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New Masters program in Buddhist Studies
2015 – 2021
A rare opportunity to:
- immerse yourself in an intensive, seven-year program of study and practice in the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism
- engage in comprehensive study of the great texts of the Nalanda Tradition with qualified Tibetan teachers and Western tutors
- integrate study and meditative practice through regular lam rim retreats
- experience a combined approach to Dharma emphasizing study, practice, and service
- learn to read texts in Tibetan
- receive teachings, empowerments, and commentaries from eminent visiting lamas
- engage with prominent Buddhist scholars and academics
In March 2015, the third FPMT Masters Program in Buddhist Studies of Sutra and Tantra initiated at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa. The Masters Program is an intensive Mahayana Buddhist residential education program inspired by the geshe studies programs in traditional Gelug monastic universities. Taught by fully qualified Tibetan geshes who are assisted by highly experienced staff, the program offers in-depth study of the great Buddhist philosophical texts, with integration through review, debate, and academic work, as well as extensive contemplative training and retreat experience, providing a thorough grounding in the theory and practice of sutra and tantra. It is a rigorous yet uniquely inspiring and fulfilling way for both ordained and lay Buddhists to learn and practice the Dharma.
As the culmination of the FPMT’s Buddhist education programs, in addition to offering students a profound deepening of their Dharma understanding and practice, giving the opportunity to transform the mind and develop inner qualities, the Masters Program serves to train qualified FPMT teachers with good Dharma communication skills.
COURSE FORMAT AND STRUCTURE
The full-time residential program will consist of just over seven years of study (nine months per year) and a total of one year of retreat after the conclusion of the studies. The study portion of the program will conclude in mid-2022.
In addition to teachings with the geshes, students will be supported by review classes with tutors, in which they will deepen their understanding through debate and discussion of the material. Students’ progress is measured by a combination of written and oral exams, research projects, and presentations, and they will also receive instruction in meditation and develop the skills to guide meditations and lead retreats.
Students will also have opportunities to study the classical Tibetan language as well as to participate in seminars by visiting Western Buddhist scholars and academics. Talks by practitioners with extensive retreat experience will also be arranged in order to provide guidance and support for contemplative practice.
STUDY THE MASTERS PROGRAM ONLINE
The Masters Program Online (MPOL) offers the opportunity to study the MP to those who are unable to join the residential program, making use of the latest online educational tools available, in an e-learning environment.
INTEGRATION OF STUDY AND PRACTICE
To provide opportunities for integrating the teachings into practice and for students to acquire retreat experience in preparation for the final one-year retreat, students will have regular opportunities to engage in lam rim retreats during the program at the end of each of the principal subjects. They will also be required to participate in regular meditation sessions during the week, and will receive instruction in leading meditations for others.
Students will study five principal subjects, receiving teachings on and oral transmissions of the main texts and their principal Gelug commentaries from geshes who are qualified lineage-holders. When time permits, the teachers may supplement the teachings with additional texts and commentaries as they see appropriate.
- Ornament for Clear Realization (Abhisamayalamkara)
- Supplement to the ‘Middle Way’ (Madhyamakavatara)
- Treasury of Manifest Knowledge (Abhidharmakosha) and Commentary on Valid Cognition (Pramanavarttika)
- Grounds and Paths of Secret Mantra
- The Two Stages of Guhyasamaja Tantra
Applications for the next subject of the Masters Program:
Treasury of Manifest Knowledge (Abhidharmakosha) and Commentary on Valid Cognition (Pramanavarttika) January 2019—November 2019
will be accepted until January 1, 2019
The fourth Master Program will begin September 2022!
Ornament for Clear Realization (Abhisamayalamkara)
April 2015—March 2017
Maitreya’s root text presents the stages of clear realization gained on the various spiritual grounds and paths of hearers, solitary realizers, and bodhisattvas that lead to the attainment of omniscience, as well as detailed explanations of fundamental Buddhist topics such as bodhichitta, the Three Jewels, the two truths, the four noble truths, and the four Buddha bodies.
