explore the joys and rewards of voluntary simplicity and living in greater harmony with nature. The Dharmalaya community is founded on a core aspiration to see how far we can go in taking better care of ourselves, one another, and the earth that supports us, and how much better all of us feel and function when we make our best efforts in this gentle endeavor to do a little less harm and hopefully a little more good.
Modern Global Ethical Standards
Building on the foundation of the traditional values of compassion, non-harming, and universal responsibility, Dharmalaya also endeavors to observe best practices for modern NGOs, including accountability, transparency, open-source sharing of ideas, and freedom from discrimination on the basis of gender, caste, religion, race, or sexual orientation.
In short, we are all human, and thus far from perfect, but we do our best to follow the principle of doing as much good as we can while causing as little harm as possible. If you have any suggestions that might help us improve in this humble endeavor, kindly let us know.
Policy on Certification
The Dharmalaya Institute does not issue ‘certificates of participation’ for volunteers, workshop participants, or interns.
We issue certificates only when all of the following criteria are met:
- The student or trainee has completed a long-term training programme that Dharmalaya Institute has presented explicitly as a certificate programme. Here, ‘long-term’ generally means at least six months and never less than two months (depending on the subjects/skills being taught).
- The level of education and training provided by the programme is adequate to be used in the field (i.e. not merely an introduction).
- The student/trainee has completed an evaluation process in which she or he demonstrates understanding, competence, and ability to perform at a certain standard, in a manner defined and published for each respective programme.
- Members of the Dharmalaya Institute’s faculty have observed the students/trainees on an individual basis closely enough to be able to vouch for their learning and competence. (This cannot happen in a short workshop, but requires building a relationship over time.)
In other cases that do not meet all the critera above, we do not issue certificates, but in rare cases we may issue personalised letters to dedicated students, interns, and volunteers who have worked with us for at least four months under close enough supervision for our faculty to be able to vouch for their learning. In such cases where a student’s academic institution requires a letter confirming participation, we will gladly send such a letter directly to a faculty member if the above criteria are met.This policy, which was developed in consultation with several of the most esteemed leaders in the field of vernacular eco-architecture in India, ensures two very important outcomes:
- It encourages the participation of those who are most sincere in their aspiration to learn and develop their skills (rather than merely collecting certificates without much genuine learning).
- It ensures that a certificate from Dharmalaya Institute has meaning, and the person bearing a certificate from Dharmalaya Institute can be regarded as someone with an exceptional level of capacity, commitment, and demonstrated understanding and skill in the area for which they are certified.