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Please read a report on FPMT’s
1st Masters Program
|Lama Yeshe’s aim, his wish in setting up this program, was to enable people to study and come to a deeper understanding of the Buddhist teachings, both the vast and profound, as well as sutra and tantra, so that they could then teach other people. His purpose was also to enable each person to develop his or her inner qualities, such as perfect love and compassion, to complete the six perfections, and to achieve final enlightenment. In this way they would be able to help other sentient beings by leading them from cyclic existence to the great city of enlightenment. It was for this purpose that Lama Yeshe asked me to teach this program.|
The Masters Program is the FPMT’s most advanced study program. Based on Lama Yeshe’s unique vison for a comprehensive education, inspired by the traditional geshe studies at the great Gelugpa monastic universities, it was developed with the help of Geshe Jampa Gyatso. Integrating behavior, training and service components, the program offers in-depth study of five great texts and extensive retreat experience, providing a thorough grounding in sutra and tantra.
The Masters Program is a full-time residential program, consisting of six years of study and a total of one year of retreat. The program is designed to provide serious students of Lama Tsongkhapa’s tradition greater depth of study and, in particular, to train qualified non-Tibetan teachers of Buddhist theory and practice. Adapted from the traditional monastic curriculum for a contemporary setting, the program complements Living in the Path, Discovering Buddhism, Foundation of Buddhist Thought, the Basic Program and Maitripa College as the FPMT’s most advanced and rigorous Dharma training.
Taught by a fully-qualified Tibetan teacher assisted by experienced Western staff, the Masters Program was developed at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa (ILTK), Italy, where the first MP reached its successful completion in 2004, and the second Masters Program started in 2008. In the meantime, Lama Zopa Rinpoche has advised several other centers to consider offering the Masters Program and has encouraged translation of the main texts into languages other than English with a view to implementing the program worldwide. Nalanda Monastery in France started its first MP in September 2013, and Chenrezig Institute in Australia is offering the MP subject Middle Way at Masters Program level from June 2012 to mid 2014.
At ILTK the Masters Program is preceded by an optional three-month Tibetan Studies intensive. Several students of ILTK’s current MP have also completed the two year residential Basic Program offered by ILTK, and both at Nalanda Monastery and at Chenrezig Institute the Masters Program is preceded by a high standard residential Basic Program. Although BP graduation is not a requirement for entering the program, the Masters Program admission requirements indicate Basic Program completion as an ideal basis for successfull Masters Program study, while three of the BP subjects are mandatory prerequisites.
|I really enjoy the experience of living together with such an international group of students and practitioners who give much support to each other.|
The Residential Masters Program
The full-time residential Masters Program consists of six years of study, completed by three months of review and the final exam, and a total of one year of retreat. Weekly quizzes, written exams every three months, review classes, meditations, and discussions support the daily teachings. Three one-month lam-rim retreats are scheduled at the end of the first three subjects; students arrange their own nine months or year of final retreat. Criteria for completion include academic, meditation, behavior, service and training components as well as a minimum attendance in the various aspects of the program. A completion card records successful fulfillment of the requirements for each subject, completion of the retreat requirement and of the review and final exam.
The FPMT Masters Program Certificate, the highest educational achievement within the FPMT, is issued by FPMT Education Services upon completion of all components of the program. Masters Program graduates are eligible to become FPMT registered teachers at In-Depth level.
Many graduates of the first Masters Program have already become teachers, interpreters and tutors for Masters and Basic Programs and other FPMT programs in centers around the world, while several of them are translating Masters Program and Basic Program texts into various languages and contribute to preparing Masters Program materials for publication.
An Abridged Masters Program has been designed for centers interested in offering the Masters Program subjects on a non-residential basis, making use of the materials developed by the full-time residential Masters Programs.
The Masters Program Guidelines for Implementation, clarifying requirements and consolidating experience and developments, were completed by FPMT Education Services in 2011; Education Services offers centers wishing to implement the Masters Program support and the latest edition translations, Tibetan texts, transcripts and study materials. Please contact the FPMT MP coordinator for more info.
|My experience of the Masters Program has been extremely positive. My mind has been changing so much. Being in the Masters Program is a never-ending work on oneself.|
Masters Program Online
ILTK offers the Masters Program Online in both English and Italian, supported by qualified tutors. In addition to written course materials and texts, audio recordings of the teachings, videos of review classes, forums supervised by the tutors, and online quizzes and exams are included. The Online course runs parallel to the residential Masters Program; a minimum of 20-25 hours a week are needed to reach a good level of understanding of the material.
Nalanda Monastery’s Masters Program Online is offered alongside their residential MP from September 2013 onward, and Chenrezig Institute also offers their MP Middle Way course as homestudy modules.
Admission requirements for MP Homestudy are similar to the residential program: while a sincere interest in Buddhist philosophy for the development of personal spiritual practice counts as a minimum requirement, basic familiarity with the study and practice of the lam-rim, the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment is recommended. Prior study of the FPMT Basic Program subjects Mind and Cognition and Tenets is very helpful. Students may enter Masters Program Online at the beginning of each subject. Specific requirements for tantra are applicable to the study of the last two Masters Program subjects.
