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Four-Year Program in Sustainable Happiness

While we humans have always shared a hunger for contemplative states, it was our Indian neighbors who made contemplation an art and science and foresaw the need for teaching it to people of all walks of life, not just spiritual elites.

Calming arts like basic yoga and mindfulness, the first wave of this movement, were meant for the low-key lifestyles of priests, hermits, monks and nuns, not a busy lay life in the everyday world. Eventually, Indian masters evolved forms of yoga and mindfulness more effective for worldly life, and combined them with a second, third and fourth wave of active contemplative arts like wise compassion and impassioned openness.

At the world’s first university at Nalanda, the beacon of this movement, Buddhist masters combined these four waves into one complete, step-wise system of insights, skills and life-strategies called the gradual path, designed to support contemplative lives in the world.

At Nalanda Institute, we’ve distilled this path into a Four-Year Program, tailored to help you build a contemplative life in our high-stress age. Each class integrates all three core disciplines of contemplative learning: knowledge; meditation; and action. And to help build these disciplines, you'll have access to individual guidance through our counseling and mentoring program.

The program is structured like a contemplative labyrinth or mandala with five gates that stand for the aims that bring us into the path, and four concentric circles or wheels inside, representing the four years and horizons of our life-learning journey.

Starting from the outermost circle and moving inward, the four wheels are: the body wheel, covering personal self-healing; the speech wheel, covering social engagement; the mind wheel, covering cultural contribution; and the bliss wheel, covering natural integration.

Each course involves weekly ninety-minute classes, homework practice based on assigned texts and meditations (guided by MP3 audio files or by written scripts), as well as a final, take-home essay exam. Each semester ends with a weekend retreat, reinforcing the insights, skills and life strategies taught in the preceding class.

Participants in the Four-Year Program who attend at least three fourths of all meetings, hand in a passing final essay and join the final retreat in both the Fall and Spring classes may ask for a Nalanda Institute certificate documenting their completion of each year or the entire program.


Hero of the Water-Spirits, Nagarjuna, the founder of the Nalanda tradition