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

Whether you are a beginner or an advanced practitioner, if you are wondering about the next step to take on your spiritual journey, please refer to the FPMT Education Programs page.


FPMT offers a vast range of Buddhist study programs available in FPMT centers and as homestudy or online through the FPMT Online Learning Center. From introductory courses to the highest philosophical texts, FPMT provides everything needed to learn, practice, and fully realize the Buddha’s teachings.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Gendun Drupa Centre, Martigny, Switzerland, November 2018. Photo by Olivier Adam.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Gendun Drupa Centre, Martigny, Switzerland, November 2018. Photo by Olivier Adam.

Introductory Courses | Foundational Programs | In-Depth Programs | Maitripa College | Translator and Interpreter Training |Becoming an FPMT Registered Teacher

We offer a vast range of education programs, fulfilling the needs of beginners to advanced practitioners. All FPMT education programs embody FPMT Wisdom Culture.

Introductory Courses

Buddhist Meditation 101

What You Learn: Basic meditation techniques for complete beginners. The meaning and purpose of meditation in a Tibetan Buddhist context. What mind is and how it works. How to use meditation to lessen destructive emotions and develop positive ones to become a kinder and wiser human being.

Duration: Five to ten sessions.

How to Participate: Find Meditation 101 as part of the Online Learning Center. Alternatively, check whether the course is offered at your closest FPMT center.

Buddhism in a Nutshell

What You Learn: Basic Buddhist philosophy and principles within a Tibetan Buddhist context for complete beginners. The four noble truths and the path to enlightenment through developing wisdom and compassion. Simple meditation instructions are also provided.

Duration: Five to ten sessions.

How to Participate: Find Buddhism in a Nutshell as part of the Online Learning Center. Alternatively, check whether the course is offered at your closest FPMT center.

Heart Advice for Death and Dying

What You Learn: How to overcome the fear of thinking and talking about death. Awareness of the reality of your own and others’ death helps you live life in a more meaningful way. Methods to help yourself and others face death peacefully and even joyfully.

Duration: Five sessions.

How to Participate: Find Heart Advice for Death and Dying as part of the Online Learning Center. Alternatively, check whether the course is offered at your closest FPMT center.


Foundational Programs

Discovering Buddhism

What You Learn: An experiential taste of teachings and practices in the Tibetan Mahayana Buddhist tradition based on the lamrim, the stages of the path to enlightenment. Includes guided meditations and intensive practice days to integrate the teachings and make life most meaningful.

Duration: Thirteen modules over two years and a fourteenth module of personal integration practices.

How to Participate: Find Discovering Buddhism as part of the Online Learning Center in English and French. Module 2, “How to Meditate” is available free to the public. Alternatively, check whether the course is offered at your closest FPMT center.

Living in the Path

What You Learn: Quintessential lamrim teachings from Lama Zopa Rinpoche taken from various teaching events from 2009 onward. Meditations, mindfulness practices, and service practices drawn from the teachings make it easy to integrate them into daily life.

Duration: Currently, twenty modules.

How to Participate: Find Living in the Path as part of the Online Learning Center. The majority of modules are free to the public. Alternatively, check whether the course is offered at your closest FPMT center.


In-Depth Programs

FPMT Basic Program

What You Learn: This program is a comprehensive, practice-oriented transmission of the Buddhadharma designed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche for committed students who wish to progress beyond foundational level study and practice.

Duration: Nine main and three supplementary subjects over five years.

How to Participate: The Basic Program is offered in a variety of formats, residential and non-residential, in FPMT centers worldwide. Alternatively, it is also available as Basic Program Online as part of the Online Learning Center.


FPMT Masters Program

What You Learn: This residential program is an intensive, full-time study of Buddhist sutra and tantra, based on the unique vision of Lama Thubten Yeshe and developed with the help of the late Geshe Jampa Gyatso. Inspired by the geshe studies in traditional Gelug monastic universities, it provides serious students of Lama Tsongkhapa’s tradition greater depth of study and practice and the opportunity to become qualified FPMT teachers.

Duration: Six years of study with integrated practice, training, and service components, and one year of retreat.

How to Participate: The Masters Program is currently offered at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, in Italy, and Nalanda Monastery, in France.

Maitripa College

Master of Arts in Buddhist Studies (MA)

What You Learn: The MA degree offers a superior, integrated education in Buddhist Studies. It is designed for students seeking an in-depth and critical understanding of Buddhist thought in the context of both traditional and academic scholarship. The degree couples meditative experience of the path and Buddhist principles into active service in partnership with a core philosophical curriculum designed to ground the student in Buddhist principles, logic, philosophical arguments, and meditative techniques. The curriculum was designed by Yangsi Rinpoche with the support of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and serves as the foundation for establishing a fully accredited Buddhist university in the United States.

