Advanced Curriculum

Having acquired a firm basis in the Buddhist philosophical views through the foundation and intermediate levels, Nitartha’s Advanced Curriculum offers studies of the principal Indian shastras themselves, with authoritative commentaries by leading Kagyü and Nyingma masters. It consists of the Core Advanced Curriculum and the Extended Advanced Curriculum.

Since the Core Advanced Curriculum is aligned with each of the three turnings of the wheel of dharma, taking the advanced courses in the sequence listed below is recommended. The Advanced Curriculum also includes new topics not found in the foundation and intermediate levels, such as Vajrayana and Shentong Madhyamaka.

Foundation Curriculum
Intermediate Curriculum
Advanced Curriculum

Complete List of Advanced Courses

Advanced Curriculum — First Turning

BUD 681 Abhidharmakosha I: Treasury of AbhidharmaBUD 682 Abhidharmakosha II: Treasury of AbhidharmaBUD 690 Pramanavarttika I: Commentary on Valid CognitionBUD 691 Pramanavarttika II: Commentary on Valid Cognition

Advanced Curriculum — Second Turning

BUD 700 Madhyamakavatara I: Entrance to the Middle WayBUD 701 Madhyamakavatara II: Entrance to the Middle WayBUD 702 Madhyamakavatara III: Entrance to the Middle WayBUD 703 Madhyamakavatara IV: Entrance to the Middle WayBUD 710 Abhisamayalamkara I: Ornament of Clear RealizationBUD 711 Abhisamayalamkara II: Ornament of Clear RealizationBUD 712 Abhisamayalamkara III: Ornament of Clear RealizationBUD 713 Abhisamayalamkara IV: Ornament of Clear Realization

Advanced Curriculum — Third Turning

BUD 760 Madhyantavibhaga: Distinction between the Middle and ExtremesBUD 770 Dharmadharmatavibhaga: Distinction between Phenomena and the Nature of PhenomenaBUD 780 Uttaratantra & Sutras of the Third Turning: The Highest Continuum

Extended Advanced Curriculum

BUD 704 Catuhshataka: Four Hundred VersesBUD 705 Madhyamakalamkara: Ornament to the Middle WayBUD 706 Bodhicaryavatara: Entrance to the Bodhisattva’s Way of LifeBUD 714 Mahayanasutralamkara: Ornament of the Great Vehicle SutrasBUD 781 Dharmadhatustava: In Praise of DharmadhatuBUD 796 Beacon of Certainty

Advanced Course Descriptions

BUD 681 Abhidharmakosha I: Treasury of Abhidharma

This course is an in-depth study of Abhidharmakosha by Vasubandhu (ca. 4th century) — the seminal work of the Buddhist Abhidharma tradition — based on the commentary by the Eight Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje (1507-1554). Students explore the first four chapters, covering topics of phenomenology — the skandhas, ayatanas, dhatus, and faculties; the truth of suffering — the outer vessel (the world) and its inner content (sentient beings); and karma — from which the world and its beings arise.

PREREQUISITE: BUD 620

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • Overview of the Abhidharmakosha, by Acharya Kelsang Wangdi, Nitartha Institute Publications
    • Ornament of Abhidharma: A Commentary on Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakosha by Chim Jampalyang, translated by Ian James Coghlan, 2019, Wisdom Publications
    • Jewels from the Treasury: Vasubandhu’s Verses on the Treasury of Abhidharma and Its Commentary Youthful Play by the Ninth Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje, translated by David Karma Choephel, 2012, KTD Publications

BUD 682 Abhidharmakosha II: Treasury of Abhidharma

This course is a continuation of the in-depth study of Abhidharmakosha by Vasubandhu (ca. 4th century) — a seminal work of the Buddhist Abhidharma tradition — based on the commentary by the Eight Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje (1507-1554). Students explore the last four chapters, covering topics of mental afflictions, the path of relinquishing afflictions, wisdoms gained on the path and absorptions — from which the wisdoms arise.

