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The new edition of the Basic Program started September 17th, 2015 and will end March 2018
The Basic Program is an in-depth FPMT study program in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of Lama Tzong Khapa designed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The Institute offers the course both residentially and online. The Study Program is composed of nine topics integrated with regular meditation sessions. Periodically it offers meditation retreats of different lengths.
BP students develop a level of understanding which will serve as an excellent “basis” for advanced study (e.g. Masters Program), and prepares the ground for more in-depth practice in advanced meditation and long retreats.
The full-time onsite Basic Program consists of daily teachings complemented by daily review-classes, meditations and periodic retreats. Graduates of the residential program qualify for the FPMT Basic Program Completion Certificate.
Teachings will take place from Monday to friday from 3.00 to 5.00pm.
To enroll for the Study Program it is necessary to fill in the online form.
The Basic Program is also available as an online course with video/audio files of the teachings, instructions for meditation sessions, reading material, weekly quizzes, discussion forums and exams at the end of each subject. Audio files of the teachings are normally available the day after they have been given residentially. Weekly average of 8/10 hours study is advisable to successfully attend this Study program. Graduates of the online program qualify for the FPMT Basic Program Home Study Completion Certificate.
The Study Program is composed of nine topics:
- Mind and Cognition: How the mind works
- Philosophical Systems: Indian Buddhist schools
- Heart Sutra of the Perfection of Wisdom: The nature of reality
- Stages of the Path: The basis of Tibetan Buddhism
- Mahayana Mind Training: Techniques of transformation
- The life-style of a Bodhisattva: Cultivating an altruistic conduct
- Tathagata Essence: The ultimate nature of the mind
- 4° Chapter of the Ornament for Clear Realization
- Grounds and Paths of Secret Mantra: The four classes of tantra
1. Mind and Cognition: A Presentation of Buddhist Psychology
“All human accomplishment is preceded by valid cognition.”
Mind and Cognition begins with the study of mind, both in its valid and distorted forms. In addition a number of important themes are introduced, including the relationship between subject and object, supramundane (yogic) knowing and the connection between thought and reality. An introduction to Buddhist psychology forms the latter part of the teaching, where the various positive and negative emotions as well as the cognitive states relevant to practice of a liberative path are identified and defined.
Text part 1: Yongdzin Purbuchok, Explanation of the Presentation of Objects and Object-Possessors as well as Mind and Cognition
Text part 2: Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsen, Clear Exposition of the Modes of Minds and Mental Factors: a Necklace for those of Clear Mind
2. Tenets: Philosophical Systems: The Buddhist Schools of Ancient India
“My doctrine has two modes: advice and tenets. To children I speak advice, and to yogis, tenets.”
Based on the idea that the Buddha taught different things to different people in line with their capacities, Tibetan scholars systemized the numerous trends in Indian Buddhist thought and taught the four schools of tenets as a means to approach the most profound philosophical teachings via more accessible levels. The text that is the basis for study of this subject gives a brief overview of the assertions on minds, objects, selflessness and the nature of attainment within each of the schools, culminating in the tenets of the most highly esteemed school, the Madhyamaka.
Text: Jetsun Chokyi Gyaltsen, Presentation of Tenets
3. Heart Sutra: Nature of Reality-An Explanation of the Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom
“Form is empty, emptiness is form; form is not other than emptiness, emptiness is not other than form.”
Among the most famous of all the Buddhist scriptures, the Heart Sutra reveals the truth of emptiness through a short exchange between two of the Buddha’s most illustrious disciples, Avalokiteshvara and Shariputra. Traditional commentary expands on the cryptic style of the sutra to clarify the exact nature of the wisdom realizing emptiness and the ‘method’ practices that are its essential complement, relating these two aspects of practice to the five levels on the path to enlightenment. The brevity and profound nature of the Heart Sutra have made its recitation popular as an effective means for dispelling obstacles to spiritual endeavour.
Text: Shakyamuni Buddha, The Heart of Wisdom Sutra
Commentary: Tendar Lharampa, Jewel Light Illuminating the Meaning
4. Stages of the Path: Foundations of the Buddhist Path-An Overview of the Stages of the Path to Awakening
“With study comes understanding; but this must be put to use. It is therefore vital to put as much as one can of what one has studied into practice.”
(Lama Tsong Khapa)
The celebrated system of teachings known as the Stages of the Path (lamrim) represents a synthesis of the entire path to enlightenment. Presented in a clear and concise form, these teachings are easy to understand and apply in meditation. Instruction begins with the preliminary practices, and then progresses through the essential practices of the ‘beings of the three scopes’, including correct guru devotion, renunciation, the altruistic wish for enlightenment and the view of the middle way. As a foundation and context for Buddhist practice, this subject is a key element of the Basic Program.
Text: Je Tsong Khapa, Middling Exposition of the Stages of the Path
5. Mahayana Mind Training: Transforming the Mind Through Recognizing the Faults of Self-Centeredness
“And thus bodhisattvas are likened to peacocks: They live on delusions – those poisonous plants. Transforming them into the essence of practice, they thrive in the jungle of everyday life. Whatever is presented they always accept, while destroying the poison of clinging desire.”
The Mahayana path is characterized by the bodhisattva’s aspiration to become a buddha for the sake of all beings. The means to develop and enhance this extraordinary attitude are revealed in a genre of teachings, at once practical and radical, known as ‘mind training’, or ‘thought transformation’ (lojong). Dharmarakshita’s Wheel of Sharp Weapons is one of the most esteemed mind training teachings, and a powerful weapon to cut through our true enemies – the self-grasping and selfcherishing which oppose altruistic intent and prevent lasting happiness and peace.
