The School of English for Engaged Social Service (SENS) proudly takes its name from the School of Youth for Social Service, which Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh founded in 1964-65 to meet the crisis in the Vietnamese countryside created by war.

The School of English for Engaged Social Service was founded by Sulak Sivaraksa and others in 2015 to meet the crises of climate change, increasing social inequality, and individual confusion and despair about what to do. Its aim is to create a safe and supportive place for learning English as a tool for leadership, self-cultivation, and social transformation.

“Engaged” means that we learn to support each other with our mind, our senses, and our spirit fully present. It means that we work in service to society and all living beings from a place of openness and vulnerability, respecting the dignity and equality of those we encounter and assist, and ready to learn from them.

Our acronym, SENS, is a beautiful French word with many meanings. It is pronounced something like “saungs.” “Sens” in French means:

  • sense” as in the five senses. We rely on our experience, made possible through the senses, to test and to experience what is true, and to learn from experience what creates peace, clarity, and confidence.
  • instinct,” or to have an “intuitive sense” of things. Over time our mind builds up an intuitive sense of what to do, what to say, or how to behave. We can say, for example, a sense of humor, a critical sense, an aesthetic sense, or importantly, a moral sense. A moral sense helps us discern quickly what is important, what is going on, and how we can best respond.
  • judgment” or “reason” In French you can say “a mon sense,” which means “to my mind” or “in my opinion.” “Le bon sense” means “good sense” or “common sense.” We rely on reason and good judgment.
  • meaning.” We are always invariably interpreting the meaning of life and what goes on around us. Now it is important to understand the meaning of our time, and how it beckons us to respond.
  • direction” or “way.” Responding intelligently and boldly to the crises of the present requires that each of us set a personal direction that grows out of our genuine desire, love, and commitment. It also means that we agree on common goals and learn to cooperate and work together for a humane future for everyone.

Information about the SENS program in 2024: