BSO 101 | Intro to Buddhism:

History, Philosophy, and Practice


18-hour online course

 with Dr. Kate Hartmann 


What do we know about what the Buddha really taught? How did he identify the cause of suffering? What is mindfulness, and how can it help free people from suffering?  

Join professor of Buddhist Studies, Dr. Kate Hartmann and a global cohort of students for this unique opportunity to explore the rich and multifaceted texts, traditions, and practices of Buddhism. 

Buddhism 101

This online course provides an in-depth introduction to the diverse ideals, practices, and traditions of Buddhism from their origins in South Asia to their various expressions across time and place in modernity. We will explore key ideas from the Buddhist tradition about impermanence, desire, and the nature of the self, and ask how these ideas were taken up and reimagined as Buddhism spread to new cultural contexts. Our central question throughout will be how, in various times, places, and cultural contexts, the Buddhist tradition diagnosed the origins of human suffering, imagined the goal of freedom from suffering, and proposed a path to such freedom. 

As such, students in the course will act as historians exploring how Buddhism has developed in the past, as philosophers analyzing Buddhist claims about the nature of mind and reality, and as humans trying to figure out how best to live in this uncertain world. Throughout the course we will reflect on our own understanding of the world by learning with and from Buddhist materials. 

"An accessible, Harvard-quality course in Buddhist Studies"

Course Structure

Students enrolled in this course will receive:

  • 6 pre-recorded video lectures + audio recordings (90 min each)

  • 6 recordings of Zoom Q&A sessions (90 min each)

  • 4 BSO Credits

  • Course Syllabus (PDF)

  • Weekly Readings (PDF)

  • 6 Weekly Handouts (PDF)

  • 6 Weekly Quizzes

  • Access to private Community forum

  • Certificate of Completion (PDF)

Your Instructor


Dr. Kate Hartmann

Kate Hartmann is a scholar and professor Buddhism, and the director of Buddhist Studies Online. She received her PhD in Buddhist Studies from Harvard University in 2021. Her research explores the theory and practice of Tibetan pilgrimage to holy mountains, and focuses on the goal of transforming perception. She also holds an MA in the History of Religions from the University of Chicago, and a BA in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia. She is currently Assistant Professor of Buddhist Studies in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Wyoming.   

As part of her training, Kate has spent extended periods of time living in Asia. She has spent summers backpacking across India, living with Tibetan Buddhist nuns in Ladakh, in Dharamsala working in the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, studying at the Dunhuang caves in China, travelling to Lhasa, and conducting research around Boudha in Nepal. She speaks modern colloquial Tibetan and conducts research in Classical Tibetan and Sanskrit. 

As a scholar and teacher, Kate has long been interested in the practices religions develop to transform people's experience of the world. She aims to help students understand Buddhist traditions through deep engagement with primary sources, a process that helps illuminate central Buddhist concepts while embracing the internal diversity of Buddhist traditions. She balances an irreverent and down-to-earth style with deep respect for Buddhist texts, traditions, and practitioners. She teaches both online and in-person courses on the history and philosophy of Buddhism and other Asian religions, and has presented at lectures and conferences around the country.

Student Testimonials

"I have been looking for a way to study Buddhism from a scholar's perspective for more than a decade, without enrolling in a doctoral program. I am so happy to have found BSO 101 and look forward to future classes. Dr. Kate Hartmann's presentations were impressively clear and informationally full, given the huge subject to be covered in 6 lectures. The lectures were nuanced, bringing forward important considerations in addition to facts. Dr. Hartmann is warm and welcoming of the questions from the more beginner students, as well as weighing in on questions and comments from the more advanced students. Excellent course!"

— Rev. Shokuchi Deirdre Carrigan (Brooklyn, New York)

"I absolutely loved this course! I don't think there is anything quite like it available. Rock-solid academic credentials, a very skilled and highly enthusiastic teacher, and a well-thought-out online platform. This is a wonderful opportunity to engage with the study of Buddhism via modern technology. I found Dr. Hartmann to be a very engaging teacher, able to bring the subject matter to life as well as adding precious nuggets of very useful critical thinking and methodology skills. Her humour, thoughtful insight, respect, and humility were much appreciated. Many thanks!"

— BSO 101 Student

"It was important for me to have a structured program to step into, one that was truly beginner (but taught by an expert!) yet challenging and progressive. Dr. Hartmann kept the material fresh and interesting in the lectures and allowed the varied experience among the participants to elevate the discussion on the Friday Zoom Q&As."

— Jeffrey Currier (Seattle, Washington)

"Having practiced Buddhism for many years now, Introduction to Buddhism gave me that broad, historic overview that was missing from my knowledge. Not only did I gain a better academic understanding of Buddhism, but it has also deepened my own devotional practice. Anyone wishing to explore Buddhism, whether new or experienced, will benefit from this course."

— BSO 101 Student