PREREQUISITE: BUD 620

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • Ornament of Abhidharma: A Commentary on Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakosha by Chim Jampalyang, translated by Ian James Coghlan, 2019, Wisdom Publications
    • Jewels from the Treasury: Vasubandhu’s Verses on the Treasury of Abhidharma and Its Commentary Youthful Play by the Ninth Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje, translated by David Karma Choephel, 2012, KTD Publications

BUD 690 Pramanavarttika I: Commentary on Valid Cognition

This course is an in-depth study of Pramanavarttika by Dharmakīrti (ca. 7th century)  the influential work of the Buddhist Pramana tradition — based on commentaries by the Seventh Karmapa, Chödrak Gyamtso (1454–1506) and Sakya Pandita (1182–1251). Students explore the first two chapters: establishing the Buddha as a source of valid cognition and the exposition of direct perception.

PREREQUISITE: BUD 620

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • Essential Selections from The Ocean of Texts on Reasoning, by the Seventh Karmapa, Chodrak Gyamtso, translated by Tyler Dewar, Nitartha Institute Publications
    • Commentary on The Ocean of Texts on Reasoning, Chapters One & Two, by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen, Nitartha Institute Publications
    • Establishing Validity: The First Chapter of Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso’s Ocean of Literature on Logic & the Corresponding Chapter from Dharmakirti’s Commentary on Validity, by Dharmakirti and Seventh Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso, translated by David Karma Choephel, 2016, KTD Publications

BUD 691 Pramanavarttika II: Commentary on Valid Cognition

This course is a continuation of the in-depth study of Pramanavarttika by Dharmakīrti (ca. 7th century) — the influential work of the Buddhist Pramana tradition — based on commentaries by the Seventh Karmapa, Chödrak Gyamtso (1454–1506) and Sakya Pandita (1182–1251). Students continue the exploration of the second chapter on direct perception and conclude with chapters three and four, which present inference for oneself and inference of others.

PREREQUISITE: BUD 620

REQUIRED TEXT:

    • Essential Selections from The Ocean of Texts on Reasoning, by the Seventh Karmapa, Chodrak Gyamtso, translated by Tyler Dewar, Nitartha Institute Publications

BUD 700 Madhyamakavatara I: Entrance to the Middle Way

This course is an in-depth study of Chandrakīrti’s Madhyamakavatara 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 Madhyamakavatara chapters correlated with the first five bodhisattva bhumis. Several difficult points are covered, such as the three reasons that prove that arhats realize selflessness of person.

PREREQUISITE: BUD 620

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • The Karmapa’s Middle Way: Feast for the Fortunate, A Commentary on Chandrakirti’s Madhyamakavatara by Wangchuk Dorje, translated by Tyler Dewar, 2008 Snow Lion Publications
    • Commentary on Feast for the Fortunate, Grounds One-Five & Part I of Ground Six, by The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Nitartha Institute Publications
    • Commentary on The Chariot of the Dakpo Kagyü Siddhas, by The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. Volume 1, Nitartha Institute Publications
    • Advanced Madhyamaka I, by Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen, Nitartha Institute Publications

BUD 701 Madhyamakavatara II: Entrance to the Middle Way

This course is a continuation of the in-depth study of Chandrakīrti’s Madhyamakavatara based on the commentary by the Eight Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje (1507-1554). Students study the first part of the sixth chapter on the paramita of prajña, which primarily deals with the reasoning refuting arising from the four extremes. The difficult points covered include the prasangika-svatantrika distinction as well as the presentation of the two truths.

PREREQUISITE: BUD 620

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • The Karmapa’s Middle Way: Feast for the Fortunate, A Commentary on Chandrakirti’s Madhyamakavatara by Wangchuk Dorje, translated by Tyler Dewar, 2008 Snow Lion Publications
    • Commentary on Feast for the Fortunate, Ground Six, by The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche & Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen, Nitartha Institute Publications
    • Advanced Madhyamaka II & III The Sixth Chapter, by Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen, Nitartha Institute Publications
    • Commentary on The Chariot of the Dakpo Kagyü Siddhas, by The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. Volume 2, Nitartha Institute Publications

BUD 702 Madhyamakavatara III: Entrance to the Middle Way

This course is a continuation of the in-depth study of Chandrakīrti’s Madhyamakavatara based on the commentary by the Eight Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje (1507-1554). Students complete the bulk of the sixth chapter on the paramita of prajña. The topics covered include a detailed refutation of the proponents of consciousness and an extensive presentation of personal selflessness.