Duration: Two to three years (44 credits).

Language Requirement: 6 credits (can be fulfilled by the Classical Tibetan Language Intensive offered each summer).

How to Participate: Maitripa College is located in Portland, Oregon, United States.

Masters of Divinity (MDiv)

What You Learn: The MDiv is a professional degree focused on a Buddhist approach to cultivating intellectual, spiritual, and professional skills in order to work as an agent of positive change in the world. Scholastic and contemplative training forms a stable foundation for skillfully enacting culturally-relevant wisdom and compassion.

Duration: Three to five years (72 credits).

Language Requirement: None.

How to Participate: Maitripa College is located in Portland, Oregon, United States.

Translator and Interpreter Training

Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo Translator Program

What You Learn: Classical and colloquial Tibetan.

Duration: Four years; two years of intensive classroom study in Dharamsala, India, followed by two years training in a Dharma center as an interpreter for a Tibetan geshe.

How to Participate: The Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo Translator Program is located in Dharamsala, India.

Becoming an FPMT Registered Teacher

Students who complete an FPMT foundational or in-depth education program are eligible to apply for teacher registration. FPMT registered teachers can offer introductory courses, foundational programs, and in-depth programs or subjects in FPMT centers, study groups, projects, and services around the world. Contact FPMT Education Services for more details.

FPMT Education Services has made available a variety of prayers and practice materials available for purchase as hard copy materials and/or eBooks and downloads.

Prayers & Practice Materials

FPMT Education Services has made available a variety of essential Buddhist prayer books, Buddhist practices, and Tibetan texts available by donation in hardcopy and digital formats. Below, please find a selection of useful links to help you find what you need to fulfill your commitments and enrich your meditation practice.

If you are looking for more structured study, consider one of FPMT’s study programs.

Mantras, meaning “mind protection” are Sanskrit syllables, usually recited in conjunction with the practice of a particular meditational deity, and embody the qualities of the deity with which they are associated.

Sutras are records of teachings given by the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni.

Various Mantras & Resources
Lama Zopa Rinpoche writing mantras on a patio umbrella in order to bless all those that sit underneath it, Aptos, California, US, June 2017. Photo by Ven. Roger Kunsang.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche writing mantras on a patio umbrella in order to bless all those that sit underneath it, Aptos, California, US, June 2017. Photo by Ven. Roger Kunsang.

Mantras, meaning “mind protection” are Sanskrit syllables, usually recited in conjunction with the practice of a particular meditational deity, and embody the qualities of the deity with which they are associated. They bring benefit to all who see, touch, hear or speak them.

Further, when you recite mantras with the correct motivation (the wish to benefit others), your speech becomes holy speech capable of offering blessings to others. Some mantras are so powerful that they are said to be able to benefit others even when no virtuous motivation is present.

For extensive advice from Lama Zopa Rinpoche about the benefits of reading, writing or reciting particular mantras, or how to engage with mantras to eliminate or reduce potential or ongoing obstacles, please visit the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive for Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Online Advice Book and for Advice from Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A Collection of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Advice about Mantra Recitations

Amitabha Buddha Mantra

Amitayus Mantra

Blessing the Speech According to the Instructions of Great Yogi Khyungpo, on the FPMT Online Learning Center


Clouds of Offerings Mantra, The Benefits of the

Daily Mantras, including Mantra to Bless the Rosary, Mantra to Multiply Virtue, Exalted Stainless Beam Totally Pure Light Mantra, Mantra of Great Wisdom Bimala Ushnisha, Holy Name Mantra That Fulfills Wishes, on the FPMT Online Learning Center

Dying, Mantras to Recite for

Five Powerful Mantras

Flower Offering Mantra

Four Dharmakaya Relic Mantras

The Great Wisdom Mantra

Heart Sutra Mantra

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Name Mantra

Holy Objects: Mantras, Blessing and Filling Instructions

Phagpa Chulung Rolpai Do Mantra

Just by Seeing Mantras

Kshitigarbha Mantra, Middle-Length

Kshitigarbha Mantra and Practice

Lama Tsongkhapa Name Mantra

Lama Zopa Rinpoche Name Mantra

Lotus Pinnacle of Amoghapasha/Wish-Granting Jewel Mantra

Mantra Destroying All the Negative Karmas and Defilements

The Mantra Encompassing the Essence of the Kangyur

Mantra to Fulfill Wishes

Mantra Taught by Buddha Droden Gyälwa Chhö

Mantras for Microfilm

Mantras to Place on a Dead Body

Mantra to Stop the Pollution of Consuming Offerings Made to the Three Rare Sublime Ones: digital version and print version

Mantra from “The Sutra of Great Liberation”

Manjushri Mantras

Maitreya Buddha Mantras

Medicine Buddha

Miscellaneous Mantras, including the mantra for washing, Mantras to Make Charity of the Contaminations of the Body, Mantra for Blessing Meat, and others.

