Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa’s Residential Four-Year Basic Program

The Basic Program is an In-depth FPMT education program in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition designed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche It offers a balanced approach, combining academic training and meditation practice.

The FPMT Basic Program is an in-depth Buddhist education program designed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche and developed by FPMT Education Services. Olga Planken, FPMT’s In-depth Program Coordinator introduces the full-time residential Basic Program that will start in September 2018 at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa (ILTK) in Italy:

ILTK has a long standing renown for offering outstanding Basic Programs with excellent teachers and staff. Forthcoming is their fourth Basic Program; this time extended over a four year period, it offers short retreats at the completion of subjects, includes the Basic Program three-month review and final exam, and offers a month of group retreat, preparing students to confidently engage in the additional two months of lamrim retreat that are required for BP graduation.

When resident teacher Lharam Geshe Tenzin Tenphel arrived at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa in 1998 he began teaching lamrim, the Graduated Stages of the Path to Enlightenment that form the foundation of all study and practice in the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. In addition, he assisted with teaching of supplementary subjects during the first FPMT Masters Program, while also teaching at other FPMT centers in Italy.

Geshe-la was engaged with the Basic Program at ILTK from the beginning: alongside Geshe Jampa Gyatso he taught the philosophical subjects during the first residential Basic Program at ILTK. At that time this was the first and only residential Basic Program FPMT-wide. From among those teachings Geshe Tenphel’s commentary on The Tathagata Essence is available as a Basic Program Online course at the FPMT Online Learning Center. For the two following Basic Programs at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa Geshe-la was the main teacher. He also taught the first subject of the second Masters Program, while continuing to offer general teachings and visiting other centers as well. Geshe Tenphel is particularly appreciated for his clear explanations, his keen interest in debate, and his sense of humor, qualities that have endeared him to many Western disciples.

Students discussing in ILTK’s tea garden

Students discussing in ILTK’s tea garden

The first Basic Program at ILTK had two Masters Program graduates as teaching assistants; sixteen students completed the entire residential program and eight graduated from the online program while several more passed the final exam; several of them continued their studies by entering the Masters Program. The inclusion of the three-month lamrim retreat, a Basic Program completion requirement specifically added to the program by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, was at that time a unique feature not offered elsewhere, and Rinpoche wrote a personal letter of thanks to all participants and staff of this first residential Basic Program.

The second Basic Program at ILTK was unique in offering university accreditation due to an affiliation with Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa. ILTK’s current, third Basic Program is to due be completed in 2018 with a month lamrim retreat followed by the three-month review and concluded with the final exam at the end of April.
With the fourth ILTK Basic Program starting in September 2018, a newly established collaboration with the University of Pisa comes to fruition: Italian speaking students who wish to graduate with a Master in Neuroscience and Contemplative Practice can combine their Basic Program study with a one-year program at the University of Pisa.

The forthcoming ILTK BP presents a rare opportunity to participate in a full-time residential Basic Program. Available in English and Italian (with online options in English, Italian and Spanish), it includes the elements that guarantee a balanced approach of study, meditation, discussion, and retreat. Review classes facilitated by experienced tutors supplement the daily teachings and help student digest the sometimes challenging subject matter. The practice and behavior components and the community service, emphasized by Lama Zopa Rinpoche as
integral elements of a Basic Program, as well as the extension to a four year schedule all testify for the good cooperation with FPMT’s Education Services in planning and establishing this fourth ILTK Basic Program.

That ILTK is additionally hosting the FPMT Masters Program, and with a next Masters Program already planned to take place right after the completion of their fourth Basic Program, makes for an inspiring ambiance, further enhanced by the Institute’s beautiful location in the Tuscan countryside near the Italian Mediterranean coast.
Residential Basic Program students generally graduate with an interest in becoming FPMT registered teachers, confident to offer Discovering Buddhism or to tutor for the Basic Program or BP Online; others among them join the Masters Program to further complete their studies. In addition to personally maturing in their Dharma studies and practice, the benefits that accrue for FPMT as a whole are a true illustration of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s vision for FPMT!
For more information please check ILTK’s Basic Program web pages:

Through comprehensive study programs, practice materials, training seminars, and scholarships, FPMT Education nourishes the development of compassion, wisdom, kindness, and true happiness in individuals of all ages.