The Middle Length Discourses (Majjhima Nikāya) Study Course 2016

The Middle Length Discourses (Majjhima Nikāya) Study Course
15-week online class
Gil Fronsdal with senior students
January 18 to May 1, 2016

Registration deadline: January 11, 2016 (Registration is now closed).

The Middle Length Discourses (Majjhima Nikāya) is one of the most important anthologies of the teachings and religious practices attributed to the Buddha. These rich and dynamic discourses which include the circumstances and people that prompted the Buddha’s teachings, provide context for better understanding the content and nature of early Buddhist teachings. A careful study of this collection is an indispensable foundation for the study and practice of Buddhism.

The course consists of weekly readings of discourses (suttas) from the Middle Length Discourses (Majjhima Nikāya) (see last year’s syllabus here) plus study guides written by Gil Fronsdal.  These study guides function as the “lectures” for the class, helping to bring the richness of this early literature alive (see sample study guides from last year here and here).

The course is organized around 14 themes found in Middle Length Discourses including:

  • Faith
  • The Path
  • The Buddha
  • Karma
  • Training in Community
  • Sensuality and Renunciation
  • Mindfulness
  • Wisdom

Participants will have access to a Google Drive where the study guides will be located and can participate in online forums which will be in Google Groups. Access to the Google Drive and Google Groups requires a Google account. If you don’t have one and need to create one, please follow this link to create a Google account here: You do not need to create a Gmail account — you can use your regular email account for your Google account login.

To promote a sense of community and learning, different discussion forums will be created, such as one for students who are new to sutta reading or who have less time, one for those who have more experience reading suttas and have more time and interest in going deeper, and a closed discussion forum for those who are primarily interested in the application of the earliest teachings to chaplaincy. Students are welcome to participate in any open forum they feel the most comfortable.

The course runs for 15-weeks from January 18, 2016 to May 1, 2016. Students will have the opportunity to post to the forums weekly and comment on others’ post during the following week.

Feedback from earlier course offerings has indicated that sometimes students feel like they have fallen behind and are unable to catch-up if they miss a week. So, new this year, we have introduced a one-week break in the middle to allow everyone to catch their breath, so to speak, and to provide an opportunity to “begin again” for those who would like to do so.

We will be using Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of the Majjhima Nikāya, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (4th Edition, 2009; Boston: Wisdom Publications; ISBN: 0-86171-072-X).

The course is offered in two basic ways, with different structures and expectations for each:

(1)  As a course open to all registrants. The course is freely given, with dana as optional, and the opportunity to participate in the “Exploratory” or “Intensive” forums. For those who wish to explore the material in the context of chaplaincy or spiritual caregiving, a Chaplaincy forum is available – see this link for more details and a separate registration form for this closed forum. (If you would like to make an online donation, please use the PayPal button below).

(2)  As a $300 graduate-level class providing three units of academic credit.  (The three units of credits can be used for the anticipated Masters in Buddhist Studies from the Sati Institute.) In order to receive credit, students are required to:

  • Participate in the weekly online Intensive Forum by posting 500-750 word reflections on the readings as well as responding to other student’s reflections. These forums are equivalent to classroom discussions and will be hosted on Google Groups and moderated by class assistants.
  • Write two analytical papers (eight and twelve pages) and receive a passing grade.  These papers are to be on a topic related to the Middle Length Discourses.  They will be due March 14, 2016 and May 9, 2016.

A summary of the different options for participating are summarized below:

 Exploratory ForumIntensive ForumGraduate Seminar
for credit
Weekly readings
(available on a Google Drive)
1-2 sutta(s) with associated study guide(s)All suggested suttas and all study guidesAll suggested suttas and all study guides
Posting to Online Forums
(Google Groups)
Optional participation in online discussionsOptional participation in online discussionsParticipation in Intensive Forum required
Submit PapersNone requiredNone requiredTwo papers required
CostFreely offeredFreely offered$300


A sample syllabus and study guides (from last year’s course) are available to review to get a sense of the nature, assignments and scope of the course – please note that the syllabus and study guides are subject to change for the 2016 course. In addition, we recommend that all participants review the “Introduction” to the Majjhima Nikāya written by Bhikkhu Bodhi before the course begins. It both provides a useful overview of the Majjhima Nikāya and gives a sense of the sort of analytic perspective we will be taking in the class.

If you would like to make a donation to support the Sati Institute and this class, please use the PayPal button here:

To pay for the for-credit course option, please use the PayPal Button here:



Registration is now closed.

For more information please email

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