Mitrugpa Buddha Mantra

Namgyalma mandala, high-resolution PDF available in the Foundation Store


Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) Mantra

Precious mantra hat, available in the Foundation Store

Precious Mantra Hat

Powerful Mantras for the Time of Death

  • Chenrezig Long & Short mantra
  • Namgyälma Long & Short mantra
  • Milarepa’s Mantra
  • Mantra of Kunrig
  • Medicine Buddha Mantra (short)
  • Zung of the Exalted Completely Pure Stainless Light
  • Stainless Pinnacle Mantra
  • Lotus Pinnacle of Amoghapasha
  • Mantra of Buddha Mitrugpa

Shakyamuni Buddha Holy Name and Mantra

Tara Mantras

Vairochana Mantra – Protection from Fire and Other Harm

Vajrasattva Mantras

The Wisdom Mantra Called the Arya Six Syllables

Zung of the Exalted Completely Pure Stainless Light

If there is a particular mantra you are interested in and don’t see it here, please contact us at 

Various Sutras & Resources

Lama Zopa Rinpoche works on writing out the Prajnaparamita Sutra with Ven. Tsering at his side, Aptos, California, United States, June 2017. Photo by Ven. Lobsang Sherab

Sutras are records of teachings given by the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni. The Buddha’s discourses were memorized by his disciples and later written down in various languages, the most complete collections of teachings being in Pali and Sanskrit. Because sutras contain the actual words spoken by the Buddha, by reproducing that speech ourselves during recitations our voice becomes a conduit for the spread of Buddha’s teachings in the world. A special set of sutras called dharmaparyayas or “transformative teachings,” including the Sanghata Sutra, function to transform those who hear, recite or write out them in particular ways, in the same way as meeting a buddha in the flesh.

Dharanis contain the essence of a teaching but are often compared to mantras due to their intended ritual vocalization. Generally, however, dharanis are longer than mantras and are more likely to have intelligible phrases, like sutras. The word dharani is from a Sanskrit root word that means “to hold or maintain.” Dharanis are said to have the power to heal and protect from harm.


  • Amitayus Long Life Sutra
    According to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, “This text is very precious and there is so much benefit in printing or writing it. This is one of the texts that, if written in gold, mountains of negative karma get purified … It’s very good to print for people who have cancer, and for the success of activities and projects. If a business has difficulties, or is difficult to start, if you have difficulty finding a job, or the job is not going well, you can print many copies to make merit, not particularly for mundane success but generally to collect merit for realizations, conditions for Dharma practice. Then you can dedicate the merits of printing for all sentient beings. This is one solution for success and long life. Also, when you die you will get born in Amitabha’s pure land.”
  • The Array of Sukhavati Pure Land: A Concise Mahayana Sutra
  • Heart Sutra
    The Heart Sutra is the most widely known sutra of the Mahayana tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. It is part of the Prajnaparamita Sutras, which is a collection of about 40 sutras composed between 100 BCE and 500 CE. The Heart Sutra is a presentation of profound wisdom on the nature of emptiness.
  • Noble Stack of Auspiciousness Sutra
    This sutra is said to be good for dispelling inauspicious energies.
  • The Sutra of the Exalted Great Glorified Female Being
    According to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, “This practice is for overcoming financial difficulties, especially if someone is causing you financial problems, but also to empower financial endeavors that are dependent on others to bring success.”
  • Sutra of Golden Light
    This “King of Glorious Sutras,” contains everything needed, from daily happiness to complete enlightenment. It contains a profound practice of confession and rejoicing, profound teachings on dependent arising, reliable assurances of protection, guidelines for ideal government, and awe-inspiring stories of the Buddha’s previous lives.
  • The Sutra Remembering the Three Jewels
    Lama Zopa Rinpoche recommends reciting this sutra on merit multiplying days.  
  • The Sutra on What is Most Precious to a Monk
    This sutra from the vinaya discusses the meaning of and motivations for monastic engagement, exploring what kind of mind constitutes one of monastic practice. It explains why that which a monk holds most dear is his mind of renunciation and commitment to his vows.
  • Sanghata Sutra
    The Sanghata Sutra promises to transform all those who read it. Like other sutras, the Sanghata Sutra records an oral teaching given by the Buddha, but unlike other sutras, Buddha explains that he himself had heard this sutra from a previous buddha. The Sanghata Sutra is a text that talks about itself by name and talks in great detail about what it will do to anyone who encounters it. It is also an extraordinary literary adventure, full of stories of death, discovery and transformations.
  • Vajra Cutter Sutra
    Along with the Heart Sutra, the Vajra Cutter Sutra (also known as the Diamond Cutter Sutra or Diamond Sutra) is one of most well-known sutras of Mahayana Buddhism. The Vajra Cutter Sutra is a discourse on the Buddhist concept of emptiness or “Wisdom Gone Beyond.”


