The Open Buddhist University organizes content from across the Web into free, self-directed syllabi on a variety of topics in Buddhist Studies.

About Our Courses

We currently offer 16 courses on the fundamentals of Buddhism.
Note: None of our courses offer degrees or certificates.


  • Click the course title to view the course
  • = A unique icon to identify the course
  • = Lectures by:
  • = Books by:
  • = Semester Credit Hours

Interactive Components

If you’d like to discuss what you’re learning, feel free to post your questions or thoughts on the SuttaCentral Discourse Forum or email us. Some courses contain links to (optional) Google Forms which serve for homework assignments and to collect course feedback. This site may use cookies to enhance your experience, but you can turn this off at any time in settings.

Our Courses

A general introduction to Buddhism for absolute beginners.


An overview of Buddhist practice focusing on how ethics and meditation work together to improve our lives.


An introduction to the history and religious forms of Buddhism, including an analysis of the Sangha and what it takes to call yourself a Buddhist.


An introduction to the Buddha’s teachings suitable for everyone based on Bhikkhu Bodhi’s popular anthology, In The Buddha’s Words.


An introduction to Buddhist Philosophy for students starting to feel comfortable reading the suttas. Primarily based on the Theravada school, the class will include some additional material to round out its presentation.


In this course we cover ethics from three angles—theory, practice and mythology—believing that none is intelligible without the rest. A course that, hopefully, will engage your heart as well as your head.


A thorough tour of the Pāli texts which report the Buddha’s character, accomplishments, life, and history.


A rigorous tour of key words and images used in the Early Buddhist Texts, this course unpacks early Buddhist philosophy from the unique perspective of the rhetoric it deployed. This course also serves as an introduction to Pāli technical terms for nonspecialists.


A rigorous tour of the Majjhima Nikāya led by Bhikkhu Bodhi and supplemented by the excellent comparative scholarship of Bhikkhu Anālayo, this course will give you an excellent grounding in the most readable and important of the Early Buddhist Texts.


An ongoing series of talks by Bhikkhu Bodhi going sequentially through the Numerical Discourses, explaining how the collection was compiled and how we might apply its wisdom to our everyday lives.


A short course on part of the Madhyama Āgama held in 2013, the sutras covered (MA 72-86) revolve around the interdependence of samatha and vipassana meditation and their co-creation of wisdom. Bhikkhu Anālayo makes the difficult subject accessible in his inimitably methodical style.


This course weaves together two free monographs and a number of booklets to explore Nirvana from a critical perspective, giving a thorough introduction to the meaning, logic and history behind the Buddhists’ ultimate goal.


An advanced course on the subtle components of the mind and how to understand their inner workings in order to put an end to our raging whirlpool of selfish thinking.


A gentle introduction to the Pāli Language suitable for everyone, based on Lily DeSilva’s excellent Primer and taught by the Most Venerable scholar, Bhikkhu Bodhi.


Begin to read the Pāli Canon in its original language, in this intermediate Pāli course taught from Gair and Karunatillake’s excellent progressive reader and guided step-by-step, as always, by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

James W. Gair and W. S. Karunatillake

A line-by-line, character-by-character introduction to the art of reading ancient, Buddhist Chinese, this expansive course covers everything from the fundamentals to epigraphy and the esoteric texts.

John Kieschnick and Simon Wiles

External Courses

Courses hosted on other websites.

The prequel course to Ven. Analayo's Tranquility and Insight course above, this 11 lecture series covers Madhyama-āgama Chapters 3 and 4, centering on the Venerable Arahants at the time of the Buddha.
Two courses introducing the Tibetan Language courtesy of the University of Toronto, taking you from identifying words all the way up to translating your first Buddhist text. Note: This class assumes prior comfort with the Tibetan script. If that's not you, see e.g. Translating Buddhism from Tibetan Ch.1–8 before taking this course.
A short, interactive overview of Jodo Shinshu, from Shinran's life to Japanese Buddhism in the modern United States.
Robert Sapolsky's classic Stanford course explains what makes people tick and should be considered required watching for anyone who interacts with humans. This lecture series would go on to become the 2017 NYT best-seller, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worse.
An excellent introduction to 20th Century, American poetry from the University of Pennsylvania's graduate school, "ModPo" teaches you not just the history of the poems, but how to read them. This course is highly recommended for anyone who likes poetry, but who never "got" that modern stuff.
Professor Timothy Snyder gives the deep history of Eastern Europe and the formation of the Ukrainian nation, discussing along the way the big question of why we should study history at all. Be sure to check out the course syllabus too as the readings are an essential part of the course.

Open Courseware @MIT

OBU Courses are loosely modeled on MIT’s Open Courseware, which have provided free syllabi and other course materials for a large number of their Undergraduate and Graduate-level courses since 2001. For OBU Students, I especially recommend checking out:

  • The Challenge of World Poverty
    • To understand the drivers, traps, and opportunities for global poverty with Nobel Laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo.
  • The Rise of Modern Science
    • To break down the ahistorical mythology of modern science by taking a closer look at its primary sources.