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Lama Yeshe’s and Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s vision for education in action has taken another step forward with Basic Program (BP) graduation ceremonies in Italy, Australia and the Netherlands. Designed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche as an integrated program of Buddhist studies suitable for a contemporary setting, the Basic Program is a practice oriented transmission of the Buddhadharma that takes students beyond introductory-level study and practice.
Based on the lam-rim, the course takes up to five years. In 2007, twenty-two students received the Basic Program Completion Certificate, a reward for completing all the subjects of the core curriculum and the lam-rim retreat. They also had to satisfy the Basic Program criteria for behavior and conduct – practicing to refrain from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct (adultery) and intoxicants, while developing their concern for others and awareness of positive and negative states of mind, and developing the practice of patience and the bodhichitta motivation over the course of their studies.
A number of FPMT centers worldwide currently offer the Basic Program on either a residential or non-residential basis. The Basic Program is also available as a Home Study Program.
This means that the program is very flexible. It was Rinpoche’s wish that many centers would be able to offer a structured study program that went beyond introductory courses, as for most centers the Masters Program (MP) is too advanced and intensive. …
From Phillipa Rutherford, director Chandrakirti Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Centre
Nine students at Chandrakirti Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Centre, in Richmond, New Zealand, completed their first subject from the Basic Program, passing their exam after studying the Wheel of Sharp Weapons. New resident teacher Geshe Jampa Tharchin began the second subject on August 1, Awarenesses and Knowers, covering the intermediate lam-rim. We have now made it possible to follow the teachings from our web site with online students sending in weekly homework.
Chandrakirti Centre has a new 8-foot [2.4-meter] fiberglass Buddha – a replica of the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace. We are busy painting and decorating the Buddha and throne, a very majestic and holy presence in the center’s grounds. We send our thanks to the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion near Bendigo, Australia, for the Buddha.
Mandala brings you news of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and FPMT activities, teachers and events from over 160 FPMT centers, projects and services around the globe. If you like what you read on Mandala, consider becoming a Friend of FPMT, which supports our work. Friends of FPMT at the Foundation level and higher receive the print magazine Mandala, delivered quarterly to their homes.
Without familiarity with the principles of Buddhist thought and practice as taught in the Tibetan tradition, you may find some of the Basic Program subjects difficult to follow and may not benefit as much as you could. There are two FPMT programs that are highly recommended as preparatory study and practice for the Basic Program, both available as homestudy: Discovering Buddhism and The Foundation of Buddhist Thought. Apart from explaining general Buddhist concepts, either of these programs will help you get used to a structured approach to learning Dharma, with regular study, reading assignments, meditation instructions, retreats and assessment questions. Having this kind of preparation will make your Basic Program study more effective and enjoyable. These programs will also help you establish a regular meditation practice and gain some retreat experience, so that when you participate in the Basic Program you can independently structure your practice and design your own retreats on the basis of the provided materials.
Requirements for Tantra
To study Death, Intermediate State and Rebirth and Grounds and Paths of Secret Mantra, there are specific requirements pertaining to tantra. In order to study these subjects it is necessary to have taken refuge, which implies making a life-long commitment to the Buddhist spiritual path, and to have received a highest yoga tantra empowerment. A highest yoga tantra empowerment must have been received from a qualified lama and entails taking the bodhisattva and tantra vows along with the commitment to do the Six Session Guru Yoga practice on a daily basis. To study the Highest Yoga Tantra commentary, these commitments are required in addition to the specific empowerment related to deity of the commentary.
Both Discovering Buddhism and The Foundation of Buddhist Thought include an introduction to tantra, explanations of the development of the bodhisattva aspiration and the meaning of refuge. In the Basic Program, the Stages of the Path teachings further explain refuge and the development of the bodhisattva aspiration and the commitments involved, and Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds and Mahayana Mind Training will help you develop these commitments and train in keeping them.
- Tagged: basic program
If I want to study the FPMT education programs by way of homestudy, do I have to start with Discovering Buddhism ?
