Ignorance is the cause of suffering

The goal of the Rime Shedra is to make accessible the vast treasures of Buddhist wisdom to those who wish to progress further in their understanding of the profound principles presented in these advanced Buddhist texts. The understanding of the ultimate nature of reality is the key to liberation. For practitioners this program provides an opportunity to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the nature of reality.  For scholars it provides an opportunity to expand their understanding of Buddhism by cultivating an experiential understanding. The program is based upon the traditional Shedra, or monastic college, curriculum which is the cornerstone of Buddhist education in all of the schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Vasubhandu's Essence of Abhidharma


What is form? What is matter? What is mind? For that matter, what is a thing? Why do we need to know? Because not knowing — ignorance — is the root of our suffering and confusion. Ignorance clouds our awareness and our ability to see clearly the nature of mind and the mental factors that make up our moment to moment experience. By finely examining these factors and investigating their qualities, relationships and essential nature, we are able to clear the clouds to enable the sun of insight to shine through.

This course will delve into the heart of abhidharma, which translates literally as the higher or sublime dharma, or meta-dharma. This branch of teachings explains the way things are in such a way as to reveal the path to liberation. As is the tradition, we will begin with the “building blocks” -- the precise definitions and classification of things (and non-things!). These are the basis upon which all subsequent levels of Buddhist study are built. Going deeper, we will explore the layers and complexities of consciousness, in particular the base consciousness or alayavijnana. Throughout the course, our focus will be on how these frameworks help us to understand and dissolve the belief in a self — and all of its ramifications. 

Our root text will be Vasubhandu’s Summary of the Five Skandhas with a wonderful commentary by his student Sthiramati. We will use the translation in The Inner Science of Buddhist Practice by Artemis Engle, which also contains a wonderful Mahayana version of the Four Mindfulnesses.  In this text, Vasubhandu focuses upon what are called the Three Skills – the three core topics of the abhidharma which all Buddhists should be knowledgeable in: the 5 skandhas, the 12 Ayatanas and the 18 Dhatus. He explains the purpose of these three:  "...the heaps were taught as an antidote for the belief in a unity; the bases were taught as an antidote for the belief in an entity that experiences; and the constituents were taught as an antidote for the belief in an agent."

All interested in exploring the sublime dharma and challenging their belief in the notion of a self are welcomed to join in this excursion! 

Core Materials

  1. Syllabus
  2. Sourcebook

Class Recordings

  1. January 10, 2017
  2. January 17, 2017
  3. January 24, 2017
  4. January 31, 2017
  5. February 7, 2017
  6. February 21, 2017
  7. February 28, 2017
  8. March 7, 2017
  9. March 21, 2017
  10. March 28, 2017
  11. April 11, 2017