Update July 5, 2014: After receiving many questions about the basic practices of Tibetan Buddhism, we created A Practical Guide to Tibetan Buddhism: Tools for Beginners, an 8-week course meant to supplement your work with a class or a teacher.
One of the greatest pleasures of running the YoWangdu site is meeting new friends who love Tibetan culture as much as we do, and sharing together new things that we discover and learn. This guest post is from one new friend, Ron Fairfield from the UK, who shares with us the results of his preliminary research into finding a good online course of study to learn Buddhism, specifically Tibetan Buddhism. We don’t have personal experience with the courses that he has found, and cannot therefore recommend any of them in particular, but we think that Ron’s careful research is valuable to us all as a starting point for anyone interested to learn Buddhism online.
I have dabbled in the Dharma path over many years and have used the Internet to find nuggets of Dharma knowledge, but pulling all the information together into a coherent study path has proved complicated.
I decided that I needed a structured formal course of study with access to teachers with a proven lineage and an understanding of the western mind. With the Internet now giving access to the many traditional Tibetan Buddhist teachers and Buddhist centres of learning, my search began for an online course that would guide me and support my spiritual path.
I contacted Lobsang as I have enjoyed his blog and the personal insights that it gives to Tibet and its culture, and out of our connection this article was born.
A Summary of the Results of my Search for an Online Course in Tibetan Buddhism
This is by no means a complete list of every course available and I have made no attempt to assess the particular benefits of one course over another, but hopefully my efforts can serve as a starting point for your own journey.
In fact I would love to hear from you of your experience of any of the many courses available. Please either contact me or Lobsang at the email addresses given at the end of this article, or if you don’t mind, just leave a comment at the end of this post. If we get new information, we can update this post.
Rangjung Yeshe Institute
The Kathmandu University Centre for Buddhist Studies at Rangjung Yeshe Institute offers online Buddhist studies courses in several different course formats. Most courses begin September 3rd. They also have trial one-week courses, which is a useful way to experience a taste of the courses available.
The “Foundations of Buddhism” course is $149 for the self-study option with no interactivity. The more interactive course, including an online forum etc., is $295. For those who wish to use the courses as credits towards other universities, the Credits course gives 3 credits at the end, and costs $840. There are a further 9 courses of deeper and deeper knowledge, all with a similar course structure. Four new self-study courses starting this semester are priced as follows:
Life of the Buddha $21
Basics of Mahāyāna Thought $42
Basics of Buddhist Philosophy $42
A Brilliant Sun Offered by Donation
This site is an offshoot of the Rangjung Yeshe Institute, and offers a practice program called the “Entire Buddhist Path.” The program is described as a gradual online meditation program which “will awaken and bring to fruition your innate pure nature by eliminating negative emotions and thoughts, through cultivating the skills needed to become calm, kind and clear which results in the unfolding of your enlightened mind.”
The fee structure is referred to as a contribution and the course is divided into the First, Second and Third Excellence. Contributions are listed as follows:
- For the First Excellence, which offers 122 days of material, $180 USD.
- For the Second Excellence part I, which offers 140 days of material, $208 USD.
- The contributions for the Second Excellence part II and part III and for the Third Excellence will be announced soon.
Kagyu Samye Ling
Kagyu Samy Ling is the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre in the West, founded in 1967 by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche, and currently under the guidance of Abbot Lama Yeshe Losal. The online course evolved in response to increasing demands for a structured and comprehensive Dharma study course. Based on the traditional teachings of the finest Tibetan masters who have visited and taught at Samye Ling, it was launched in sping 2008 jointly by Kagyu Samye Monastery and Dharmacharya Ken Holmes as a three-year programme composed of thirty modules. The course is over 3 years and the fees are:
£75 per year or £40 concession which gives 10 monthly study packs and a student online forum.
The course details are available at http://www.calm-and-clear.eu/nangiintro.html
Jamyang Buddhist Centre
Jamyang Buddhist Centre is a Buddhist and meditation centre in London UK that offers an online study course affiliated to the well-known Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an organisation of over 120 centres in 32 countries, started in the 1970s by Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
The Foundation of Buddhist Thought is structured into six four-month modules:
- The Four Noble Truths
- Relative Truth
- Ultimate Truth
- Buddhist Psychology
- The Awakening Mind
- An Overview of Tantric Paths and Grounds
- Option 1 — £370 GBP a year, £128 GBP a module (or £32 GBP a month). You download all audio material from the on-line Study Centre
- Option 2 — £400 GBP a year, £134 GBP a module (or £34 a month). The on-line Study Centre sends you the 6 MP3 CDs of the course
Online Buddhism Class
This is not strictly an online course but it is free! This is a volunteer-driven organisation arising out of his Holiness’s desire for Tibetans to know and understand more of their religion. You have to register to take part in the online classes and you can ask questions.
There is also a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/OnlineBuddhismClass
This is only a short list of the many courses available, if anyone wants to share others please feel free to email me at siyron [AT sign] yahoo.co.uk or Lobsang here on the blog.
Thanks for reading and Dharma blessings,
Ron Fairfield, UK
The information was correct at the time this article was written but I apologise for any omissions or mistakes.
Updates from Yolanda and Lobsang on October 28, 2012
Thanks to Bill Davis and Linda for some other, very good, resources:
Bill notes: “I highly recommend visiting the Tibetan Buddhist web site of Alexander Berzin. It has the most extensive amount of texts and teachings in audio for free. You can also volunteer to help edit or transcribe texts that are being prepared for addition to the web site. Alexander Berzin is a close friend and works with the Dalai Lama, including preparing teaching materials and translations of esoteric texts for His Holiness when he teaches in various languages….Including extensive introductory and other materials prepared for the Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra initiations at:
Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) Online Programs
Linda comments: “I am amazed at what you missed, possibly because of your lineage preferences, though I note you have Lama Tashi. At http://www.fpmt.org/education.html you can see the full array of educational offerings of FPMT. http://onlinelearning.fpmt.org/ has the on line programs. They range from begiinner level classes to a masters level program that is 6 years in length that involves studying the great texts studied in the monasteries (Ornament of Clear Reasoning, Introduction to the Middle Way, Abhidharmakosha)…instead of Vinaya the last year is spent studying tantra. These classes are conducted five days a week for two hours a day, so it’s intensive. I’m currently a student in this program. THis link has an overview of all programs (not online programs at FPMT) http://www.fpmt.org/education/programs.html
It details the Masters Program as well as Maitripa’s program which is accredited. The link leads to http://www.maitripa.org/ .
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Studying Tibetan Buddhism Online guest post by Ron Fairfield.
YoWangdu Tibetan Culture blog
By Lobsang Wangdu