From a Buddhist perspective, anything to do with other people can be considered social action: how we relate to the individuals close to us such as family or neighbours, to society at large and to the world around us. The field of social action expands out, but it begins with ourselves and our relationships to others.
The individual is at the core of all relationships between any parts of society. We must always return to that core, to recognize that our own actions affect other people and the society around us. This is simply the basic law of karma – anything we do affects ourselves and others. It’s not a matter of ‘me’ and ‘society,’ as if they were separate. There isn’t really any separation. The two are interrelated all the time.
What we bring to the society around us are simply our own qualities of mind, of heart, of being – our intentions and how they manifest in our actions. In order to understand our effects on society, we first have to understand ourselves, to see these qualities more clearly. The ability we have to help others, or to do anything to affect others, is dependent upon the clarity, intention and integrity with which we live our lives. These things are inseparable.
As such, the way we train ourselves is equally important to any actions we take outside ourselves.
This reflection by Luang Por Pasanno is from the book, The Dhamma and the Real World 2016, Laying the Foundation for Social Action, (pdf) pp.17-18.