(2 credits) This course will explore the application and integration of spiritual values in leadership, from the perspectives of ancient India and contemporary contexts. The course will focus on a Buddhist text about the qualities and actions of enlightened leadership, such as Precious Garland of Advice for a King by Indian Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna (1st – 2nd century) who was an adviser to the ruler of an Indian kingdom.
Nagarjuna presents the king with an overview of the entire Buddhist path to Enlightenment, encouraging him with advice for living, advice for liberation, and advice for public policy. As a person in a position of power, the king should enable happiness and spiritual development through his governance and construction of beneficial social policies. Herein, he emphasizes education and compassionate care for all beings, opposes the death penalty, advises on the selection of government figures who are not seeking profit or fame, and gives detailed rebuttal of attachment to pleasures and possessions.
The classical text will be paired with emerging research from the field of contemporary social psychology to discuss the science of compassion, the role of ethical codes in promoting compassionate behaviors, and the science of power and powerlessness. The course will explore how leadership and power can be abused, how such abuses of power can be protected against, and how equitable distributions of power can be restored. The course will offer opportunity to compare classical Buddhist views of leadership with conventional American views. Throughout, the professors will encourage our understanding the complex interplay of leadership, compassion, ethics, and power in our own contexts, so that we are better able to become more compassionate, ethical, and powerful leaders.