A Masters Program Homestudy Completion Card issued by the FPMT Education Services records completion of the requirements for the individual subjects. Students who successfully complete all five subjects qualify for the three-months review and final exam; upon completion of an additional final one-month lam-rim retreat they will be awarded the FPMT Masters Program Homestudy Certificate.
Masters Program Homestudy graduates are eligible to register as FPMT teachers at Foundational Level; once registered they can teach Discovering Buddhism and introductory courses in FPMT centers, upon request.
The Masters Program curriculum consists of five subjects representing the essential teachings of sutra and tantra. As the foundation of the program, they are taught on the basis of standard texts and commentaries.
Main text: Ornament for Clear Realizations by Maitreya
The Ornament for Clear Realization (Abhisamayalamkara) by Maitreya is a commentary on the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajnaparamita) texts that serves as a support for understanding the profound teachings on emptiness. It includes a detailed explanation of the spiritual paths of hearers, solitary realizers, and bodhisattvas, together with their clear realizations and abandonments on the various paths. It discusses the precepts and methods for obtaining the meditative stabilizations, clairvoyances, signs of irreversibility, and qualities of buddhahood, including the thirty-two signs and eighty exemplifications, the four buddha bodies, and omniscience.
This subject is explained on the basis of The Commentary: Clear Meaning by Haribhadra, and The Explanation: Ornament of the Essence by Gyaltsab Je.
Main text: Supplement to the ‘Middle Way’ by Chandrakirti
Supplement to the ‘Middle Way’ (Madhyamakavatara) by Chandrakirti explains emptiness as presented by the Madhyamaka-Prasangika system of tenets. The main body of the text consists of ten chapters, each one associated with one of the ten perfections and one of the ten grounds of a bodhisattva. Study of this text leads to an understanding of great compassion and how it serves as a cause for generating the mind of enlightenment (bodhichitta). This text also sets out the various levels through which one proceeds to the attainment of the completion of all ten perfections and enlightenment.
This subject is explained on the basis of Chandrakirti’s auto-commentary, Explanation of the ‘Supplement to the “Middle Way”’, and Lama Tsongkhapa’s Illumination of the Thought.
Main text: Treasury of Manifest Knowledge by Vasubandhu
Treasury of Manifest Knowledge(Abhidharmakosha) by Vasubandhu sets out a detailed presentation of the constituents, faculties, Buddhist cosmology, the six realms, karma, the afflictions and their antidotes, the various types of spiritual practitioners and their paths, and the knowledges, concentrations, and absorptions.
This subject is explained on the basis of the First Dalai Lama’s Clarifying the Path to Liberation: An Explanation of the ‘Treasury of Manifest Knowledge’.
Grounds and Paths of Secret Mantra
Main text: Great Exposition of the Stages of Mantra by Lama Tsongkhapa
Lama Tsongkhapa’s Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path of Mantra presents the most important features of the four classes of tantra as well as the initiation procedures and particularities of the deity yoga related to each class, with emphasis on the spiritual grounds and paths of highest yoga tantra.
This text can be studied together with either Kirti Losang Trinley’s The Condensed Path of the Vajra Vehicle: The Essence of the Nectar of the Great Secret or Ngawang Palden’s Illumination of the Tantric Tradition: The Principles of the Grounds and Paths of the Four Great Secret Classes of Tantra.
To study Grounds and Paths of Secret Mantra, it is necessary to have received a highest yoga tantra empowerment, including the bodhisattva and tantra vows and the daily commitment of the SixSession Guru Yoga, from a qualified teacher.
Highest Yoga Tantra
Main Texts: Sacred Words of Akshobhya and Nectar From the Mouth of Akshobhya by Aku SHerab Gyatso, and A Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages: Core Teachings on the Glorious Guhyasamaja, King of Tantras by Lama Tsongkhapa
This subject offers a thorough explanation of the generation and completion stages related to Guhyasamaja. The presentation of the generation stage includes an explanation of the visualization and generation of the mandala and deities and how to carry death, the intermediate state, and rebirth into the path. The presentation of the completion stage discusses the six branches: the isolation of body, isolation of speech, isolation of mind, illusory body, actual clear light, and the union of clear light and the illusory body.
The subject is studied on the basis of the commentaries on the generation and completion stages by Aku Sherab Gyatso and Lama Tsongkhapa’s A Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages.
In order to study this subject, one needs to have received the highest yoga tantra empowerment of Guhyasamaja from a qualified lama.
The Basic Program subjects Mind and Cognition and Tenets are a mandatory prerequisite for admission to the program. While it is best to have studied at a center, these subjects can be studied by means of BP Homestudy or BP Online.
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I’m really glad that I decided to do the (Basic Program) exam and retreat, as it has given me renewed enthusiasm towards more study and meditation, and humility realizing that whatever I think I know is only like a drop in the the ocean of Dharma. …Thank you, and the FPMT office, for all you have done in putting this program together and administering it.
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