History of SEM

Founded by Ajarn Sulak Sivaraksa in 1968, The Sathirakoses-Nagapradipa Foundation (SNF) is a Thai non-governmental organisation guided by a spiritual, environmental, and activist vision. The foundation is named after the late two prominent Thai scholars, Sathirakoses and Nagapradipa, who were the intellectual link of the traditional and modern Thai society transformation.

SNF has become the ‘mother’ foundation for the seven sister organisations that have continued to struggle at the grassroots, national, regional and international levels for human rights, cultural and ecological integrity, and social justice.

One characteristic that distinguishes SNF from other Thai NGOs is its deep commitment to spiritual development. Members of SNF believe that inner change (personal development) and outer change (political, economic, and structural changes) must go hand in hand to bring about a transformation of society. Together with the people of Siam/Thailand and other concerned citizens from around the world, our network is working to cultivate the seeds of peace and to lay the foundation for meaningful social change.

SEM was founded in 1995, under the auspices of the Foundation. It was set-up with the award prize recieved by Ajarn Sulak from the Right Livelihood Award.

Three venerable monks are the founding patrons of SEM:

  • P.A Payutto (Thailand)
  • Ven. Maha Gohsananda (Cambodia and USA)
  • Thich Nhat Hanh (Vietnam and France)


The name SEM comes from an abbreviation of the organisations’ name in Thai language, semsikkhalai. Sem is derived from the venerated Dr. Sem Pringpuangkeo, in order to honour his legacy of dedicated work that supported, and continues to support Thai society. Sikkha is a pali word, translated as education or training. Sikkha is further defined by three components, sila (morality), samadhi (concentration), and panna (wisdom). These components are important aspects of education because they encourage authenticity to flourish. Lai is an abbreviated form of mahavittiyalai, which is the Thai word for university, or place of higher learning. Together, both the Thai and English titles illustrate SEM as an organisation working on education grounded in spirituality, which supports people to serve each other and society.

© Copyright Spirit in Education Movement (SEM) - Designed by Tiddin Design