It depends on your familiarity with this tradition of Buddhism. If you are new to Tibetan Buddhism it would be best to do the more accessible Discovering Buddhism at Home first. The Basic Program is a more traditional, in-depth study based on Tibetan and Indian texts while Discovering Buddhism focuses on specific topics, explained by Western teachers, and gradually introduces meditation practice and retreats. You need familiarity both with the tradition and with independent study, practice and retreat to be able to experience benefit from your BP studies.
Do I have to register at a center to participate in Basic Program Homestudy or BP Online?
No. You can simply order the package from the center or the access keys for the BP Online subjects offered at the Online Learning Center at The Foundation Store.
Why isn’t there just one teacher for FPMT BP Online?
FPMT BP Online is aimed at students worldwide who do not have a connection with a particular center or any one teacher. For these students we feel that it is most beneficial to provide the BP subjects taught by different FPMT teachers. In this way we give students the opportunity to get to know several of our Basic Program teachers and their different styles of teaching.
How does the FPMT BP Online differ from BP Online/Homestudy provided by specific centers?
Some centers provide BP Homestudy/Online based on teachings by their resident teacher. This option is aimed at students who have a connection with a particular center or teacher, but can’t attend the teachings for one reason or another. Many students worldwide who do not live near enough to a center to have an established connection with either a center or a teacher, have expressed an interest in Basic Program homestudy. For them FPMT BP Online has been developed.
Can I study by combining BP Online/Homestudy from a particular center with FPMT BP Online?
You can study by combining BP Online subjects as offered by a center with subjects offered as FPMT BP Online. And you can qualify for the BP Homestudy Completion Certificate this way too, completing the entire BP by using these different options.
Is it necessary to do all subjects or can I just do one or two?
You can do as many subjects as you are interested in. If you want to qualify for the BP Homestudy Completion Certificate you will have to do at least all nine subjects of the core curriculum.
Do I get a certificate when I have passed the test for a subject?
FPMT BP Online issues a certificate for each subject that you succesfully complete. Centers offer the BP completion card signed off for completed online subjects in case you leave the program and would later continue it elsewhere. You can participate in the BP review and final exam when you have fulfilled all the requirements. Successful completion of all the components of the program is recognized by a Basic Program Homestudy Completion Certificate.
How is the assessment done in case of BP Online?
For BP Online an online test with an online answer key is provided for each subject. If you want to qualify for the BP Homestudy Completion Certificate the test is done under an honor system and you should not use your notes and course materials such as transcripts, text translations, and notes.
Where do I find a list of the texts studied in the Basic Program?
The standard Basic Program texts and commentaries are listed in the overview of the BP curriculum.
Do I need to buy the translations of the texts and other books separately?
All essential materials needed to study a subject are included in the study materials. This includes a translation of the main text. If the main text can only be purchased from a publisher, this is indicated in the course description (on the online Learning Center) and in the product description (on the Foundation Store). The only subject with a required published book is currently Grounds and Paths of Secret Mantra. Published books are listed for most subjects as recommended reading; these books are not required for studying the subject, and there is sufficient supplementary study material included in the course materials provided for each subject.
Why are there tests and a final exam?
The quizzes and the test are intended as a study tool; they will help you assess your understanding of the subject matter. You are free to make use of them or not. If you want to qualify for the Basic Program Homestudy Completion Certificate, you have to pass the test for the completion of each subject, complete the review (based on review questions provided by Education Services), pass the final exam, and fulfill the requirements of full participation in the program.
- to have completed the 9 subjects of the BP core curriculum and their respective tests
- to have completed the lamrim retreat
- to have passed the BP Final Exam after completing a three-month review period
- to have conduct that accords with Buddhist ethics, in particular, to develop the practice of abstention from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct (adultery), and intoxicants
to be practicing awareness of positive and negative states in one’s mind and be developing the practice of patience and concern for others in particular
- to have engaged in at least two half-hour lamrim meditation sessions a week during the BP studies
A three-month lamrim retreat, as advised by Lama Zopa Rinpoche for the Basic Program in general, is not mandatory for homestudy students. The minimum requirement for the Basic Program Homestudy Completion Certificate is a one-month lamrim retreat.
