BUD 700

Madhyamakavatara I: Entrance to the Middle Way (SPOC)

This course is an in-depth study of Chandrakīrti's Madhyamakāvatāra based on the commentary by the Eight Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje (1507-1554). It begins with the presentation of the Madhyamaka of the model texts followed by a close examination of the first five Madhyamakāvatāra's chapters, which correlate with the first five bodhisattva bhūmis. Several difficult points are covered, such as the three reasons which prove that arhats realize selflessness of persons.

The course features audio recordings of 15 lectures given by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche at Nitartha Institute, Gampo Abbey, Nova Scotia, Canada in June 1997, verse by verse commentary on Madhyamakāvatāra’s chapters 1-5, on the basis of Mikyö Dorje’s The Chariot of the Dakpo Kagyü Siddhas. Those lectures were given in English and are usually 90 min. long. Talks include lively Q&A discussions with students.

It also features video recordings of lectures by Dr. Phil Stanley corresponding to each of Rinpoche's talks, given to online students during the 2020 Spring Semester.

Students are also provided with review questions, analytical meditation topics, debate topics, handouts and charts, to support their journey through the course material.


  • It is very helpful to have studied Nitartha's Foundation and Intermediate curricula before taking this course. Those courses are required for students seeking credit towards a completion certificate.


  • The Karmapa’s Middle Way: Feast for the Fortunate, A Commentary on Chandrakirti’s Madhyamakāvatāra by Wangchuk Dorje, translated by Tyler Dewar, 2008 Snow Lion Publications
  • Commentary on The Entrance to the Middle Way (Madhyamakavatara) Chapters 1 – 5, by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Nitartha Institute Publications



Nitartha’s Payment Plan and Financial Assistance (PPFA) program is funded by fellow students to support those who would not be able to attend the Institute’s courses without this assistance. To request aid, please fill out the PPFA application before you register for the course.


Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche


Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Nitartha’s president and spiritual director, founded Nitartha Institute under the guidance of Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, two of the leading contemporary teachers of the Karma Kagyü and Nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche is renowned as one of the foremost scholars of his generation in the Kagyü and Nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. He is a graduate of the Karma Shri Nalanda Institute at Rumtek and has completed courses of study in English and comparative religion at Columbia University. Rinpoche is an accomplished meditation master, calligrapher, visual artist, and poet. He travels and teaches widely and is well-versed in Western culture and technology. He is known for his warmth, humor, and lucid presentation of Buddhist teachings in a manner relevant to contemporary life.


Buddhist teacher, Dr. Phil Stanley teaching at Nitartha Institute.

Dr. Phil Stanley


Dr. Phil Stanley has been involved in Nitartha Institute since its founding in 1996 and serves as its Dean of Academic Affairs. He is an Professor of Religious Studies at Naropa University where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Buddhism and Tibetan language. He is Co-Director of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon Catalog of the Tibetan and Himalayan Library at the University of Virginia, Co-Convener of the Union Catalog of Buddhist Texts, and Vice-Chair of the International Association of Buddhist Universities.