PREREQUISITE: BUD 620

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • The Karmapa’s Middle Way: Feast for the Fortunate, A Commentary on Chandrakirti’s Madhyamakavatara, by Wangchuk Dorje, translated by Tyler Dewar, 2008 Snow Lion Publications
    • Commentary on Feast for the Fortunate, Ground Six, by The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche & Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen, Nitartha Institute Publications
    • Advanced Madhyamaka II & III The Sixth Chapter, by Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen, Nitartha Institute Publications
    • Commentary on The Chariot of the Dakpo Kagyü Siddhas, by The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Volume 3, Nitartha Institute Publications

BUD 703 Madhyamakavatara IV: Entrance to the Middle Way

This course is the completion of the in-depth study of Chandrakīrti’s Madhyamakavatara based on the commentary by the Eight Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje (1507-1554). Students conclude the sixth chapter, followed by the presentation of the remaining bodhisattva grounds of realization and the resultant bhumi of Buddhahood. The topics covered include the sixteen emptinesses and the discussion about the nature of buddhahood: Does the Buddha’s wisdom exist and what do Buddhas see?

PREREQUISITE: BUD 620

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • The Karmapa’s Middle Way: Feast for the Fortunate, A Commentary on Chandrakirti’s Madhyamakavatara, by Wangchuk Dorje, translated by Tyler Dewar, 2008 Snow Lion Publications
    • Commentary on The Chariot of the Dakpo Kagyü Siddhas, by The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Volume 4, Nitartha Institute Publications

BUD 704 Catuhshataka: Four Hundred Verses

This course is a study of Catuhshataka by Aryadeva (ca. 2nd century)—a direct student of Nagarjuna. This influential Madhyamaka treatise is renowned for balancing the presentation of the seeming and ultimate realities, emphasizing both the view and meditation. Students approach this treatise through the lenses of its Tibetan commentators.

PREREQUISITE: Not applicable

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • Rendawa Shonnu Lodro’s commentary on Aryadeva’s “Four hundred verses”, translated by Ven. Dr. Tashi Tsering and Mr. Jürgen Stöter Tillmann, 2004, Manjushri Press, Cambridge, MA
    • Aryadeva’s Four Hundred Stanzas on the Middle Way: With Commentary by Gyel-tsap, by Geshe Sonam Rinchen and Ruth Sonam, 2008, Snow Lion Publications

BUD 705 Madhyamakalamkara: Ornament to the Middle Way

This course is a study of the unique view of Indian master Shantarakshita (8th century) who harmonized the Madhyamaka view of Nagarjuna with the Yogacara and Pramana traditions. The exposition of Madhyamakalamkara is based on an extensive commentary by Ju Mipham (1846–1912), frequently taught in Nyingma colleges.

PREREQUISITE: Not applicable

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • Speech of Delight: Mipham’s Commentary on Santaraksita’s Ornament of the Middle Way, by Ju Mipham, translated by Thomas Doctor, 2004, Snow Lion Publications
    • The Adornment of the Middle Way: Shantarakshita’s Madhyamakalankara with Commentary by Jamgön Mipham, translated by Padmakara Translation Group, 2005, Shambhala Publications
    • Commentary on the Adornment of the Middle Way, by Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen, 2009, Nitartha Institute Publications

BUD 706 Bodhicaryavatara: Entrance to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life

This course is a study of the Madhyamaka view of Indian master Shantideva (8th century) in the 9th chapter of his famous Bodhicaryavatara, together with a commentary by Pawo Tsugla Trengwa (1504-1566), one of the two most important students of the Eight Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje. Pawo Rinpoche’s presentation is an essential source for the Kagyü view of the Middle Way philosophical tradition.

PREREQUISITE: Not applicable

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • The Center of the Sunlit Sky: Madhyamaka in the Kagyu Tradition, by Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl, 2004, Snow Lion Publications
    • The Wisdom Chapter: Jamgön Mipham’s Commentary on the Ninth Chapter of The Way of the Bodhisattva, by Jamgon Mipham, translated by The Padmakara Translation Group, 2017, Shambhala Publications
    • A Commentary on The Ninth Chapter of the Bodhicaryavatara on Supreme Knowledge, based on the commentary by Pawo Rinpoche Tsugla Trengwa, by The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, 2 volumes, 2000—2001, Nitartha Institute Publications

BUD 710 Abhisamayalamkara I: Ornament of Clear Realization

This course is an in-depth study of Abhisamayalamkara by Maitreya (ca. 4th century) —the decisive elucidation of the hidden meaning of prajñaparamita related to the path of the Mahayana — based on the commentary by the Eight Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje (1507-1554). Students study the first of the eight abhisamayas, or clear realizations in chapter one: “The Knowledge of All Aspects,” which is the direct realization that all aspects are primordial peace.