Text: Dharmarakshita, The Wheel of Sharp Weapons
6. Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds: Cultivating Altruistic Conduct Leading to Awakening
For as long as space endures, and for as long as living beings remain, until then may I too abide, to dispel the misery of the world.”
The teaching on the bodhisattva’s deeds is based on Shantideva’s inspirational verses on Mahayana aspiration and practice, composed more than a thousand years ago and still widely regarded as the most authentic and complete guide for the practitioner dedicated to the enlightenment of all beings. This highest of motivations lies at the heart of his Guide to the Bodhisattva Deeds, which ranges in scope from simple, practical techniques for developing generosity and dealing with destructive emotions, up to the most refined discussion of ultimate truth. Due to its authenticity and relevance for everyday life, this classic is probably cited more often in teachings by Tibetan Buddhist masters than any other Buddhist scripture.
Text: Shantideva, Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds
Commentary: Gyaltsab Je, Commentary to (Shantideva’s) ‘Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds’
7.Tathagata Essence: Final Nature of Mind: A Study of the Limitless Potential of the Mind
“I bow to the one who, with no beginning, middle or end, has a serene stillness and is clear-minded and fully evolved, who became clear from his own aspects and once clear, shows fearless, constant paths of the mind to bring realisation to those with no realisation.”
One of the major texts studied in all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, Maitreya’s Sublime Continuum clarifies the meaning of our Buddha potential, in particular the emptiness of the mind that allows evolution to a state of complete enlightenment. The first chapter of this work which explains four related ‘vajra’ subjects – Buddha, Dharma, Sangha and buddha potential – will be the focus of this teaching.
Text: Maitreya, Sublime Continuum of the Mahayana
Commentary: Gyaltsab Je, Commentary on (Maitreya’s) ‘Sublime Continuum of the Mahayana’
8. Ornament: 4th Chapter: Application in Complete Aspects: Identifying the Topics of Meditation and the Minds that Meditate on Them
“That which through the knower of all leads hearers seeking pacification to peace, which through the knower of paths causes those helping migrators to achieve the aims of the world, and through the perfect possession of which the Munis set forth these varieties having all aspects, to the Mother of the Buddhas as well as the host of hearers and bodhisattvas, I pay homage.”
Maitreya’s Ornament for Clear Realizations is the root text for the study of the levels of realization related to enlightenment according to the Madhyamaka school. This important scripture, traditionally the basis for extensive study in the monastic curriculum, made explicit these levels which were otherwise presented in only a hidden manner in the Buddha’s Perfection of Wisdom teachings. From among the seventy topics covered by the Ornament, the eleven topics of chapter four have been selected for commentary in the Basic Program curriculum.
Text: Maitreya, Ornament for Clear Realizations
Commentary: Chokyi Gyaltsen, General Meaning of the Fourth Chapter
9. Grounds and Paths of Secret Mantra
“In breve, tu conseguirai in questa nascita la buddhità conseguita in innumerevoli eoni, attraverso la più eccellente beatitudine, o lo stato di Vajradhara”. (Samputa Tantra)
“In brief, the buddhahood achieved over countless eons, you will attain in this birth, through the most excellent bliss, or the state of Vajradhara.”
Grounds and Paths of Secret Mantra offers a concise overview of the structure of the tantric path, widely acclaimed in Tibet as the swiftest and most sublime means to realize buddhahood. Tantra distinguishes itself in particular through a unique combination of method and wisdom, achieved through meditation on the perfect form of a buddha as completely devoid of true existence. Presenting the paths of all four classes of tantra, while not being a guide to highest yoga tantra practice itself, this subject provides a clear overview of its complex path structure.
Texts: Kirti Lobsang Trinley, The Condensed Path of the Vajra Vehicle: The Essence of the Nectar of the Great Secret
Ngawang Palden, Illumination of the Tantric Tradition: The Principles of the Grounds and Paths of the Four Great Secret Classes of Tantra
“Here we spend time studying the meaning of the words and then we try to put them into meditation and practice. In this way, we can develop concentration and wisdom and tame our minds; combining work and study, the mind is tamed and becomes better. In this way, we try to eliminate afflictive emotions so that the mind becomes more quiet, more relaxed and happier.”
Ghesce Jampa Gyatso
In order to develop a basis for meditation, Buddha taught the importance of listening to the teachings and contemplating them as a way to attain a clear comprehension of the path to enlightenment. According to a tibetan saying: “The one who meditates without having listened to the teachings is comparable to the one who tries to climb a snow mountain without using their hands”.
Each one of these phases; listening and studying, contemplating and meditating, lead respectively to the wisdom that arises from listening, the wisdom that arises from contemplation and the wisdom that arises from meditation.
For this reason, the Basic Program was especially conceived to give a balanced approach, combining academic training and meditation practice, which characterize the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, and to gain practical and immediate benefit from the study and comprehension of the philosophical subjects.
For this very same reason, even online program participants are suggested to plan regular meditation sessions during the week. The topics of meditation, related to the subject that is being studied, will be proposed by the teaching assistant. During the Basic Program, group meditation retreats will be organized to encourage the integration of the teachings into one’s own practice.
Ven. Ghesce Tenphel graduated with honors in 1994 with a Lharam Geshe degree, the highest Tibetan Buddhist doctorate conferred in the Gelug tradition. He studied tantra at Gyu-To Tantric College. In 1997 he led the group of monks at Sera Je specialized in practices related to Hayagriva. Since January 1998 he has been resident teacher at Lama Tzong Khapa Institute.
Please note that at the end of every subject there will be an exam. Exam dates will be communcated shortly.
Please note that at the end of every subject there will be an exam. Exam dates will be communcated shortly.