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University of Virginia

Tibetan Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World: Lesser Vehicle

University of Virginia via Coursera

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Tibetan Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World explores the immense variety of meditation practices past and present. We present their histories, their philosophical underpinnings, their transformations in the modern global world, and we give you a chance to reflect upon meditation practices through secular contemplations designed just for this course.

We use a traditional, if overly simplistic, way of grouping Buddhist philosophical systems and ritual-contemplative practices into “three vehicles”, three programs of theory and practice supporting the personal journey from suffering to enlightenment. This scheme became normative in India and Tibet: (i) the Lesser Vehicle (Hīnayāna), (ii) the Great Vehicle (Mahāyāna), and (iii) the Adamantine Vehicle (Vajrayāna), also referred to as “esoteric Buddhism” or “Buddhist tantra”. To this, we will add a fourth Vehicle which is explicit in many Tibetan materials, though no standard term ever emerged that was accepted by all sectarian traditions - we will thus term it as the “Natural Vehicle” or “Post Tantra”. We follow an indigenous Tibetan tradition in terms of characterizing each with a specific orientational paradigm - repression, refinement, transformation, and natural freedom. These twelve meditative traditions constitute the framework for the course’s discussion of the main streams of Tibetan Buddhist meditation.

The five modules of the present course, dedicated to "Lesser Vehicle" practices and perspectives, treat the first five of these twelve types. Each module in turn has four components: (i) the specific Buddhist meditation in its traditional presentation and practice; (ii) modern scientific research into its efficacy and dynamics, or on practices, principles, and processes related to this type of meditation in our analysis; (iii) the fact, problems, and opportunities of modern secular adaptations in a variety of educational, professional, and personal settings; and (iv) secular practices for experimentation, which are either direct adaptations or new practices designed to give an experiential sense of some of the principles underlying the Buddhist meditative practice.


Course Introduction
The Content, Structure, and Instructors of the Course. This class is the first in a four part series on Buddhism. The other classes will focus on the Greater Vehicle, Adamantine Vehicle, and Natural Vehicle.

Ordinary Preliminary Practices
Tibetan perspectives on the foundations of contemplative practice; early Buddhist meditations; the beginnings of Western Buddhist meditation; and an introduction to the science of meditation. Includes lectures by Dr. Clifford Saron, Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche, as well as an interview with David McMahan. Contemplative labs with Anne Klein and Anam Thubten

Mindfulness Meditation (smṛti)
An introduction to Mindfulness meditation practice and the contemporary Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Includes lectures by Dr. Clifford Saron, Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche, as well as an interview with Jim Coan. Contemplative labs with Anne Klein, Anam Thubten, and Susan Bauer-Wu.

Calm Meditation
An introduction to Calm meditation and its use in contemporary research environments. Includes lectures by Dr. Clifford Saron and Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro, as well as an interview with Tish Jennings. Contemplative labs with Anne Klein, Anam Thubten, and Susan Bauer-Wu

Insight Meditation
An introduction to Insight meditation and its use in the contemporary development of contemplative pedagogy. Includes lectures by Dr. Clifford Saron, Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche, as well as interviews with Rhonda Magee, Erik Braun, and David Mick. Contemplative labs with Anne Klein, Anam Thubten, and Susan Bauer-Wu

The Diverse Objects of Early Buddhist Meditation
An introduction to the diverse objects of early Buddhist meditation. Includes lectures by Dr. Clifford Saron and Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro, as well as an interview with Sharon Salzberg. Contemplative labs with Anne Klein, Anam Thubten, and Susan Bauer-Wu

Taught by

Kurtis Schaeffer and David Germano


3.3 rating, based on 23 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Tibetan Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World: Lesser Vehicle

  • As other reviewers have stated, this course is very academic. Dr. Germano's style is very dry. I would describe it as uber-academic – he uses 5-syllable words when 2-syllable words would do. That might sound nit-picky, but he clearly didn't realize…
  • The course takes a scientific look at Buddhist practices to analyse how mindfulness can help create a more accurate picture of reality and benefit us. I very much enjoyed the professor and his talks, be sure to watch the office hours for corrections and analysis from different perspectives.
  • Robert Draper
    This course was originally titled Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World, this changed a few hours before opening to Tibetan Buddhism and the Modern World. This course is primarily aimed at Tibetan Buddhism and American culture which may limit its…
  • I could only last until the second week. It is so academic, it is very hard to understand and listen to without falling asleep. It is not engaging. Watch video after video lecture. There is no interaction. The message board was the most entertaining feature. Not all in house lectures should be online learning experiences. You must engage your audience, have activities, discussions etc. This course could have been much better. I am a Buddhist and an educator for many years. I was hoping that what was taught would grab our interest, hold it and make us want to delve into more information on our own. I tried to stick it out, but it was painful.
  • Armando
    I loved this course and its easily the best MOOC I have done so far. I did it in a few passes and each time I get more and more out of it. It is very challenging academically - this is not a dumbed down for the masses light introduction.

    If its too difficult then I would suggest doing just the 'contemplation labs' and then dipping into the lectures as and when you fell like it. (the labs are guided meditations, with short introductory and wrap up lectures).
  • David Macdougall
    I'm only giving this course 4 stars because, despite fairly average presentation skills by the principle academics involved, the overall objective of the course and the amazing variety of qualified and interesting people involved more than makes up IMHO. What is at work here is an integration of Buddhist philosophy into secular Western society - the beginnings of a new vehicle of Buddhism which is historic and significant.
  • Anonymous
    Extremely academic and the main teachers lack dynamics and engaging presentation skills. The content is deep, but restricted to the tibetan perspective... Considering the course was conceived by a "tibetologist" if you are interested in the therava/pali canon or zen side of things you'll need to spend quite some energy trying to identify how tibetan culture is infusing every talk.
  • David Hirshberg
    A very academic course with a remarkably boring use of the on line format. Basically it is like taking a college class that has been taped and you get to watch it. Like others have suggested, it was hard to stay awake watching. Maybe a good alternative to medications for insomnia, but Worst MOOC I have ever taken.
  • Anonymous
    This course has required a lot of work and is both academic and practical. Well worth the effort that I have put in.
  • Anonymous
    The MOOC does not take advantage of the video format, and certainly does not take advantage of the so-called socially constructed pedagogy learning method, or a panel discussion delivery method. (Instead, it relies only on the traditional hub-and-sp…
  • Anonymous
    Great scholars and speakers. They are.both. great tibetologists much much.deeper than prof wright. Need to get work but we'll.worth it
  • Anonymous
    This presentation is as good as it gets from a scholarly point of view. It is also an excellent presentation of lesser vehicle practices.
  • Anonymous
    As others have mentioned, the main lecture presentation was very scholarly I found the science to be rather lacking in content and the presenter rather condescending at times. The lab portion, however, was of use, in that I was able to learn additional meditation techniques which when combined with the Buddhist philosophical context I was able to decipher from the main lecture videos allowed me to achieve my goal in taking the course. It was a lot of work, much much more than it should have been.
  • Anonymous
    Lots of work and tough going. Took twice as long as expected to finish. Needed to take notes and do extra work.

    By far the best and most rewarding MOOC i have done. Makes other moocs seem like tasters while this is a proper course .
  • Anonymous
    super course.I benefitted hugely from it. Found the 'take home' permanent format useful. Pse can you make the other 3 parts available.?
  • Anonymous
    This course has been delayed twice - up to at least a year or more, now again was supposed to start Aug 30
  • Eduardo

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