PREREQUISITE: BUD 620

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • Gone Beyond, Volume One: The Prajnaparamita Sutras, The Ornament of Clear Realization, and Its Commentaries in the Tibetan Kagyü Tradition, by Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl, 2011, Snow Lion Publications
    • Commentary on the Ornament of Clear Realization, Introduction, by The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Nitartha Institute Publications
    • Commentary on the Ornament of Clear Realization, Topic One, by The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Nitartha Institute Publications

BUD 711 Abhisamayalamkara II: Ornament of Clear Realization

This course is a continuation of the in-depth study of Abhisamayalamkara by Maitreya (ca. 4th century), based on the commentary by the Eight Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje (1507-1554). Students study the second and the third abhisamaya in chapters two and three. Chapter two is “The Knowledge of the Path,” which is the direct realizations that the three paths are primordial peace, and chapter three is “The All-knowledge,” which is the direct realization that all bases are primordial peace without abiding in existence or peace.

PREREQUISITE: BUD 620

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • Gone Beyond, Volume One: The Prajnaparamita Sutras, The Ornament of Clear Realization, and Its Commentaries in the Tibetan Kagyü Tradition, by Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl, 2011, Snow Lion Publications
    • Commentary on the Ornament of Clear Realization, Topics Two and Three, by The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Nitartha Institute Publications

BUD 712 Abhisamayalamkara III: Ornament of Clear Realization

This course is the completion of the in-depth study of the Abhisamayalamkara by Maitreya (ca. 4th century), based on the commentary by the Eight Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje (1507-1554). Students study the remaining five abhisamayas in chapters four through eight: “The Training in All Aspects,” “The Culminating Training,” “The Serial Training,” “The Instantaneous Training,” and “The Dharmakaya.”

PREREQUISITE: BUD 620

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • Gone Beyond, Volume Two: The Prajnaparamita Sutras, The Ornament of Clear Realization, and Its Commentaries in the Tibetan Kagyü Tradition, by Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl, 2012, Snow Lion Publications
    • Commentary on the Ornament of Clear Realization, Topic Four, by Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen, Nitartha Institute Publications
    • Commentary on the Ornament of Clear Realization, Topics Five-Eight, by Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen, Nitartha Institute Publications

BUD 713 Abhisamayalamkara IV: Ornament of Clear Realization

This course is based on the Abhisamayalamkara by Maitreya (ca. 4th century) and its commentaries in the Tibetan Nyingma Tradition. Students study the commentary by Dza Patrul Rinpoche (1808-1887), a prominent master of Rime — the 19th century non-sectarian movement in Tibet.

PREREQUISITE: BUD 620

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • Groundless Paths: The Prajñaparamita Sutras, The Ornament of Clear Realization, and Its Commentaries in the Tibetan Nyingma Tradition, by Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl, 2012, Snow Lion Publications

BUD 714 Mahayanasutralamkara: Ornament of the Great Vehicle Sutras

This course is an in-depth exploration of the Mahayanasutralamkara, the last of the five works of Maitreya to be taught at Nitartha Institute. The text presents materials on the view and path of Bodhisattvas from a yogacara point of view. It thus gives a synopsis of all the mahayana sutras that are not contained among the prajñaparamita sutras or the sutras on buddha nature.

PREREQUISITE: Not applicable

REQUIRED TEXT:

    • Ornament of the Great Vehicle Sutras: Maitreya’s Mahayanasutralamkara with Commentaries by Khenpo Shenga and Ju Mipham, translated by Dharmachakra Translation Committee, 2014, Snow Lion Publications

BUD 760 Madhyantavibhaga: Distinction between the Middle and Extremes

This course is an in-depth study of Madhyantavibhaga by Maitreya (ca. 4th century) — a key work of Yogacara Buddhist philosophy — based on the commentaries by Vasubandhu and Ju Mipham (1846–1912). It delineates the distinctions and relationship (vibhaga) between the middle view (madhya) and extremes (anta). Students systematically proceed through its five chapters: Characteristics, Obscurations, True Reality, Path of Practice and Unsurpassable Vehicle.