- Ornament for Clear Realization by Maitreya
- The Commentary: Clear Meaning by Haribhadra
- The Explanation: Ornament of the Essence by Gyeltsab Je
Supplement to the ‘Middle Way’ (Madhyamakavatara)
April 2017—December 2018
Chandrakirti’s treatise extensively presents the ten perfections, with specific emphasis on the perfection of wisdom and the many reasonings of the Consequentialist (Prasangika) school for understanding emptiness, as well as other Buddhist and non-Buddhist schools of thought.
- Supplement to the ‘Middle Way’ by Chandrakirti
- Explanation of the ‘Supplement to the “Middle Way”’ by Chandrakirti
- Illumination of the Thought: An Extensive Explanation of Chandrakirti’s “Supplement to the ‘Middle Way’” by Lama Tsongkhapa
Treasury of Manifest Knowledge (Abhidharmakosha) and Commentary on Valid Cognition (Pramanavarttika)
January 2019—November 2019
Dharmakirti’s Commentary on Valid Cognition is a fundamental treatise on Buddhist logic and epistemology, presenting the reasons that prove the possibility of past and future lives, liberation, buddhahood, and so forth through “valid cognition” (pramana). Vasubandhu’s Treasury of Manifest Knowledge is a vast description of the outer and inner world according to Buddhism—the various types of migrating beings and realms and their causes, actions and afflictions, minds and mental factors, and the spiritual paths and persons who traverse them.
The teachings on Valid Cognition will focus on logical inference and the establishment of valid authority, while the teachings on the Treasury will focus mainly on the chapters presenting actions (karma) and afflictions.
- Treasury of Manifest Knowledge by Vasubandhu
- Clarifying the Path to Liberation: An Explanation of the ‘Treasury of Manifest Knowledge’ by Gedun Drub, the First Dalai Lama
- Commentary on Valid Cognition by Dharmakirti
- Elucidating the Path to Liberation According to the Pramanavarttika by Gyeltsab Je
Grounds and Paths of Secret Mantra
January 2020—June 2020
Students will study commentaries including Ngawang Palden’s Illumination of the Texts of Tantra to get an overview of the essential points of the four classes of tantra, with particular emphasis on the spiritual grounds and paths of highest yoga tantra.
- Illumination of the Tantric Tradition: The Principles of the Grounds and Paths of the Four Great Secret Classes of Tantra by Choje Ngawang Palden
- Great Exposition of the Stages of Mantra by Lama Tsongkhapa
The Two Stages of Guhyasamaja Tantra
September 2020—June 2021
The class will focus on in-depth analysis of the generation and completion stages of highest yoga tantra, based on the Guhyasamaja Tantra, using commentaries such as Lama Tsongkhapa’s Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages.
- A Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages: Core Teachings on the Glorious Guhyasamāja, King of Tantras by Lama Tsongkhapa
- A Guide to the Generation Stage Path of Guhyasamaja Called “Sacred Words of Akshobhya” by Aku Sherab Gyatso
- A Memorandum to the Expository Commentary on the Five Stages of the Completion Stage of Glorious Guhyasamaja Called “Nectar
- From the Mouth of Akshobhya” by Aku Sherab Gyatso
- Self-generation Rite of the Glorious Secret Assembly, The King of Tantras: Arranged for Convenient Recitation in Accordance with the
- Oral Tradition of the Jang Tse College of Ganden
After the conclusion of the studies, there will be a three-month review period and final exam.
In each calendar year, Masters Program classes are suspended two months for summer vacation (from the end of June until the beginning of September) and one month at Christmas (from mid-December until mid-January), with a study-break of one week immediately following the Easter weekend. A two-week lam rim retreat will be scheduled each year from mid-January to the beginning of February. In addition, classes stop for a few days around the Tibetan new year (Losar), which falls in February or March. Resident students are welcome to remain at the Institute during these breaks, whereas the student housing rates do not apply during the summer months.