Is the Basic Program Homestudy Completion Certificate different from the general Basic Program Completion Certificate?
Yes; the certificate indicates that it was awarded on the basis of homestudy, and that students therefore did not study with a teacher in person. Also, while BP graduates are eligible to become FPMT registered teachers at In-depth level, BP Homestudy graduates can enter the teacher registration process for Foundational level, which qualifies them to teach introductory courses and Discovering Buddhism.
What are the five lay-vows mentioned by Lama Zopa Rinpoche in the Basic Program Practice & Conduct info sheet?
The five lay-vows consist of the practice of abstention from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct (adultery), and intoxicants.
Will there be an on-line forum as with Discovering Buddhism at Home?
The BP Online forums at the Online Learning Center give you the opportunity to discuss the subject matter and how it relates to practice with other students. Centers have their own specific forms of support for their BP Online, often also by means of an online forum.
Do you provide help for BP Online by means of tutors, as The Foundation of Buddhist Thought does?
Elders take part in the virtual discussion group provided by the FPMT BP Online forums. Centers provide help with their BP Online in various forms. The Online Basic Programs offered by Lama Tzong Khapa Institute and by Nalanda are in real time, following the residential schedule, with tutors and the BP coordinator offering support in the form of review classes, online discussions or by checking exams and attending the online forum, etc.
Is there more to the Basic Program than just study and tests?
All subjects include guided meditations or written meditation and retreat instructions, and you are strongly encouraged to make use of these. Centers implementing the Basic Program sometimes schedule practice days or short retreats that you may like to consider participating in as well. Also, as a Basic Program student you should have some experience of lamrim study and meditation, enabling you to structure your own retreats and a daily or regular meditation practice.
I heard of something called Dharma etiquette. Does this have anything to do with studying the Basic Program?
Yes; all materials containing Dharma teachings should be handled with respect, and it is appropriate to also treat your study area respectfully. This is explained in more detail in the Guidelines for Discovering Buddhism at Home at the end of page 13.
You are encouraged to use the BP Online study materials on your computer rather than printing the sometimes large texts. This has the added advantage of the use of the bookmarks in the PDF files, making cross reference much easier. In this way you also do not end up with large amounts of printed Dharma material that you might find difficult to eventually respectfully and correctly dispose of.
Do I need initiation into Buddhism? At what point if at all?
Once faith and sufficient understanding develop, one may decide to ‘take refuge’ in the Buddhist teachings. This is the name given to the formal step of entrusting oneself to the Buddhist path. Discovering Buddhism and The Foundation of Buddhist Thought include modules on refuge and the development of the bodhisattva aspiration. In the Basic Program the Stages of the Path teachings further explain these, and Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds and Mahayana Mind Training will help you develop the commitments involved and train in keeping them. For the tantra subjects towards the end of the Basic Program a highest yoga tantra initiation may be required when studying BP Online from a center; this entails taking the bodhisattva and tantra vows and a specific tantra daily practice commitment.
Is Basic Program homestudy only offered in English?
FPMT BP Online is offered only in English at this stage. If centers are providing their Basic Program courses as homestudy subjects the language depends on the center. Two of our Spanish centers, Nagarjuna Valencia and Nagarjuna Barcelona, offer their Basic Program materials as homestudy, and Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa provides its BP Online in Italian as well as in English.
Are there any provisions to study Tibetan alongside Basic Program Online?
All FPMT BP Online subjects include the standard Tibetan texts and their translations, giving students with some proficiency in Tibetan the opportunity to increase their knowledge. Studying Tibetan is not a requirement or part of the Basic Program though, and students can complete the entire BP without knowledge of Tibetan language.
What does BP Online cost?
The FPMT BP Online subjects cost 45 USD each, unless there is a special offer.
