BSO 201 | Bodhicaryāvatāra:

How to Lead an Awakened Life

6-week online course
with Dr. Jay Garfield


Sep 20 - Oct 29, 2021



How do we live a life informed by wisdom, compassion, and bodhicitta? How can we transform our way of seeing the world?  

Join professor of Buddhist Studies, Dr. Jay Garfield, and a global cohort of students for this unique opportunity to dive deep into a key text in Buddhism through a close textual study of the Bodhicaryāvatāra"How to Lead an Awakened Life." 

A Classic of Buddhist Literature

Bodhicaryāvatāra was composed by the Buddhist monk and scholar Śāntideva sometime during the 8th Century CE. It stands as one the great classics of world philosophy and of Buddhist literature, and is enormously influential in Tibet, where it is regarded as the principal source for the ethical thought of Mahāyāna Buddhism.

The title is variously translated, most often as A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life or Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds, translations that follow the canonical Tibetan translation of the title of the book (Byang chub sems pa’i spyod pa la ‘jug pa) and the commentarial tradition of Tibet. But that translation itself is a bit of a gloss on the original Sanskrit, and a more natural English rendering of the Sanskrit title is simply How to Lead an Awakened Life, and that indeed describes the content of the text admirably. In this text, Śāntideva provides a guide to moral development open to any of us.

In this course, we will explore this key text chapter by chapter over the course of six weeks, and we will follow’s Śāntideva’s account of moral transformation. As we read, we will explore such ideas as refuge, bodhicitta, the relative roles of individual agency and dependent origination, the nature of the mind, emptiness, and the meaning of engaged bodhicitta. We will also consider the broader questions of where ethics fits into the Buddhist path. What is Buddhist ethics, and what is the relationship of ethics and awakening? How do texts like the Bodhicaryāvatāra aim to transform readers?

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

Course Modules


Module 1 — Introduction to the Bodhicaryāvatāra (Chapters 1-2)

Module 2 — First Steps on the Path (Chapters 3-5)

Module 3 — Counteracting Pathology and Working on Perfections (Chapters 5-6)

Module 4 — Solidifying Bodhicitta: Two Chapters on Meditative Exercises (Chapters 7-8)

Module 5 — Reasoning One’s Way into Ethical Vision (Chapter 8)

Module 6 — Wisdom and Dedication (Chapters 9-10)

Sep 20 - Oct 29, 2021 (6 Weeks)


18 Pre-Recorded Lectures (30 min each)

Each week students will receive a Module with three 30 min lectures and an optional quiz. 


6 Weekly Live Zoom Q&A Sessions (90 min each)*

 Thursdays @ 12-1:30pm Pacific (California time)
September 23, 30, October 7, 14, 21, 28




Students enrolled in this course will receive:

  • 18 pre-recorded video lectures + audio recordings (3 X 30 min per Module)

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

  • 5 BSO Credits

  • Course Syllabus (PDF)

  • Course Readings (PDF)

  • 6 Weekly Handouts (PDF)

  • 6 Weekly Quizzes

  • Access to private Community forum

  • Certificate of Completion (PDF)

Your Instructor


Dr. Jay Garfield

Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy, Logic and Buddhist Studies, Smith College

Jay L. Garfield chairs the Philosophy department at Smith College. He is also visiting professor of Buddhist philosophy at Harvard Divinity School, professor of philosophy at Melbourne University and adjunct professor of philosophy at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies.

Garfield’s research addresses topics in the foundations of cognitive science and the philosophy of mind; metaphysics; the history of modern Indian philosophy; topics in ethics, epistemology and the philosophy of logic; the philosophy of the Scottish enlightenment; methodology in cross-cultural interpretation; and topics in Buddhist philosophy, particularly Indo-Tibetan Madhyamaka and Yogācāra.

Garfield’s most recent books are Knowing Illusion: Bringing a Tibetan Debate into Contemporary Discourse (with the Yakherds, 2021), Buddhist Ethics: A Philosophical Exploration (2021), What Can’t Be Said: Paradox and Contradiction in East Asian Thought (with Yasuo Deguchi, Graham Priest, and Robert Sharf, 2021), Minds Without Fear: Philosophy in the Indian Renaissance (with Nalini Bhushan, 2017), Engaging Buddhism: Why it Matters to Philosophy (2015), Moonpaths: Ethics and Emptiness (with the Cowherds, 2015).

He recently finished a book on selves and persons, Losing Yourself: How to Be a Person Without a Self, to be published in February 2022, and is working on several other projects.


Course begins soon!

The first module releases on Monday, September 20, 2021. 









Enrollment is OPEN!

Sign up today and reserve your spot in the course with one of the following options: 

Regular Tuition



  • Lifetime access to BSO 201



Regular Tuition

$100 x 2


  • Lifetime access to BSO 201



Membership Program



  • Access to BSO 201
  • Access to all BSO courses—including future offerings

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