Teachings with the principal teacher will be held five days a week, from Monday to Friday. The schedule for review classes, discussion groups, and group meditations will be decided in conjunction with the MP staff.
The students should be aware that the MP is an intensive program that is intellectually challenging and highly scholastic, requiring a great deal of application and commitment, especially for those who have not previously studied Tibetan Buddhist philosophical texts. Previous academic or philosophical training is not a strict requirement, but applicants should be willing to put a substantial amount of time into their studies, and to be aware that many things will only become clear over time, with patience, diligent study, and reflection.
The following requirements must be met by applicants to both the residential and online programs.
- Applicants must have a good foundation in the study and practice of teachings on the Stages of the Path (lam rim) and Mind Training (lo jong), as the material studied in the MP is difficult to apply to one’s practice and daily life without such a basis.
- Ideally, students should have completed at least one of the FPMT study programs, such as the Basic Program, Discovering Buddhism, or Foundation of Buddhist Thought.
- The subjects Mind and Cognition (lo rig) and Tenets (drup tha) are a mandatory prerequisite for admission to the program. These can be studied as part of the Basic Program, in Foundation of Buddhist Thought, or as independent teachings.
- While it is best to have studied these subjects at a center, they can be studied by means of BP Homestudy or BP Online. ILTK is planning to offer some of these subjects, either as online or residential courses, beginning in January 2015.
- Students wishing to study the tantric subjects of the Masters Program (Tantric Grounds and Paths and Guhyasamaja) need to be aware that before beginning these subjects it is necessary to have received a highest yoga tantra empowerment (such as Yamantaka, Chakrasamvara, etc.), including the bodhisattva and tantra vows and the daily commitment of Six Session Guru Yoga, from a qualified lama.
- In order to study Guhyasamaja, it is necessary to have received the Guhyasamaja empowerment from a qualified lama.
The Institute will work to provide opportunities for students to receive these empowerments during the course.
To be considered for admission to the residential program, students must submit an application packet for enrollment in the Masters Program at least six weeks prior to the start of the subject that they wish to study. See “Residential program: how to apply” for details.
For the online program, applications will be accepted up to ten days prior to the start of the subject. See “MP Online: how to apply” for details.
The Masters Program arose from the unique vision of Lama Thubten Yeshe. Lama met Geshe Jampa Gyatso at Sera Monastery in Tibet in 1948, where they became dear friends, studying together for more than twenty years. After asking Geshe Jampa Gyatso to become resident teacher at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa in 1980, Lama requested him to create a seven-year teacher training program, incorporating the major texts that form the basis of the sutra and tantra studies in Tibetan monasteries and tantric colleges. Geshe Jampa Gyatso agreed and taught three of the seven main subjects and several of the supplementary subjects throughout the years between 1983 and 1997, despite numerous interruptions.
After several years of planning by the FPMT and Geshe Jampa Gyatso, in consultation with Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the inaugural course of the Masters Program commenced in January 1998 with Geshe Jampa Gyatso as the resident teacher. It came to a successful conclusion in December 2004 with twenty-two students completing the entire program and another twenty-nine completing one or more of the five subjects. Among those who completed the entire program, many now work in FPMT centers as teachers, translators, interpreters and center staff, while the staff of ILTK’s bi-lingual residential and online Basic Programs and of the second residential and on-line Masters Programs consisted almost entirely of graduates from the first MP.
The second Masters Program began in January 2008, with Geshe Tenzin Tenphel teaching the Ornament for Clear Realization and Treasury of Manifest Knowledge, Khensur Jampa Tegchok teaching the Supplement to the “Middle Way”, and Geshe Jampa Gelek teaching the two Tantra subjects. The program concluded in December 2013, with twenty residential students completing the entire study program, forty-six completing one or more subjects, nine completing the entire course online, and fifty-seven completing one or more subjects online.