The Good Life: Understanding Buddhist Ethics

Find the true heart of the teachings.

An online course with John Peacock and Akincano Weber.

This online course will deepen your knowledge of Buddhist ethical principles and give you practical tools for wise engagement.

A Buddha statue cradling flower petals.

A path of care... and action

You may have heard Buddhist ethics summarized as a list of precepts or as a precondition for deep meditation. But ethics is so much richer than that. It is an inquiry into how we live and what we live for.

This is an enlivening journey that also brings happiness, purpose, and solace with it. Seen in this way, the whole of the Buddhist path becomes an ethical project.

The Good Life is available now.

Choose a Pricing Option

Akincano Weber and John Peacock

Participate at your own pace

This easy-to-use online course is available to all. It comprises of 6-units that form a program of instruction, discussion, meditation, and inquiry.

Each unit contains around 1-hour of material to enjoy, as well as contemplative exercises.

A new unit will be released each Monday. You are free to study at your own pace, and will retain access to the material.

You can follow the course on a computer, tablet, or phone, or download the course as audio files.

Key Benefits

 • Appreciate the ethical dimensions of the Eightfold Path.

 • Take on the Brahmaviharas as ethical practices.

 • Explore five ancient rules of ethical training.

 • Foster greater self respect and respect for others.

 • Bring what you have learned into the world.

A green hillside with a swing hanging from a tree
Live your values

Ethics is the connective tissue of Buddhist practice. This course will help you to reflect on what is important to you and to close the gap between your intentions and how you actually live.

The Bodhi College logo: two footprints in a golden square.
Learn from founding members of Bodhi College

Akincano Weber and John Peacock are founding faculty members of Bodhi College. Bodhi College is an educational charity offering contemplative programs for contemporary life.

Akincano and John sharing laughter.
Stimulating discussions

See John and Akincano bounce ideas off each other as they rethink our contemporary understanding of Buddhist ethics.

Akincano Weber with his hands together in gratitude.
All Buddhist terms explained

This is a practical course about putting ethical teachings to use in our lives. Sometimes it's useful to know a little ancient Buddhist terminology but all such terms are explained with helpful definitions wherever they occur. A collection of key excerpts from early Buddhist texts is also included, if you wish to go deeper into this material.

Sunlight shining through a gap in granite rocks on Dartmoor, UK, near where this course was filmed.
No previous experience necessary

There is no requirement to have studied any previous course or have prior knowledge of this topic. The Good Life is suitable for beginners and experienced meditators alike.

A man writing in a notebook in a cafe while listening to an online course using headphones.
Take the course with you

You don't need to be sitting at a computer to take this course. You can use a tablet or phone, or even download the audio files or a printable workbook, and head off into nature or to a café.

Guided Meditations

Embark on a program of guided meditation designed to cultivate inner peace and outer engagement. These practices develop ethical and situational awareness, appreciation, love for oneself and others, and many beneficial qualities.

Live Q & A sessions

In addition to the course, you can ask questions to John and Akincano directly in two live Q&A sessions offered via Zoom:

  • July 30, 1 pm EST / 6 pm BST
  • Aug 15, 1 pm EST / 6 pm BST

Ethics is the foundation and the goal

The Buddhist path flows from ethics through stillness and wisdom, and opens out into an ethical life. Buddhist ethics involves many factors, some prominent aspects are listed below.

Ethics (sīla)

The Eightfold Path

The Brahmavihāras

The Precepts

Respect for Self and Others

Care and consideration (appamāda)

Attentional availability

Meditative stillness, gatheredness (samādhi)
Liberating wisdom, understanding (paññā)
An ethical life

How Ethics Leads to Deeper Meditation

Akincano presents the basic model of how skillful conduct leads to deeper stillness and greater insight.


Praise for The Spiral to Freedom, featuring Akincano Weber and John Peacock

Great course for all practitioners. Best one I have taken and I have been practicing for 20+ years. I will revisit many times because the course is so rich with ideas and techniques.
A very practical, empowering teaching, makes even 'advanced' meditation states like rapture, tranquility, and samādhi accessible along with deeper insight into the dhamma.
The course seems to break new ground in its emphasis on life-affirming ways of studying and living the dharma, as well as bringing some clear suggestions on how to live Buddhist ethics in our rather scary and cynicism-prone modern times.
John Peacock

John Peacock

John Peacock is a retired academic and a Buddhist practitioner for over fifty years. He initially trained in the Tibetan Gelugpa tradition in India and subsequently studied Theravada in Sri Lanka. He lectured in philosophy at the University of Manchester, Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol and finally became co-director of the Masters degree in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy at the University of Oxford. John has been teaching meditation for over thirty years and continues to research and teach the similarities and differences between early Greek thought and practice, existentialism and early Buddhism. He has a particular focus on ethics within all of these different approaches.

Akincano Weber

Akincano Weber

Akincano M. Weber is a European Buddhist teacher and contemplative psycho­therapist (MA). A former monk, he has lived and practised for 20 years in European and Thai Forest monasteries. Today he is the guiding teacher of Atammaya Cologne, co-founder of Bodhi College and part of several dharma and mindfulness teacher training programmes. He has been teaching meditation and Buddhist Psychology in secular and traditional contexts in Europe and overseas for many years and lives with his partner in the Rhineland, Germany.

