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.

Why is the relationship between wisdom and compassion so important in Buddhism? In this six-week course, The Second Turning of the Wheel, you’ll discover profound answers. You’ll also explore the bodhisattva vow, along with the history of Buddhism’s Tibetan and East Asian schools.

Phil Stanley, Professor of Religious Studies in the Wisdom Traditions Department at Naropa University, will guide you through compassion-oriented sutras, the stages of the path to enlightenment, and practices for cultivating kindness towards ourselves and others. Through dharma lectures and practical enrichment activities, Prof. Stanley aims to draw out your natural wisdom and self-knowledge.

Please note that this course builds upon The First Turning of the Wheel course. Although you can take the Second Turning of the Wheel independently, we encourage you to complete The First Turning course for continuity of knowledge and understanding.

Who is the Course Designed For?


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 pre-recorded video classes with your Naropa University instructor (about 1 hour total per week, in a few short sessions)

Full transcripts of each session

Weekly deep dive readings to expand your understanding

Short quizzes to support your reflection and comprehension

Weekly contemplation or meditation to help enrich your experience

Recordings from two original live Q&A sessions (2019)

Your Instructor


Phil Stanley gained his PhD in Religious Studies in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism from the University of Virginia. He is also Dean of Academic Affairs and authorized teacher of Nitartha Institute, devoted to translating the entire Tibetan monastic college curriculum of the Kagyu tradition into English and to training and authorizing Western teachers of that curriculum. He is a recipient of a Fulbright-Hays scholarship. Phil is the author of Primer of Classical Literary Tibetan, which is used in language classes at Naropa, and he does Tibetan textual translation for Nitartha Institute courses.

Course Curriculum at a Glance

By completing The Second Turning of the Wheel, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of the roots of the Mahayana tradition, including cultivating wisdom, compassion-based meditation practices and the Buddhist philosophies behind them.

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

Introduction to the Mahayana & The Second Turning of the Wheel

  • Distinguishing features of the Mahayana, or “Great Vehicle”
  • The Historical Emergence of Mahayana
  • The Mahayana Path

The Development of Wisdom and The Emergence of the Middle Way School (Madhyamaka)

  • Selflessness and “The Middle Way” 
  • The Perfection of Wisdom Sutras
  • The development and spread of “The Middle Way” school

The Bodhisattva Vow and the Six Perfections

  • The Bodhisattva Vow: The Commitment to Help All Beings Attain Enlightenment
  • The Six Perfections: Compassionate and Skillful Action
  • The Third Perfection: Patience

The Cultivation of Compassion in Meditation and Post-Meditation

  • The Four Immeasurables: Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, and Equanimity 
  • The Seven Points of Mind Training
  • Tonglen: The Compassion Practice of Sending and Taking

Ultimate Bodhicitta

  • Emptiness and the Illusion of Stability
  • Do Things Really Exist?
  • Interconnectedness and Ultimate Truth

The Spread of the Perfection of Wisdom and Madhyamaka Teachings

  • Examining Causality
  • The Two Truths: Relative and Absolute
  • Madhyamika in Tibet and East Asia

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.

Learn about the historical, social, and spiritual context in which the Buddhadharma arose, and explore the foundational teachings of Indian Buddhism.

Explore the relationship between wisdom and compassion, the stages of enlightenment according to the "Middle Way" tradition, and compassion-based  practices and philosophies that are foundational to the bodhisattva motivation.

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 Second 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.

About 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.