Dharma, Truth, & Justice – Online Retreat, 22–23 August

Dharma Weekend Retreat


Dharma – what is it? This complex word has a wide range of meanings: from the basis of natural order to social duty.

Join us to explore dharma and its implications in times of upheaval, with a focus on finding our purpose by acting with virtue.

How do we determine truth? When do we resist injustice? And by what means? Which principles shape ethical conduct?

To guide us, we will read passages from the Mahābhārata – including its best-known section, the Bhagavad Gītā – and we will reflect on how ancient teachings apply to modern challenges.

The weekend will be a mixture of study, discussion, and practice.

With a grounding in traditional texts, we will investigate together how they relate to us personally, how our actions affect others, and what our collective dharma might be in the world. We will contemplate ways to deepen our connection to an innate sense of fairness, and ways to express this by serving our communities.


When: Saturday 22 – Sunday 23 August 2020

Where: In our virtual classroom on Zoom: access details will be sent on enrolment.


New York: Zoë Slatoff

UK: Dr Nick Sutton and Daniel Simpson

Timings (each day)

Times include a 60 minute break in the middle of the day

US Eastern Time (New York): 10.00am–4.00pm

UK Time: 3.00pm–9.00pm

GMT/UTC: 2.00pm–8.00pm

Time-zones don’t work for you? Enrolment gives you access to recordings of all sessions and digital copies of presentations.

Both Days: £125

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Day One Only: £75

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Day Two Only: £75

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Day One: Saturday 22 August


We begin by discussing guiding principles that shape how we live. This will provide a foundation for reading texts together and seeing how they resonate with us.

Tutor: Daniel Simpson & Zoe Slatoff
3.00 – 3.30 pm (UK)
10.00 – 10.30 am (US EDT)
Defining Dharma

We will examine different definitions of the word dharma, looking closely at texts, such as the Bhagavad Gītā, which use the word in a number of ways. The meaning of dharma depends on context, with a range of possibilities even within the same work.

Tutor: Zoë Slatoff
3.40–4.40 pm (UK)
10.40–11.40 am (US EDT)
Designs for Life

Traditionally, humans are said to have four goals in life – the puruṣārthas of duty, prosperity, love, and liberation (dharmaarthakāma, and mokṣa). The Mahābhārata asks which of these goals should take priority. Is spiritual freedom compatible with all of them? 

Tutor: Daniel Simpson
4.50–5.50pm (UK)
11.50am–12.50pm (US EDT)

Break (60 Minutes)

Roots of Action

In Sanskrit, everything begins as an action: nouns are derived from verbal roots. Dharma comes from dhṛ, which means “to hold, bear, support.” This is also the root of dhāraṇā, “concentration,” which we will put into practice with Vedic chanting and meditation.

Tutor: Zoë Slatoff
6.50–7.50 pm (UK)
1.50–2.50 pm (US EDT)
Ethical Tensions

There are multiple visions of virtue in the Mahābhārata. None of them are absolute and some contradict others. There are three general categories: social obligations, moral principles, and ascetic spirituality. How are they reconciled, both in theory and practice?

Tutor: Daniel Simpson
8.00–9.00pm (UK)
3.00–4.00 pm (US EDT)

Day Two: Sunday 23 August

Why Dharma Matters

Dharma is the very essence of Indian teachings and without it the vast array of spiritual practices are little more than window-dressing. We will explore the implications with the author of many of the OCHS’s online courses.

Tutor: Dr Nicholas Sutton
3.00–4.00 pm (UK)
10.00–11.00 am (US EDT)
Political Dimensions

The Mahābhārata’s ethical teachings were shaped by a war. Today, we are searching for truth in the midst of “Fake News.” Without drama there would be no dharma, but how do we find calm in the midst of such chaos, and what is a dharmic response?

Tutor: Daniel Simpson
4.10–5.10pm (UK)
11.10am–12.10pm (US EDT)

Break (60 Minutes)

Modern Contexts

How might dharma be put into practice in everyday life? Facing challenges this year, we have constantly been asked to re-evaluate our actions, both individually and collectively, and to consider their implications for ourselves and for others.

Tutor: Zoë Slatoff
6.10–6.55 pm (UK)
1.10–1.55 pm (US EDT)
Shades of Grey

Working in groups, we will discuss some case studies. These examples will explore what is dharmic in different nuanced situations, encouraging us to consider if there is ever one way to act that is unequivocally “right”.

Tutor: Daniel Simpson & Zoë Slatoff
7.05–7.50 pm (UK)
2.05–2.50 pm (NY)
Embodied Rituals

We conclude with a practical session combining chanting, meditation, writing, and setting intentions for how to apply what we have learned in our lives. We will also reflect on the meaning of ritual and how it relates to taking action.

Tutor: Daniel Simpson & Zoë Slatoff
8.00–9.00 pm (UK)
3.00–4.00 pm (US EDT)


Dr Nick Sutton

Dr Nick Sutton

Nick is the Director – and the heart and soul – of the OCHS Continuing Education Department. He is a dedicated teacher with decades of experience in making sometimes-confusing traditions relevant. He has created ten online courses and is working on many more. He has written translations and commentary on Bhagavad Gītā and the Yoga Sūtra.

Daniel Simpson

Daniel Simpson

Daniel Simpson teaches OCHS courses on the history and philosophy of yoga, and the Vedas and Upanishads. He is the author of The Truth of Yoga, a comprehensive guide to how yoga practice evolved. He originally studied at Cambridge, and earned his Master’s degree from SOAS, University of London. He is also a devoted yoga practitioner and teacher.

Zoe Slatoff

Zoë Slatoff

Zoë has a Master’s degree in Asian Languages and Culture from Columbia University. She is the author of Yogāvatāraṇam, a Sanskrit textbook for yoga students, from which she teaches Sanskrit courses for the OCHS. Zoë is currently working on a PhD about Yoga and Advaita Vedānta at Lancaster University. She has been the Sanskrit editor for Pushpam Magazine, Nāmarūpa, and Robert Svoboda’s book Vāstu. Zoë teaches daily Mysore classes as well as Sanskrit and yoga philosophy at her shala in New York.


Enrolment fee £125 for both days

or £75 for one day

includes access to all sessions
and video recordings after the event ends.

Dharma Retreat Both Days

Both Days: Saturday 22–Sunday 23 August 


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Dharma Retreat Day One

Day One Only: Saturday 22 August


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Dharma Retreat Day Two

Day Two Only: Sunday 23 August


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