PREREQUISITE: BUD 620

REQUIRED TEXT:

    • Middle Beyond Extremes: Maitreya’s Madhyantavibhaga with Commentaries by Khenpo Shenga and Ju Mipham, translated by Dharmachakra Translation Committee, 2006, Snow Lion Publications

BUD 770 Dharmadharmatavibhaga: Distinction between Phenomena and the Nature of Phenomena

This course is an in-depth study of the Dharmadharmatavibhaga by Maitreya (ca. 4th century) — a short Yogacara work of the pith instructions class — based on commentaries by the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284–1339) and Ju Mipham (1846–1912). Students study the distinction and correlation (vibhaga) between phenomena (dharma) and the nature of phenomena (dharmata) and discover the key instructions on how to proceed in accessing this nature.

PREREQUISITE: BUD 620

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • Mining for Wisdom within Delusion: Maitreya’s Distinction between Phenomena and the Nature of Phenomena and Its Indian and Tibetan Commentaries, by Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl, 2013, Snow Lion Publications
    • Commentary on The Distinction between Phenomena & the Nature of Phenomena, by Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl, Nitartha Institute Publications
    • Distinguishing Phenomena from Their Intrinsic Nature: Maitreya’s Dharmadharmatavibhanga with Commentaries by Khenpo Shenga and Ju Mipham, translated by Dharmachakra Translation Committee, 2013, Snow Lion Publications

BUD 780 Uttaratantra & Sutras of the Third Turning: The Highest Continuum

This course is an in-depth study of the Uttaratantra by Maitreya (ca. 4th century) — the influential work of the Tathagatagarbha tradition — based on the commentary by Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye (1813-1899) and Gö Lotsawa Shönnu Pal (1392–1481). Students first look at the selection of sutras of the third turning, followed by the exposition of the Uttaratantra’s seven vajra points: the three jewels, buddha nature, enlightenment, its qualities and enlightened activity.

PREREQUISITE: BUD 620

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • When the Clouds Part: The Uttaratantra and Its Meditative Tradition as a Bridge between Sutra and Tantra, by Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl, 2015, Snow Lion Publications
    • Buddha Nature: The Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra with Commentary, by Arya Maitreya, Jamgon Kongtrul, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso, translated by Rosemarie Fuchs, 2018, Snow Lion Publications
    • Commentary on the Fourth Vajra Point in the Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra, by Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen, Nitartha Institute Publications
    • Commentary on Vajra Points One-Three & Five-Eight in the Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra, by Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen, Nitartha Institute Publications
    • Sutras of the Third Turning and the Uttaratantra: The Lion’s Roar of Irreversibility Volume 1, by Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl, Nitartha Institute Publications
    • Sutras of the Third Turning and the Uttaratantra: The Lion’s Roar of Irreversibility Volume 2, by Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl, Nitartha Institute Publications

BUD 781 Dharmadhatustava: In Praise of Dharmadhatu

This course is a study of Dharmadhatustava, attributed to Nagarjuna. It is the early shastra commenting on the tathagatagarbha sutras, as elucidated by the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339) in his commentary.

PREREQUISITE: Not applicable

REQUIRED TEXTS:

    • In Praise of Dharmadhatu, by Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl, 2007, Snow Lion Publications
    • Commentary on In Praise of Dharmadhatu, by The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, 2010, Nitartha Institute Publications

BUD 796 Beacon of Certainty

The Beacon of Certainty is a commentary composed by the great Nyingma master and scholar Lama Mipham (1846-1912). It is structured around seven questions that address the foundations of the Nyingma tradition, from Madhyamika philosophy to the view of Dzogchen. This key text is studied in virtually all Nyingma shedras. Students study its commentary by Khenpo Kunpal (c.1872-1943), a close disciple of Lama Mipham.

PREREQUISITE: Not applicable

REQUIRED TEXT:

    • Mipham’s Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, by John W. Pettit, 1999, Wisdom Publications