Akincano has a particular interest in contemplative psychology, the practice of stillness, and the cultural translation of the wisdom teachings of early Buddhism for people of today.

Course Curriculum

Click the arrow below to see the full program.

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  Unit 1: Why Ethics?
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  Unit 2: The Eightfold Path to Ethical Living
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  Unit 3: Ethics and the Brahmaviharas
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  Unit 4: Precepts as Ethical Questions
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  Unit 5: Self-Respect and Respect for Others
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  Unit 6: Ethics, Society, and Engagement
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  Continuing Your Journey
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How the Journey Unfolds

This six-unit online course blazes with insights into the nature of the mind, living wisely, and the Buddhist path itself.

Unit 1 | Why Ethics?

Why do we practice Buddhism? Why do we meditate? Our suggestion is that the awareness we're developing through these practices is in service of how we live. It's about ethics. In this course we will show the overwhelming importance of holding ethics in mind continuously. It's a reversal from the usual ways that we understand this path: ethics is a foundation but it also becomes the end goal.

Two questions we might ask ourselves as we embark on this path are, "How should I live?" and "What should I do?"

Unit 2 | The Eightfold Path to Ethical Living

The key to this unit is a neglected and misunderstood element of Buddhist practice: care (appamāda). So, we will approach the eightfold path in terms of care and consideration. This is in contrast to thinking of mindfulness and the other path factors simply as techniques that we apply mechanically. In doing this, the eightfold path becomes a wholehearted practice.

Unit 3 | Ethics and the Brahmaviharas

Let's look at the ethical implications of the Brahmavihāras. These four qualities of the heart are:

  1. lovingkindness
  2. compassion
  3. empathetic joy
  4. equanimity.

These are the most primary ethical expression that we see in Buddhism, and particularly in the early texts where the Brahmavihāras are mentioned again and again. We wish to emphasize these four qualities as ways of looking at the world, being in the world, and particularly as ways of into relating with others.

Unit 4 | The Precepts as Ethical Questions

In this unit, we will examine the five precepts. The word "precept" means a rule of training. We're training ourselves in five areas of ethical awareness, opening ourselves up to everyday ethical questions around:

  1. relationships of harm
  2. relationships of appropriation
  3. our sensual world
  4. our speech
  5. our relationship to the addictive and intoxicating.

These cover major parts of our lives, and we'll look carefully at these and discuss the implications of them in our day-to-day lives.

Unit 5 | Self Respect and Respect for Others

Self-respect and respect for others are said to be the guardians of the world, without which societies could not function. The key terms are hiri (self-respect) and ottopa (respect for others). These terms are often mangled in translation and we are trying to rescue them from misunderstanding. We will make sense of them, psychologize them, and unpack the implications of these two key foundations for ethical development.

Unit 6 | Ethics, Society, and Engagement

In the sixth and final module, we will weave together the elements of the course and extend it further into the social realm. Ethics can't be developed in isolation: it can only be developed in a context with others.

We'll also discuss how ethics impacts every aspect of our lives. And there will be some final reflections on the relationship of Buddhist teachings on "not self" to the development of ethics.

A comical illustration of an elephant filling a dharma hall while meditators ignore it.

The Elephant in the Dharma Hall

"The elephant in the Dharma Hall was the unquestioned social, political, and ethical dimensions of the structures that we all inhabit. Despite its looming presence, this elephant is mostly ignored. There is a refusal to recognize its existence, let alone address it in any significant way. It appeared to me then, as it does now, that unless we bring into full recognition our implication in the devastation of the world via our unexamined complicity in the capitalist and consumerist structures that bring about that devastation, then something is horribly awry with contemporary Buddhism and the mindfulness movements that have their origins in Buddhism."

—John Peacock, 'The Elephant in the Dharma Hall'

A Note From the Editor

The Good Life: Understanding Buddhist Ethics sees John Peacock and Akincano Weber reunited after their popular course, The Spiral to Freedom, which received some of the strongest positive feedback of any of our offerings. The topic of ethics is especially close to John's heart and, for him, The Good Life is by far the most important course he has been involved with. Akincano, too, firmly believes that ethics has been undervalued during Buddhism's transmission to Western cultures so far.

This course is essential for those interested in ethics and philosophy, but also for anyone looking for a holistic vision of Buddhist practice that encompasses the whole of their lives and relationships. So while The Good Life isn't focused on solitary meditation, this too is an area that can dramatically improve through an informed practice of ethics. And this course presents ethics as exactly that: something we can do. Expect a deepening program of guidance and meditation, edifying discussions, as well as a radical and sometimes provocative emphasis on ethics and engagement as the true heart of the Buddhist path.

—Mark Cooper, Course Developer

About Bodhi College

The purpose of Bodhi College is to develop fresh ways of understanding the dharma today through rediscovering the core insights of early Buddhist teachings. Courses provide a contemplative education that inspires students to realize the values of the dharma (Buddhist teachings) in the context of this secular age and culture.

In the spirit of the Buddha’s teaching, Bodhi College is committed to a middle way of human awakening that integrates theory with practice, encouraging both personal fulfillment and social engagement.