BS 110 | Pilgrimage and Buddhism

Available for Self-Study


Course Description

Just as the Buddha was about to die, his closest disciple Ananda asked what will happen when he and the Buddha’s other followers can no longer see him. The Buddha tells Ananda that they can visit the places of his birth, awakening, first teaching, and death. This story, told in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta, marks the beginning of the long Buddhist tradition of pilgrimage. 

In the 2,500 years since the Buddha’s death, Buddhist communities have developed a diverse array of practices of traveling to holy places. In this course, we will explore a variety of Buddhist pilgrimage traditions from a variety of perspectives. As historians, we’ll ask how pilgrimage traditions began in Buddhism, and how they changed over time. As textual scholars, we’ll study Buddhist writing about holy places, including scriptural sources, poetry, guidebooks, and travel diaries. As anthropologists, we’ll investigate what Buddhists do at different sacred places, and how they understand the meaning of these practices. Finally, as citizens of a rapidly modernizing world, we will explore how pilgrimage traditions are changing in response to the growth of tourism and environmental concerns. Along the way, we will “visit” fascinating pilgrimage sites such as Bodhgaya, Kailash, Shikoku, Wutai Shan, the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, and more. 

No prior experience studying Buddhism is required, although a basic understanding of Buddhist concepts will be helpful. 

Course Preview

Video Poster Image

Course Modules

Students Will Receive: 

  • 4 Pre-recorded Video + Audio lectures (90 min)
  • 4 Pre-recorded Q&A sessions (90 min)
  • 4 ACP Credits
  • 12 Hours of CE credit with YA
  • Course Syllabus (PDF)
  • Weekly Readings (PDF)
  • 4 Multiple Choice Quizzes
  • Yogic Studies Certificate (PDF)
  • Access to the private Community Forum

Dr. Kate Hartmann

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Wyoming

Kate Hartmann’s primary research focus is on the intellectual history of pilgrimage in Tibet, but she also researches Buddhist ethics, as well as Buddhist approaches to addiction and recovery. Her book Making the Invisible Real: Practices of Seeing in Tibetan Pilgrimage Literature is forthcoming from Oxford University Press. 

She received her PhD in Buddhist Studies from Harvard University in 2020, an MA in the History of Religions from the University of Chicago in 2013, and a BA in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia in 2011. 

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.

Enrollment is OPEN for Self-Study

Regular Tuition


One-Time Payment

  • Lifetime access to BS 110

Regular Tuition

$88 x 2

Two Monthly Payments

  • Lifetime access to BS 110

Membership Program


Monthly Subscription

  • Access to BS 110
  • Access to all YS + BS courses—including live and future courses 

  • Access to SKT 100a + SKT 100b

  • Access to YS Book Club

This course is eligible for 12 hours of Continued Education (CE) credits with Yoga Alliance

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