Other Resources

Lama Zopa Rinpoche has given extensive advice and instruction for caring for others (and ourselves) at the time of death, or during the process of dying.

Death & Dying

Practices | Additional Resources

Lama Zopa Rinpoche with a copy of How to Enjoy Death, Osel Labrang, Sera Monastery, India, December 2015

Practices for Dying and Death

Lama Zopa Rinpoche recommends various practices to perform when someone is dying or has died. However, the most essential practices to do are:

Other practices and resources to help those who have died include:

Additional Resources

Books and Reading Materials | FPMT Education Programs Jangwa Pujas | Prayer Service

Resources available to learn how to prepare for your own death, and how to help others who are dying, include:

Books and Reading Materials

FPMT Education Programs

  • Heart Advice for Death and Dying – An FPMT introductory course available online and in some FPMT centers. The course provides practical instructions for the time of death to anyone who is interested in learning about death and dying from the Tibetan Buddhist perspective.
  • Discovering Buddhism, Module 5. Death and Rebirth – An FPMT foundational-level course available online and in many centers. It explores life, death, and rebirth and the nature of mind. Students learn to use the fear of death to overcome the fear of death. They discover how to use the certainty and imminence of death to enhance their quality of life.

Jangwa Pujas

The following FPMT centers offer jangwa pujas to benefit the dead, please contact them directly for more information:

Mahayana Buddhist Association (Cham Tse Ling) (Hong Kong); Potowa Center (Tangerang, Indonesia); Chokyi Gyaltsen Center (Penang, Malaysia); Losang Dragpa Centre (Selangor, Malaysia); Rinchen Jangsem Ling Retreat Centre (Triang, Malaysia); Kopan Monastery (Kathmandu, Nepal); Dorje Chang Institute (Auckland, New Zealand); Amitabha Buddhist Centre (Singapore); Jinsiu Farlin (Taipei, Taiwan); Land of Medicine Buddha (Soquel, USA)

Prayer Service for People Who Have Passed Away in the Past 49 Days

  • Request prayers for people who have passed away in the past 49 days – The names of people who have recently passed away are given to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, FPMT sangha communities, and individual Buddhist practitioners with a request for their prayers. You can also subscribe to the prayer list so that you can contribute your own prayers to those who have died in the past 49 days.

There are many FPMT hospice services.

Additional information and advice is available to FPMT centers, projects, and services in the Death and Dying Resources section of the FPMT Affiliates Area.

FPMT provides a wealth of opportunities enabling one access to Buddhist teachings and advice. You are welcome to take advantage of these resources.

Teachings & Advice

Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. This photo is from a three week retreat the lamas taught at Camp Arrowpines on Lake Arrowhead, east of Los Angeles, USA, 1975. Photo by Carol Royce-Wilder.

FPMT provides a wealth of opportunities enabling one access to Buddhist teachings and advice. Below are a few resources.





Archived Teachings from Various Lamas


HH Ling Rinpoche

Geshe Lhundup Sopa

Denma Locho Rinpoche



Under Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s advice and care, FPMT has made the creation of holy objects a central mission of the international organization. We have collected extensive information and resources for the creation, sponsorship, or veneration of holy objects.

Holy Objects

FPMT’s History with Holy Objects | Holy Object Resources | Information and Articles

Animal blessing, Ganden Tendar Ling, Moscow, Russia, May 2017. Photo by Renat Alyaudinov.

Objects become “holy” when they contain the presence of a buddha’s holy body, holy speech or holy mind.

There are several ways in which to engage with holy objects. You can make offerings to, prostrate toward, and circumambulate holy objects that already exist; create holy objects that become future sources of blessings to others; and also help sponsor a holy object initiative with volunteer time, money, or prayers. All of these activities, because they are done in relation to holy objects, become incredibly powerful acts of virtue.