Why are some subjects offered in video and others in audio; why is there not just one format?
While aiming at the highest quality and hoping in future to be able to provide all subjects in video format, as an international organization we depend on the goodwill of the contributing centers and on the technology they have at hand. At this stage not all centers can provide video recorded teachings, and thus subjects are presented in different formats.
The Basic Program offered in centers seems to be a five-year program. How long will it take me to do the BP by homestudy?
It depends on the intensity and frequency of your study sessions. Several centers offer one teaching per subject per week, while there are also much more intensive residential Basic Programs, indicating that the BP is studied at a variety of levels over the five year period set for it. At home you can work your way through the material offered at your own pace, in accordance with your circumstances. Because the subject matter is often quite involved we expect that the entire program done at home will also take about five years, based on a disciplined and quite intensive schedule of study and practice. For BP Online a time-wise planning and other recommendations are included with each subject on the How to study… page, while the expected length of time needed per available subject is indicated on the BP Online introductory page.
- Tagged: basic program
What is the FPMT Online Learning Center?
With over 50 modules available in English, Spanish and French, and more than 17,000 registered users, the FPMT Online Learning Center provides an enormous opportunity to learn. Students who want to engage in the comprehensive programs developed by FPMT Education Services can easily join other students from all parts of the world in their studies and practice without leaving home.
Perhaps you’ve studied Buddhism for years in a town with no Buddhist center and feel you have no one to talk to about progressing on the path. Maybe you already participate in online social forums and would love to do so with a spiritual community. Or perhaps a question arises at 3:00 a.m. that needs an answer ASAP. Even if you already attend a Dharma center, the Online Learning Center may offer additional Dharma connections, and an opportunity to study a program not offered locally.
The programs range from Buddhist basics to advanced Vajrayana commentaries, with offerings including study programs such as Meditation 101, Discovering Buddhism, Living in the Path, the Basic Program; and additional teachings such as Shiné Retreat with Ven. Choden Rinpoche and Ven. Rene Fusi, and special commentaries such as Commentary on Lama Chopa and Commentary on Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga. Programs are complete with video and audio teachings, reading materials, moderated discussion forums, coursework and study guides, and community service assignments.
The Online Learning Center brings ease, structure and depth to your studies. All these resources can be found through the convenience of a module’s single webpage, and with links provided to other resources, you can study without the need to search the web for related materials. Everything can be stored digitally or streamed directly from the web, and modules can be completed on your own time and pace.
There are two ways to take advantage of the Online Learning Center:
- Join Friends of FPMT now, and immediately have access to a number of free modules. Friends of FPMT who make monthly or annual contributions have access to additional modules, receive a year’s subscription to Mandala Publications, downloadable Dharma gifts, and special Friends of FPMT communications.
- You can purchase individual modules of the programs at the Foundation Store. Choose the “online” version of your selected module.
- Tagged: basic program, discovering buddhism, fpmt education programs, friends, friends of fpmt, light of the path, living in the path, membership, online learning, online learning center, support FPMT
Friends of FPMT is a program created for those who want to directly become a part of the FPMT community of supporters, and provides much-needed funding to many FPMT activities. As a Friend of FPMT, your donations will fund the creation of FPMT Education programs, materials, and new translations of texts, help us serve our charitable projects, and assist FPMT centers, projects, and services. Your donations will maintain all of our websites, blogs and the Online Learning Center, which has provided over 17,000 registered users with access to rich FPMT Education programs. It will also enable us to print Mandala magazine, and lots more.
And as a Friend of FPMT you will also get to benefit from and be connected to what you support. Friends benefits can include a subscription to Mandala magazine, access to all the courses in the Online Learning Center, free downloadable eBooks and PDF’s, puja’s at Kopan monastery sponsored on your behalf, e-Newsletters and special updates.
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In the Vinayavastu (Foundation of Discipline), the Buddha tells the story of the Four Harmonious Friends – a pheasant, a rabbit, a monkey, and an elephant – who lived together in harmony. Each of the younger animals showed respect for the older animals’ life-experience and knowledge by carrying the older on his back.
