Six New, Free, Self-paced, Online "Courses" in Buddhism

Though already leaked in another thread, today I’m happy to formally announce the creation of not one but six free, self-paced, online “courses” in Buddhism:

[EDIT: In response to the feedback on this thread and elsewhere, I’ve made a new website for these courses. If you prefer that format to the Google Docs linked below, you can find them here]

:eight_pointed_black_star: Buddhism 101

:eight_pointed_black_star: The Early Buddhist Texts

:eight_pointed_black_star: The Forms of Buddhism :star:

:eight_pointed_black_star: The Function of Buddhism :star:

:eight_pointed_black_star: Buddhist Philosophy

:eight_pointed_black_star: The Majjhima Nikaya

  • where the “:star:” marks the two courses I’m especially proud of

Oh my!

But don’t worry: while these courses were compiled by yours truly, they are taught by actual scholars like Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhante @sujato.

Please feel free to check them out at your leisure and send me any feedback you have. I hope reading them is as useful for your studies as compiling them has been for mine!

Changes to the Library

These courses and some other changes (discussed below) mark a significant step forward (conceptually if not practically) for my library (originally announced here) towards the eventual goal of providing a free curriculum for Buddhist studies. While still quite far from that goal, this version represents a big enough step towards it that I have decided to call it “v2”

In addition to beginning to write formal course outlines for the more mature folders, a large amount of content (hundreds of files!) have been added since v1. The most significant additions since v1.3 being:

And last but not least, I have created a Library Catalog to the (now “meta”) top-level folder, listing the files and folders across the whole library. I hope it will facilitate search, orientation, and downloading… or at the very least give a sense of the Library’s scope.

Happy reading! :nerd_face:

~ The Librarian


Thank you, Bhante! That is a lot to review. :open_mouth:

I’ll have to take it bit by bit…

Buddhism 101

assumption that we are at the center of the universe.

This introduction might alienate some who don’t think of themselves as the center of the universe, since 'the center" is singular and we do experience others with similar perspectives. A simple change from “the center” to “a center” might be more inclusive.

If you’re wondering if this is the right class for you, start here:

Some people need more than a link to a reading list.

In college I always sought the courses with the least reading. This allowed me to skim the obvious yet forced me to bash my head on the incomprehensibly simple. This was my experience of Feynman physics: lots of clear sailing interspersed with deadly sandbars of despair and confusion. Given Pavlov, it was also absolutely engaging.

I’d add a few direct EBT quotes to Buddhism 101 to spice up the presentation to challenge and engage lazy readers to delve deeper. Such quotes would be more powerful than a simple “start here”. For example, a relevant quote might be There are two conditions for the arising of right view. What two? The words of another and proper attention.

Since this is my primary interest,

Advocacy of self in an introduction about not self is odd. Perhaps “this course is addressed to…” or “this course is focused on…,” etc.?


The gift of Dhamma is the greatest gift. Thank you, Venerable. :anjal: :bowing_woman:


Wow, Bhante. I seem to have stumbled onto a treasure trove - I feel lucky to have clicked this hi-tech sounding title.

Preliminary feedback: can the title of this post be modified to more clearly reflect the content of it?

Something along the lines of say:

Buddhism Curriculum - Six Free, Self-Paced, Online “Courses” in Buddhism

What do you think?

This is one of the first time I am ever going to use the bookmark feature :upside_down_face: I thought to let you know. :pray::slightly_smiling_face::dharmawheel:


I missed the “leak”, so this is the first glimpse I’m getting of these courses. They look extremely excellent, congratulations! My first thought was, “Hmm, I wonder if I can use these for teaching?” My second thought was “Hmm, can’t we get them in a better format than Google Docs?” :laughing:


:thinking: Interesting. The “subconscious” qualifier (cut from your pull quote) and the “at” were meant to capture this nuance: that it isn’t about belief so much as perception. And it was meant to be slightly provocative: to point out the selfishness (and immorality) of this perceptual mode, which the “And why not?” was meant to soften. Instead of “assumption” if I say “perception” would that solve this issue for you? Or am I misunderstanding your critique?

I love this idea! I think after all your work on Voice you probably have a larger spice rack of sutta snippets than I do, so if you have any more recommendations for specific, intriguing “pull quotes” to sprinkle about, please feel free to suggest them! (Should I just use the “Inspire Me” list?)

:grimacing: Point well taken. Fixed, thanks!


It can and has been! Thanks!

I kept a “[BGL]” tag though so that future updates can be linked to this post


No problem at all. What exactly is BGL?

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Thanks Bhante! :grin::pray:

It’s all open source and public domain, so feel free to use whatever is useful! I’d be honored :slightly_smiling_face:

What would be a better format?


“Buddhist G-Library” my silly name for this thing. :slight_smile:


Many Thanks to ‘The Librarian’ :smiley: :revolving_hearts:

Sadhu Sadhu Sadhu
:pray: :pray: :pray:


What exactly is does the “G” stand for in “G-Library”?


