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Social Justice | Dharma | Book List

MHY’s philosophy of social justice derives from Paulo Freire’s concept of praxis as the foundation for skillful social action.  Praxis is the integration of theory and action; as one alone is insufficient for moving collective minds into adaptive, purposeful action, or for moving people from their mats and cushions to the streets.  Thought-less action without theory can turn quickly into violence and theory without action is use-less knowledge.  Theory and practice are pragmatic, integral parts of skilled social action, which in turn is a foundation for social justice.  While the personal practice of meditation, breathing and postures open us to the Heart of Yoga and the essence of Buddha’s teachings, there can be a disconnect between our selves that are practicing in the zendo or studio and our selves that are suffering from abuse, oppression, malnutrition and neglect on the streets.  When spiritual practice (internal) and social action (external) converge, service becomes the hub.

In order for us to serve oppressed people, we must know what part of ourselves oppresses others.  Here introspection plays a major role in the psycho-spiriutal process of turning deep practice into compassionate social action.  Introspection and cultural competency training help us discover our unconscious biases, prejudices and beliefs that obstruct relating to and working with marginalized populations.  Without appropriate socio-cultural self-knowledge, i.e., understanding how our history and worldview become the lens through which we see ourselves and others in the world, there is the chance that we end up oppressing the very people we hope to serve.  And so here, in this intersection between spirituality, social justice and psychology, one’s own insights and revelations about one’s self and the world become bound inextricably to others’ well-being.

The process of cultural introspection and social action is multidimensional:

  • Use introspection to discover your worldview and uncover socio-cultural biases and beliefs (e.g. If you are White, have you become aware of unearned privileges given simply because of your race?  As a person of color do you recognize how internalized racism alters your concept of Self?  Or how internalized homophobia affects people from the LGBT community?  If you are wealthy, do you understand how social and health disparities are created by the unequal distribution of services, resources and goods?)  Do the intrapersonal introspective work necessary to become aware of the impact of social conditioning on your worldview and personal perspective on other cultures.
  • Open your hearts to the suffering oppression causes for all people and things, the oppressed and oppressors alike, as we all lose our humanity and sense of interdependency when oppression occurs.  Watch documentaries about social and health disparities, on sex trafficking, effects of drought on rural communities, etc, and cry.  Cry for the suffering of the world and in the process your spiritual body will expand to include all beings and things within its ever growing boundaries.  Move away from grasping things you want and averting from things that cause you pain and concentrate on other beings’ suffering.
  • Move to action: once the heart opens, watch how the mind is compelled to act, to move, to stir.  Follow that intuitive guide and begin your service.  Start serving at a soup kitchen, tutor underserved youth once a week, teach yoga at a local homeless shelter, volunteer your time so your mind and hands move and act in harmony with your heart.

In our community links page there are many organizations that promote social change through spiritual processes.  Please take a few moments to explore those sites and come back with questions about how you might begin your own service.

MHY provides community trainings in diversity, cultural competency and social justice with a special emphasis on spirituality and psychology.  Please contact us with questions or to book Michael for a training for your own organization.


This section contains essays I’ve written on the practical elements of Buddhist Dharma, Yogic Philosophy and Ayurveda.  Please click on a topic below to access the essay:

These articles and essays were written primarily as a supplemental tool for my students in the Satsang Yoga Teacher Training.  All of the material has come from my personal experience while studying both Buddhist  Dharma and Yogic Philosophy.  And that means some of the more technical information might be just plain wrong! To correct these errors I am including a Primary Reading List of books I whole-heartedly recommend.

Library and Book list:

Please contact us if you’d like to borrow any of these books!


Robert Svoboda’s Aghora series:  Aghora: At the Left Hand of God; Kundalini: The Law of Karma

Dr. Frawley’s Inner Tantric Yoga: Working with the Universal Shakti  (Lotus Press)


Swami Satchidananda’s The Living Gita; Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras

Richard Miller’s Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga

Dr. Frawley’s Yoga and Ayurveda; Yoga and the Mind

Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s Hatha Yoga Pradipika; Yoga Nidra; Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha

David Swenson’s Ashtanga

Erich Schiffman’s Moving into Stillness

Michael Stone’s Yoga for a World out of Balance


Shankara’s Crest Jewel of Discrimination

Eknath Easwaran’s The Upanishads


Ryokan’s One Robe, One Bowl; Dew drops on a Lotus Leaf

Suzuki Roshi’s Beginner’s Mind, Zen Mind

The Dhammapada

Dr. W Rahula’s What the Buddha Taught

Jack Kornfield’s A Still Forest Pool: Insight meditations of Ajahn Chan; A Path with Heart; Ecstasy after the Laundry

Buddhist Scriptures

Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha

Noah Levine’s Dharma Punx

Bo Lozoff’s We’re All Doing Time


Josepth Campbell and Bill Moyer’s The Power of Myth

Coleman Barks’ The Essential Rumi

Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet

William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Hafiz’s Drunk on the Wine of the Beloved

John Neirhardt’s Black Elk Speaks

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet

Rabbi David Cooper’s God is a Verb

Thomas Merton’s Thoughts in Solitude; Seeds of Contemplation

Vedic Athletics “Mindful Exercise”:

John Douillard’s Body, Mind and Sport

Danny Dreyer’s Chi Running

Terry Laughlin’s Total Immersion

Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run

Neuroscience and Dharma

Daniel Siegel’s The Mindful Brain; The Mindful Therapist

Rick Hanson’s Buddha’s Brain: The practical neuroscience of happiness, love and wisdom

Sharon Begley:  Train your Mind, Change your Brain:  How a New Sceince Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves

Jon Kabat-Zinn and Richard Davidson:  The Mind’s Own Physician:  A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama on the Healing Power of Meditation

Jeffrey Schwartz and Sharon Begley:  The Mind and the Brain:  Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force

Social Justice and Cultural Competency

Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Beverly Tatum’s “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”

Derald Wing Sue’s Overcoming Our Racism

Thomas Kochman’s Black and White Styles in Conflict

Paul Kivel’s Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice

Psi Psychology

Dean Radin’s Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality; Supernormal: Science, Yoga, and the Evidence for Extraordinary Psychic Abilities


Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell’s Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive

Inda Schaenan’s 7 O’clock Bedtime:  Early to bed, early to rise makes a child healthy, playful and wise

John Douillard’s Perfect Health for Kids: Ten Ayurvedic Health Secrets Every Parent Must Know