Later, the eldest (the pheasant) taught the practice of ethical conduct to the others, who then taught the same practice to the rest of the forest creatures. Because of this, happiness and comfort increased greatly in the world.
It is said that wherever a picture of the Four Harmonious Friends is displayed, the ten virtues will increase, the minds of all will become harmonious, and many auspicious events will occur.
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- Tagged: basic program, contribute, discovering buddhism, fpmt, fpmt education services, fpmt international office, fpmt projects, friends, friends of fpmt, Friends program, light of the path, living in the path, Mandala subscription, membership, online learning, sign up, support FPMT
|Learning Dharma means less ignorance and more wisdom. It means more light in your life, no darkness in your mind. It means you have more freedom in your life to achieve liberation from samsara and great enlightenment. The more you understand Dharma, the more you can benefit others.|
The Basic Program is a five-year, twelve-subject course of studies designed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche. It provides a practice-oriented transmission of the Buddhadharma to committed students ready to progress beyond introductory-level study and practice. Its comprehensive curriculum greatly enhances students’ Dharma understanding, establishing a sound basis for ongoing study, practice, retreat and service. FPMT centers worldwide offer the program at a variety of levels; it is also available for homestudy as an Online program. Some of Tibetan Buddhism’s most treasured texts form the heart of the Basic Program. Je Tsongkhapa’s Middling Lam-Rim, Shantideva’s Bodhisattvacharyavatara, the Heart Sutra, Jetsun Chökyi Gyältsen’s Tenets, Maitreya’s Ornament and Tathagata Essence, the Wheel of Sharp Weapons and others guide the practitioner through a comprehensive study of sutra and tantra.
The Basic Program in FPMT Centers
The Basic Program is taught by Tibetan geshes and qualified Western teachers. Study of the standard texts and commentaries is ideally supported by discussions, tests, meditation and short retreats. Students must follow the Basic Program criteria for conduct over the course of their studies: practicing to refrain from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct (adultery) and intoxicants, while developing their concern for others, awareness of positive and negative states of mind, and in particular developing the practice of patience and the bodhicitta motivation. A three-month review period concluded by the final exam and three months of lam-rim retreat complete the program.
Students may enter the Basic Program at the beginning of subjects as indicated by individual centers. Students will benefit most from their BP studies if they have some familiarity with preparatory study and practice as offered by introductory level programs.
Upon fulfillment of the requirements set by the center and having passed the test for a subject, the Basic Program Completion Card is signed. When at least the nine subjects of the core curriculum are completed, students may participate in the review and final exam.
The lam-rim retreat may be done before or after the exam, but should be done after studying the Stages of the Path. Lama Zopa Rinpoche strongly encourages students to do a three-month retreat all at once, but if this is not possible, three separate months of lam-rim retreat fulfill the requirement. Several centers are now offering one- or three-month lam-rim retreats in different regions.
Upon completion of the review, final exam and retreat, students are awarded the Basic Program Completion Certificate. Graduates become eligible to serve as teachers and tutors for FPMT education programs.
BP Guidelines, support, the standard texts and commentaries both in Tibetan and in translation (in English, Spanish, French, Italian and German) and examples of course materials are available for FPMT centers wishing to implement the Basic Program. For more information please contact the FPMT Basic Program coordinator.
Basic Program Online and Homestudy
The Basic Program Online series offer the BP subjects by way of video, audio and transcripts, complemented by study materials, discussion forums, guided meditations and retreats. By presenting BP teachings that were offered at a variety of Basic Program centers, students who can not study at a center get to know several of our outstanding Basic Program teachers.
Basic Program Online students may study any of the subjects, and in any order they wish; students are also free to choose to what extent they wish to follow the BP homestudy recommendations regarding discussion, behavior, practice, meditation and retreat.