Well, my first inclination would be plain ol’ HTML, using a static site generator. That would give something clean, light, available on every device, and free. But perhaps there is a cooler way more adapted to the specific form of online courses, I don’t know. It may be worth looking into how people are presenting such stuff. Having said which, I think most online portals are way over-engineered, so what would I know?


It’s a wonderful resource. Thanks! However, having it as a document makes it feel a little fussy.

The other issue is that Google is blocked in China, a problem I’ve sometimes had to contend with when I’m travelling and get work-related requests to “just fill in this form…”

However, it’s trivial to export it as HTML, though when I did that directly from Google Docs it lost the contents bar on the left.

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At the moment it stands for “Google Drive” A bit of a reference to the Buddhist eLibrary which was one of the inspirations for this project. :grinning:

Google Docs is free and is available on almost every device… And you can easily fork documents, save them offline in-app or in a variety of formats, can comment/suggest changes inline…

But I do agree that it would be more respectable (discoverable, etc) as a proper website.

Which is why I’m not over-engineering this thing at the moment and am simply focusing on creating high-quality content. My own ease of content creation is the primary concern for the first few years while I’m still drafting the curriculum.

But yes, of course, you’re right that eventually (in 4 years?) it will have to be A Proper Website™️ if anyone is to take this thing seriously.

At which point I guess the G will stand for Git :joy:

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(reading a bit more today…)

What is the Function of Buddhism?

The Function of Buddhism is to support our cultivation of virtues, mental clarity, and wisdom.

This puzzled me. I thought the function of Buddhism was to end suffering?

This would be a great place for a quote from the suttas regarding the Four Noble Truths.

I recommend trying to make it through two chapters of the textbook per week,

As a parent frustrated for decades by the robotic conveyor belts of the US school system, I protest time objectives. They are cruel. Please focus on learning objectives, what we should learn. And perhaps the simplest learning objectives would be to read and understand a handful of suttas, using the provided material as guides.

Putting Cruelty First - Judith Shklar.pdf

What a fascinating read! “Why must you liberals always put cruelty first?”
Then I read MN8 and just started laughing. There the Buddha put cruelty first…

MN8:12.2: ‘Others will be cruel, but here we will not be cruel.’

Stages of Enlightenment.pdf

Great chart. One of the threads this chart brings up is rebirth and non-return. That might be a critical study thread to follow because it forces us to face the uncomfortable truth that conventionally we all crave rebirth and continued existence. In other words, “why on earth would we want to not return?” :thinking:

Buddhist Intro Anthology Bhikkhu Bodhi.docx

The endless redirection of the abhidhamma is vexing. Perhaps provide direct links to the suttas themselves followed by a link to Bhikkhu Bodhis own paper, which is difficult to read. SC is so much more legible.

What Buddhism does uniquely have is the path beyond suffering. For, no matter how rich and privileged you are, no matter how nice and kind and even saintly you become, even the best life still has its ups and downs.

:man_cartwheeling: :heart:

and why do we have to wade through all the preceding to read this heart-felt gem? :smile:

Keep it here, but start out with it as well. Here’s a mysterious quote from the Buddha that could start the whole document:

AN6.61:8.4: That’s how a mendicant directly knows what should be directly known and completely understands what should be completely understood. Knowing and understanding thus they make an end of suffering in this very life.”

It’s from a sutta that has all the disciples confused, eyes crossed, hands waving. A wonderful sutta. Throw them in the deep end of the pool. Your course is the lifesaver. :grin:


I quite agree tbh. I didn’t have these sections at first, but my first tester requested them… I’ll remove and follow up with him to see what the real need is.

Yeah! I’m glad you noticed. What did you make of that little surprise? From your post here I guess you simply thought: “Alex is wrong” :joy:

I was following Bhikkhu Bodhi’s suggestion that since Right View contains the Four Noble Truths, it’s equally valid to place the Path as the root node and the 4NT under wisdom. In our individualistic, “what can I get out of this” culture it’s natural to think in terms of putting the 4NT first, but I think even those who don’t end suffering in this life can be considered Buddhists so long as they cultivated the virtues.

Right?! I loved that essay too. :blush: Thanks for the sutta quotes!


I think you meant to say, “It’s trivial to export it as Google Drive’s galactically hypercrap HTML.” :wink:

Right, as an editing platform it works fine. It’s just, from the PoV of creating quality, lasting product, starting with a WYSIWYG editor is always more work down the line. But anyway, if it’s a fairly small amount of content it’s not such a big deal.

One thing to bear in mind: most of your users will be on mobiles, and PDFs are terrible for small screens.

I took the liberty of playing around with this few and made the following, with a Home page and just one course. Only the first card works! Click on index.html to see the full glory! It’s nothing special, but:

  1. Well-formed and semantic HTML
  2. Highly legible and accessible
  3. Auto-generated Table of Contents (that’s the only javascript, I swear!) (10.2 KB)


Well, of course. It’s just substituting one opaque format for another… :rofl:

I must say, your HTML is nicely formatted… :pray:

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Alright Bhante @sujato and @Snowbird and @mikenz66… You win: