Welcome to

Buddhist Philosophy in Depth, Part 3

A Wisdom Academy Online Course with Jay Garfield

Buddhist Philosophy in Depth, Part 3

In this groundbreaking course, immerse yourself in the treasury of Buddhist wisdom with Professor Jay Garfield, renowned philosopher, translator, and expert on Buddhist philosophy.

What You’ll Learn

  • How the synthesis of Madhyamaka and Yogācāra philosophy helped form the early Chinese schools, and Chan, as well as the significance of the kōan tradition in Chan
  • How Buddhism was transmitted to Japan, and influenced by the famed Zen Master Eihei Dōgen
  • How the traditions of sutra and tantra were transmitted to Tibet and gave rise to the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, carrying on the Nalanda tradition of Indian Buddhist philosophy
  • The distinctive features of the Buddhadharma’s transmission to the West

About this Course

The rich philosophical fabric of Buddhist thought has evolved over two millennia, within a variety of cultures, epochs, and geographies. Professor Jay Garfield takes us on an exciting in-depth journey throughout these Buddhist worlds, their texts, and the essential thinkers that have shaped Buddhist philosophy from the time of the historical Buddha.

In this third installment of a three-part course series on the history of Buddhist philosophy we discover how the profound legacy of Indian Buddhist philosophy helped shape the Buddhist world, and follow the transmission of the Buddhadharma to China, Japan, and ultimately the West. Jay Garfield guides us through an array of influential texts across traditions, including the Avamtamsaka, or Flower Garland Sutra, the Genjōkōan by Eihei Dōgen, the Lam Rim synthesis of Tsongkhapa, and Tibet’s Rime tradition as evidenced in Patrul Rinpoche’s The Words of My Perfect Teacher and The Essential Jewel of Holy Practice.

The course progresses historically from Part 1 to Part 2 and Part 3, but all courses are open for enrollment without having to take a prior course.



Lesson 1: The Transmission of Buddhism from India to China

In this lesson, Jay illuminates the transmission of Buddhist philosophy from India to China. Jay describes in detail the history and philosophy of the three early Chinese schools of Buddhist philosophy. In particular, we encounter the thought of Sengzhao and Jizang, two of the Sanlun schools most influential philosophers. We learn how Indian Buddhist philosophy, in particular the philosophy of Nagarjuna, interacted with Daoist thought, as well as how the Lotus Sutra and the Avatamsaka Sutra informed entire schools of Chinese Buddhist thought.


Lesson 2: The Tiantai and Huayan Schools of Chinese Buddhism

In this lesson, Jay introduces us to Tiantai and Huayan schools of Chinese Buddhism, deepening our understanding of the unique evolution of Buddhism in China. With particular focus on the Huayan school, Jay guides us through the ​Treatise of the Golden Lion, by the famed philosopher Fazang, also the third patriarch of the Huayan school. Jay’s expert commentary illuminates how Fazang integrated yogacara and madhyamaka in profound masterwork of Buddhist philosophy, laying the groundwork for the development of Chan and Zen.


Lesson 3: Bodhidharma, Huineng and the Development of Chan

In this lesson, Jay guides us through understanding the growth and development of early Chan, and its central figures including Bodhidharma and Huieng. Jay reveals the sutric and philosophical underpinnings of Chan, offering insights based on the Platform Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, Lankavatara Sutra, Vimalakirti Sutra, Madhyamaka, and Abhidharma. We learn about the Chan school’s unique understanding of the Buddhist path, it’s emphasis on meditative experience, and the direct experience of the nature of one’s own mind. Jay also helps us to grasp Chan’s understanding of gradual and sudden awakening.


Lesson 4: Chan, Zen, and the Practice of Koan

In this lesson Jay teaches us the unique views of Chan and Zen as illuminated in the practice of koan. Jay guides us through several famous koans as a means of providing a window into the philosophical heart of Zen and Chan.


Lesson 5: Zen and the Philosophy of Dogen

In this lesson Jay illuminates the influential and enigmatic writing of Eihei Dogen, Zen master and founder of the Soto Zen school. Jay guides us through select essays and passages from several of Dogen’s famous texts, including his Genjōkōan and Shōbōgenzō. Jay’s commentary offers us a unique window into the development of Zen Buddhism in Japan as well as reveals how Dogen interprets and innovates central concepts in Buddhist philosophy.


Lesson 6: The Transmission of Buddhism from India to Tibet, and the Shentong-Rangtong Debate

In this lesson Jay guides us through the philosophical and historical transmission of Buddhism from India to Tibet. We learn how the Tibetan tradition became a repository for the scholastic and tantric wisdom of Indian Buddhism, and how Indian Buddhist philosophy gave rise to a dynamic and robust system of debate and philosophical output in Tibet. Jay also provides us an outline of the essential figures in the early history of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as the schools, sects, and essential philosophical ideas engaged and debated by Tibetan Buddhist scholars and adepts.


Lesson 7: The Influence of Tsongkhapa on Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy

In this lesson Jay illuminates the philosophy of Tsongkhapa, the profound fourteenth-century scholar and adept who formed the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism. In guiding us through the monumental work of Tsongkhapa, we learn how essential elements of Indian Buddhist Philosophy — in particular from the Yogachara and Madhyamaka schools — were integrated, debated, and understood within a Tibetan context. We also learn how Tsongkhapa’s philosophy influenced and innovated the landscape of Tibetan philosophical thinking and practice.


Lesson 8: Patrul Rinpoche, Mipham Rinpoche, and the Rime Movement in Tibet

In this lesson, Jay guides us through the work of two seminal thinkers and adepts from the Nyingma tradition, central to the nineteenth century Rime, or nonsectarian movement, in Tibet. Through a synopsis of Patrul Rinpoche’s famed The Words of My Perfect Teacher, and commentary on Patrul Rinpoche’s The Essential Jewel of Holy Practice, we learn how this famed hermit and Dzogchen master synthesized tantra, and the experiential approach of Dzogchen, with scholastic philosophy. In presenting an overview of the philosophical views of Mipham, we encounter an important and critical response to the philosophy of Tsongkhapa. Jay also illuminates how the work of the Rime movement extends to the present, and is central to understanding Tibetan Buddhism in contemporary times.


Lesson 9: The Transmission of Buddhism to the West

In this lesson, Jay guides us through the nature of transmission of Buddhist teaching and practice to the West. We learn how the transmission of Buddhism to the West is similar to certain transmissions in Asia, but also how it is in many ways wholly unique. Jay also helps us see how the transmission of Buddhism to the West has been a two-way transmission, influencing the transmission, study, and practice throughout Asia.


Lesson 10: Buddhism and Science: Medicine, Psychology, and Quantum Mechanics

In this final lesson, Jay guides us through the historical and current interaction of Buddhism and modern science within the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In discussing the relationship of contemporary physics, medicine, and psychology to Buddhist thought, we learn about one of the most impactful aspects of Buddhism’s interaction with the modern world. Jay also illuminates how the interaction between Buddhism and science has influenced and transformed the thinking and practice of both systems.

About the Teacher

Jay Garfield is Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Philosophy, and Director of the Logic Program and of the Five College Tibetan Studies in India Program at Smith College; Visiting Professor of Buddhist Philosophy at Harvard Divinity School; Professor in the graduate faculty of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts; Professor of Philosophy at Melbourne University; and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. He teaches and pursues research in the philosophy of mind, foundations of cognitive science, logic, philosophy of language, Buddhist philosophy, cross-cultural hermeneutics, theoretical and applied ethics, and epistemology. He is the author, editor, and translator of several books on these subjects, most recently The Essential Jewel of Holy Practice, a co-translation of verses written by Patrul Rinpoche (Wisdom 2017).