To make their study of the Basic Program most rewarding, homestudy students are encouraged to engage in all components of the program, including the behavior criteria, the meditation requirement of at least two half-hour lam-rim meditations per week, the subject-completion tests and subject-related short retreats, the Basic Program retreat requirement for homestudy (a one-month lam-rim retreat), and the three-month review and final exam.
Upon completion of all requirements the BP Homestudy Completion Certificate is awarded; BP homestudy graduates are eligible to become FPMT teachers at Foundational Buddhism level, which qualifies to teach Discovering Buddhism and introductory courses at FPMT centers.
BP Online students discuss BP topics with each other via the BP Online forums that are monitored by qualified Western teachers. Homestudy students can participate in one-month lamrim retreats offered by centers in several regions. For individual one-month lamrim retreats, Guidelines and Support Materials are provided on the FPMT Online Learning Center.
To benefit from Basic Program homestudy, some experience with Dharma study, meditation practice, and skill in doing individual retreat are needed. There are also specific requirements for the tantra subjects. Please check the preparatory study and practice page to decide if Basic Program homestudy is right for you!
|I’m finding the Mahayana Mind Training a pretty earth-moving subject. This is a brilliant example of Dharma as a mirror and it is giving me plenty to work on. Venerable George’s commentary is crystal clear and his teaching style is very effective. I highly recommend this package.|
The Basic Program curriculum was designed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche to ensure that students who want to study beyond the introductory level will gain a profound knowledge of the key aspects of the entire Buddhist path. Refer to the BP subject descriptions for a more detailed description of each of the Basic Program subjects!
Basic Program students study:
- Stages of the Path: the stages of the path to enlightenment of beings of low, middling, and great capacity
- Heart Sutra: emptiness and the phenomena qualified by it
- Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds: the six perfections – generosity, morality, patience, joyous effort, concentration, and wisdom – and how to practice them in everyday life
- Mahayana Mind Training (Wheel of Sharp Weapons): the law of actions and results, or karma, and the states of mind that shape our future experiences
- Sublime Continuum: the buddha or tathagata essence that exists within every sentient being
- Mind and Cognition: the way the mind knows phenomena and the mental factors that constitute the basis of our daily experience
- Tenets: the philosophical systems or tenets of the four main schools of ancient Buddhist thought
- Ornament for Clear Realizations and Seventy Topics: the 173 aspects of the enlightened or omniscient mind
- Grounds and Paths of Secret Mantra; Death, Intermediate State and Rebirth; and a Highest Yoga Tantra commentary; the four classes of tantra with emphasis on the generation and completion stages of highest yoga tantra
The Basic Program subjects may be studied in any order; however, the Stages of the Path (lam-rim) provides the overall context for the other subjects and for meditation practice throughout. Understanding Tenets and Mind and Cognition will help with the ninth chapter of Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds, and Seventy Topics and Ornament will be difficult without studying the other subjects first. The tantra subjects should not be attempted without a good overall understanding and practice of the path.
Highlighted subjects are currently available for homestudy as Basic Program Online from the Foundation Store. Subjects not yet available for homestudy are planned to be released within the next two years.
Gendun Drubpa Center, Williams Lake
Aryatara Institute, Munich
Losang Dragpa Centre
Rinchen Zangpo Center, Torreon
Kopan Monastery, Kathmandu
Ganden Tendar Ling , Moscow
Amitabha Buddhist Center
Shakyamuni Center, Taichung
Jamyang Buddhist Centre, London
Gyalwa Gyatso Buddhist Center, Silicon Valley, California
Kadampa Center, North Carolina
Ksitigarbha Tibetan Buddhist Center, Taos, New Mexico
Land of Medicine Buddha, Soquel, California
Shantideva Meditation Center, New York
Thubten Norbu Ling, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Tse Chen Ling, San Francisco, California
- Tagged: basic program
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One must practice with the bodhisattva attitude every day. People can’t see your mind, what people see is a manifestation of your attitude in your actions of body and speech. Pay attention to your attitude all the time, guard it as if you are the police, or like a maid cares for a child, like a bodyguard, or like you are the guru and your mind is your disciple.
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