A Course on its History and Main Doctrines

Instructor: David Komito

The course is based on an online course I have been teaching at several universities over the last 18 years. It is divided into ten modules or sections, as indicated below. Each module attends to specific aspects in the development of Buddhist thought and practice. You may also notice that the first modules are associated with Buddhism in South Asia, the next group with Buddhism in Central Asia and finally East Asia, thus following both the rough historic development and geographic spread of Buddhism over the centuries.

Modules and their readings are sequential in nature, so one should read or listen to materials in the order presented to get the most out of this course. At the conclusion of selected groups of modules, as indicated below, I will visit Walla Walla for an opportunity to discuss that part of the course with you and introduce the coming module. You may not have the time to complete everything prior to a meeting, but should that be the case, it is not a problem. If your time is limited read what you can.

If you have the opportunity to visit the link Introduction to Module 1 prior to our meeting on March 8 that would be helpful. There is an article there for you to read and a video recording of the Dalai Lama teaching in Washington.


The course is natively, and completely, presented here in online format, but some will find it difficult to read the written lectures or essays on a computer monitor, tablet or smart phone, so I have created several options for reading. Many (but not all) of the lectures from this course have been compiled as my most recent book, Buddhist Psychology of Self Liberation. If you prefer to read the book in Kindle format on a Kindle, computer or tablet, you can purchase an inexpensive copy here from Amazon. For those who prefer paper, I have prepared a PDF version of the book especially for this sangha. You can download it here and print it off (which is not possible with the Kindle format). In both cases, chapter titles align pretty well with the titles on this page. Where material appears in the course, below, but not in the book, it either is because the material is copied from another publication, is highly graphic in nature, or is audio or video.

Navigating the Site:

Some content pages on this siste open in a new window; to leave them and return to this page simply close the tab/window, or use the back button on your browser. Please note that on the top left of some web pages you will find a link | Return to Contents |. This link will open the contents page of a different course. You are welcome to browse in that course, but you may also find it a distraction since it is a group of lectures on The Cultural History and Religions of Asia of which my lectures on Buddhism are merely a part.

My thanks to the Walla Walla Dharma Sangha for the opportunity to share the Dharma with you. It is a privilege to be able to do so.

Texts and videos used in this course include:  

  1. Online lectures written by the instructor.
  2. Peter D. Santina: Fundamentals of Buddhism (PDF available on the course site)
  3. Geshe Sonam Rinchen: The Three Principal Aspects of the Path (you will need to purchase this)
  4. Dalai Lama: A Talk for World Peace and Wisdom and Compassion (two videos available on the course site)
  5. Tsongkapa: The Three Principal Aspects of the Path (available on the course site)
  6. Christmas Humphreys and Wong Mou-Lam: The Sutra of Hui Neng, (Chapter 1) (available on the course site)
  7. J.C. Cleary: “An Introduction to Pure Land Buddhism” (available on the course site)
  8. Akira Kurosawa: Rashomon, a movie available as a free stream on YouTube, for purchase or rental from Amazon, rental from Netflix, etc.

Online Modules and Lectures

Meeting in Walla Walla on March 8

Preliminary: Blessing cyberspace

Module 1: The Individual Path (Hinayana or Theravada)

Module 2: The Individual Path continues (Hinayana or Theravada)

  • Introduction to Module 2
  • Lecture: Early agricultural cultures and nomadic invasions: the dynamic tension in the history of Asian religions
  • Lecture: The Individual Path: Hinayana/Theravada
  • Lecture: Buddhist origins: a systematic psychology for liberation

Module 3

  • Lecture: Buddha and His Enlightenment
  • Lecture: The Person and Selflessness, Rebirth and Liberation 

Meeting in Walla Walla on March 22

Module 4: The Great Path (Mahayana)

  • Audio lecture: the expansion of Buddhism; map.
  • Audio lecture: lineage.
  • Lecture: Buddhist universalism: interactions with Hinduism, Taoism and the Mahayana Buddhist envelopment of Asia
  • Lecture: The Emptiness of Persons and Things
  • Lecture: Contemporary Western Counterparts to the Madhyamika View
  • Beginning with this module and continuing through Modules 5 and 6 you should be reading The Three Principal Aspects of the Path by Geshe Sonam Rinchen.


Module 5

  • Prologue: Recitation of the Heart Sutra
  • Lecture: Introduction to the Tibetan Mahayana "Graded Path to Enlightenment"
  • Lecture: Comments on the Poem and Textbook The Three Principal Aspects of the Path
  • Root text and commentary: Tsongkapa's The Three Principal Aspects of the Path

Meeting in Walla Walla on April 19

Module 6

  • Lecture: Tsongkapa's Teachings on Wisdom
  • Lecture: Stanza 9
  • Lecture: Stanzas 10 and 11
  • Lecture: "Designation" in the Commentary on Stanzas 10 and 11
  • Lecture: Self Cherishing and Self Esteem
  • Lecture: Commentary on Stanza 12
  • Lecture: Stanzas 12 and 13
  • Lecture: Concluding Comments on Tsongkapa's The Three Principal Aspects of the Path
  • Lecture: Why Persons and Things are Devoid of Inherent Existence

Module 7: The Great Diamond Scepter Path (Vajrayana or Tantrayana)

  • Lecture: Stanza 14
  • Lecture: The Focus of our Study of Meditation
  • Lecture: Manjushri and Tsongkapa
  • Lecture: The Imagination in Meditation
  • Lecture: Icons in Buddhism -- Becoming the Icon
  • Lecture: Indo-Tibetan Sculpture and Dance -- Iconic Incarnation

Meeting in Walla Walla on May 10

Modules 8 & 9 : The Great Path of No Path


Module 10: The Great Devotional Path

Final meeting in Walla Walla May 24


Copyright 2014, David Ross Komito