Journey into the Heart of the Buddha's Teachings

Join Naropa University’s Wisdom Traditions faculty in a one-of-a-kind learning experience. Combining contemplative practice and academic study, the course illuminates the Buddha’s foundational teachings and helps awaken the spirit of personal inquiry.

Taught by Professor Amelia Hall, The First Turning of the Wheel introduces Buddhism’s Indian roots and explores the foundational teachings of the four noble truths, the eightfold path, the nature of mind and emotions, and mindfulness meditation. Those familiar with modern day and secular presentations of mindfulness will discover its foundation in the Buddhist meditation tradition.

In this in-depth six-week course, you’ll explore the historical, social, and spiritual context in which Buddhism arose, and engage personally through guided meditation and contemplation practices.

Who Should Take This Course?

The course is designed for anyone seeking a deeper, more complete understanding of the historical roots and central pillars of the Buddhist tradition.

All will benefit from the depth of insight and practical guidance offered in Naropa’s renowned contemplative learning curriculum—now available to you at home, on your own schedule.

What the Course Includes

6 weeks of prevideo classes with Professor Amelia Hall (about one hour total per week, in three sessions)

Full transcripts of each session

Weekly deep dive readings to support your study

Short quizzes to support your reflection and comprehension

Weekly contemplation or meditation to help enrich your experience

Recordings of two previously livestreamed Q&A sessions (recorded in 2019)

Meet Your Instructor

Amelia Hall gained her PhD in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies from the University of Oxford in 2012. She has led courses on Buddhism as an online religious studies faculty member at Central Michigan University, and she has served as a faculty member teaching the history of Indian Buddhism for Antioch University’s Buddhist Studies Abroad program in Bodhgaya, India.

A dharma practitioner for 20 years, she is a contributor to the Brill Encyclopedia of Buddhism and the forthcoming Oxford Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Amelia is currently working on a book related to her research on tantric Buddhist landscapes in the Eastern Himalayas.

Course Curriculum at a Glance

By completing The First Turning of the Wheel, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of the view, practice, and roots of the Buddha’s early teachings.

Each week includes 3 short video classes (about 1 hour in total), contemplative practice instruction, plus carefully created study resources.

The Spiritual Landscape of Ancient India

  • Gain historical, social, and spiritual knowledge of the context in which Buddhism arose
  • Learn details of the Buddha’s life story
  • Develop skill in reading foundational Buddhist texts

The Four Noble Truths

  • Gain an in-depth understanding of the four noble truths
  • Develop ways of understanding how suffering occurs
  • Cultivate insight into patterns of craving that cause dissatisfaction in your own life

Buddhist Cosmology

  • Gain understanding of the components of “existence” according to the Buddhist system
  • Cultivate insight into how habitual patterns are perpetuated
  • Learn how to work with difficult emotions

What Is a Person? Introduction to the Abhidhamma

  • Gain an understanding of early Buddhist psychology
  • Cultivate insight into the nature of thoughts and emotions
  • Develop ways to work with the core Buddhist teachings on selflessness

Foundational Buddhist Meditation

  • Be able to identify the purpose of mindfulness practice according to its Buddhist roots
  • Begin to develop your own mindfulness practice
  • Identify common hindrances to meditation practice

The Sangha

  • Understand why the Buddha employed various teaching methods
  • Learn about the ethical considerations of the Buddhist sangha
  • Explore the role of women in early Buddhism

This course is part of an immersive six-month curriculum.

The complete series—The Three Turnings of the Wheel—delivers the heart of Naropa University’s Buddhist studies program in a convenient online environment through four 6-week long courses.

The series joins immersive study with contemplative practice to explore the Buddha's foundational teachings on the nature of suffering, mind, and emotions, the bodhisattva path of wisdom and compassion, and buddhanature.

In addition, the series includes Flight of the Swans, an exploration of the origins and evolution of Buddhism in North America, its traditions of practice and training, and its impact on society.

The Three Turnings of the Wheel Series includes four courses.

You can enroll in any course individually, or the complete series. The series is designed to walk you through the Buddha's foundational body of teachings sequentially, each course building on previous knowledge and experience.

Mahayana Buddhism teaches that the confusion and negativity we experience are temporary obscurations of the true nature of mind, like passing clouds in front of the sun. Explore the inherent purity of mind and seed of enlightenment.


Explore the history, evolution, impact, and sustainability of Buddhism in North America, including the development and distinctive qualities of socially engaged Buddhism in response to issues of gender, race, power, and the climate crisis.

Choose Your Enrollment Option


The First Turning of the Wheel


24 WEEKS OF COURSE MATERIAL (all 4 courses)

First Turning of the Wheel

Second Turning of the Wheel

Third Turning of the Wheel

Flight of the Swans


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Frequently Asked Questions

Are there scholarships available?

Yes. If you have a fixed or limited income you’re invited to apply for a scholarship. Please click here and complete the scholarship request form.

Can I take more than 6 weeks to finish the course?

We aim to provide a contemplative approach to learning—discovering new insights is an unfolding process. Take as much time as you need to work through the course, and come back to the material as often as you’d like. 

I’m interested in the whole series. Do I have to take all the courses in sequence?

When you enroll in the complete series, you receive unlimited access to the First Turning, Second Turning, Third Turning, and Flight of the Swans. While you can take the courses independently in any order, we encourage taking the Three Turnings courses in sequence to facilitate continuity. Each course builds on the knowledge and practices of the previous course(s). With lifetime access you can return to any course on your own schedule.

If you prefer to take an individual course, they can be purchased separately at the following links: First TurningSecond Turning, Third Turning, and Flight of the Swans

Is any prior experience necessary?

No prior experience with meditation or Buddhism is necessary. If you’re new to meditation, you’ll definitely benefit from the practice instructions provided in the course. More experienced practitioners will appreciate the balance between scholarly study and meditative investigation. The series is designed for anyone who wants a more well-rounded understanding of Buddhism and meditation. It doesn’t matter whether you follow a certain Buddhist tradition or no particular lineage at all. Eager learners, spiritual practitioners, meditation teachers—all are welcomed, regardless of background. 

Can I earn continuing education credits for this series?

Continuing education credits are not currently available for the courses.

Naropa University

Located in Boulder, Colorado, Naropa University is a private, nonprofit, liberal arts university offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs that integrate Eastern wisdom studies and the arts with traditional Western scholarship.