Root Verses on the Middle Way, the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (Interactive)

Nagarjuna’s Root Verses on the Middle Way, the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (MMK) is the foundational text of the Madhyamaka school of Mahāyāna Buddhism. This treatise is considered to be the most profound exposition on the philosophy of emptiness, śūnyatā

 Based on logical analysis, Nāgārjuna challenges generally accepted assumptions about the nature of reality, analyzing various phenomena such as motion, causality, or the perception process of sense faculties. He also analyzes doctrinal statements accepted by the Buddhist tradition, such as the four Noble Truths. In each case, he shows that ordinary assumptions about reality do not hold in the light of logic and thus declares them to be illusory, fabricated by the deluded mind. 

Course methodology:

This course combines traditional Tibetan monastic pedagogy based on a word-for-word commentary and a critical academic pedagogy focusing on historical, philosophical, and cultural contextualization. This approach mirrors RYI’s on-campus courses in Kathmandu. 

The course is taught in Tibetan by Khenpo Jampa Dhonden and is translated into English. The text, consisting of 27 chapters is taught in two parts, OL TSTD 103 and OL TSTD 104. 

While there is no prerequisite for study in this course, this is a philosophically challenging text. Students should expect to average 10 to 12 hours of listening and studying per week. Course content is presented as video lectures given by Khenpo Jampa Donden and translated by Catherine Dalton into English (also available in Tibetan for those who prefer). Supplementary materials include visual lectures created from MS PowerPoint© by Joanne Larson.  

Resources for this course format include video and audio lectures in Tibetan with translation to English, plus English-only and Tibetan-only audio versions of the lectures.  

Students navigate the course material via Moodle, an open-source e-learning platform. Internet access is required. The course moderator, Gilad Yakir, will grade work, lead course discussions on the public forum, and host weekly office hours where participants can come to ask questions and discuss the text further. 

OL TSTD 103: Root Verses of the Middle Way (Mūlamadhyamakakārikā) I

Part I covers the first half of the Root Verses of the Middle Way up to chapter 12, verse 10. 

1. An Analysis of Conditions 

2. An Analysis of the Traversed, the Not Yet Traversed, and the Presently Being Traversed 

3. An Analysis of the Āyatanas 

4. An Analysis of the Skandhas 

5. An Analysis of the Dhātus 

6. An Analysis of Desire and the One Who Desires 

7. An Analysis of the Conditioned 

8. An Analysis of Object and Agent 

9. An Analysis of What Is Prior 

10. An Analysis of Fire and Fuel 

11. An Analysis of the Prior and Posterior Parts (of Saṃsāra) 

12. An Analysis of Suffering 

 

The courses are designed as 14-week courses. All students have access to the course for one year from the date of registration. Interactive For-Credit students must complete all course assignments to pass. Self-Study and Interactive students can proceed at their own pace within the one-year access period. 

Course moderators are available for live online office hours from September 15 – May 15. During the summer, communication is limited to written correspondence. For those taking a course for credit, it is recommended to start before February 1 to take advantage of live online guidance from the moderators. 

Once registration is complete, students have access to the course for one year.

This registration is for the not-for-credit format only. To register in the for-credit format, apply through the admissions page, “RYI Study Online through Moodle – For Credit Format” (https://ryi.org/admissions), or through the portal (for KU students at RYI). 


OL TSTD 203: Root Verses of the Middle Way (Mūlamadhyamakakārikā) II 

Part Two covers the second half of the Root Verses of the Middle Way from chapter 12, verse 11 to chapter 27. Students may register for this course in January 2024. 

The courses are designed as 14-week courses. All students have access to the course for one year from the date of registration. Interactive For-Credit students must complete all course assignments to pass. Self-Study and Interactive students can proceed at their own pace within the one-year access period. 

Course moderators are available for live online office hours from September 15 – May 15. During the summer, communication is limited to written correspondence. For those taking a course for credit, it is recommended to start before February 1 to take advantage of live online guidance from the moderators. 

Once registration is complete, students have access to the course for one year. 

This registration is for the not-for-credit format only. To register in the for-credit format, apply through the admissions page, “RYI Study Online through Moodle – For Credit Format” (https://ryi.org/admissions), or through the portal (for KU students at RYI). 

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