Holy objects can even be used to benefit animals. You can help animals to circumambulate holy objects; gently touch the crowns of their heads with your stupas, statues, and tsa-tsas; or recite mantras for them. 

FPMT’s History with Holy Objects

Lama Zopa Rinpoche “opens the eyes” of FPMT’s first holy object, Tara statue, Kopan Monastery, 1976

Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche firmly established FPMT’s relationship with holy objects in 1976 when the first statue of FPMT, a substantive three-foot (one-meter) tall Tara statue, was obtained and brought to life at Kopan Monastery.

From this first auspicious project countless initiatives have blossomed, bringing symbols of Buddha’s holy body, speech and mind into the world. Every saint or spiritual leader becomes well-known for specific benevolent deeds in which they have engaged for the benefit of the world. Under Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s advice and care, FPMT has made the creation of holy objects a central mission of the international organization. Lama Zopa Rinpoche has personally inspired or commissioned the creation of hundreds of thousands of holy objects from the casting commitments of tsa-tsas he’s given students or suggestions for larger projects like statues, stupas, prayer wheels, and large thangkas to be created on FPMT grounds.

Holy Object Resources

Information and Articles

Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s advice regarding holy objects can be found on his Advice Page as well as in Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive’s Online Advice Book.

Essential Mantras for Holy Objects by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Benefits of Having Many Holy Objects” by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Holy Object Articles from Mandala magazine

Extensive auspicious offerings are made to holy objects by many FPMT centers, projects and services around the world. Please rejoice in some of this amazing activity.

FPMT Service Seminars provide support and training to students offering service within FPMT centers and projects.

FPMT Service Seminars
During the Foundation Service Seminar, London, 2013.

During the Foundation Service Seminar, London, 2013.

Foundation Service Seminar
Inner Job Description Service Seminar

Rituals Service Seminar
Spiritual Program Coordinator Service Seminar
Teacher Development Service Seminar
Hosting and Attending an FPMT Service Seminar



FPMT service seminars provide support and training to those offering service, and those wishing to offer service, within FPMT centers, services, and projects. The seminars help develop a shared understanding of the FPMT mission set out by Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and a firm basis to serve effectively and joyfully within the organization.

We offer a variety of service seminars for center directors, study group coordinators, spiritual program coordinators, center staff, volunteers, teachers, and anyone interested in offering service to Lama Zopa Rinpoche and FPMT.


Foundation Service Seminar

The Foundation Service Seminar Retreat explores how to best offer our skills and qualities in service. We investigate the purpose and mission of FPMT, what it means to be an FPMT center, and how that vision translates into action for centers, projects, and individuals.

We explore our relationship to resources – both material and human; effective communication; team building; ways to maintain and develop our personal practice in the midst of service; skilful people development and management; and methods to prevent and cure burnout. We discuss service in terms of Guru devotion, karma, compassion, and emptiness, and how to draw strength, inspiration, wisdom, and guidance from these practices.

We use the Inner Job Description, a tool for developing what Lama Zopa Rinpoche calls the “inner professional” (read a teaching on the inner professional), and integrate the Dharma into our daily lives. The training includes group discussion and sharing of experiences, and includes daily meditations as well as group practice as advised by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

Please enjoy this audio recording of Maitripa College’s Yangsi Rinpoche and Institut Vajra Yogini’s Geshe Loden discussing the purpose and mission of the Foundation Service Seminar during a morning session of this seminar hosted at IVY, August 2014:

Family Feeling

While fulfilling our larger purpose to benefit sentient beings, FPMT is also a family of Dharma practitioners. Lama Thubten Yeshe used to refer to the importance of cultivating a “family feeling” within FPMT. The Seminar Series, and particularly the Foundation Service Seminar, emphasizes our connections to each other, and how to keep those connections harmoniously.

I attended this seminar starving for guidance and have not been disappointed. I have been fully fed and watered and leave happy, satisfied and totally inspired!

–Foundation Service Seminar participant

Foundation Service Seminar, London 2013

Foundation Service Seminar, London 2013


Announcements regarding
upcoming IJD Trainings


Rich, multilayered teachings were delivered with wit, compassion and wisdom.

This training changed my life!

–Inner Job Description Training participants

Inner Job Description Service Seminar

Lama Zopa Rinpoche advises us to develop the “inner professional” for greatest happiness and success. This two day seminar uses the Inner Job Description to develop our own inner professional and the essential mind of service to others.

The seminar examines FPMT’s unique methods for approaching “problems” and numerous ways of using Dharma at work and in our personal lives. In addition, through group interaction and exercises, we apply the Inner Job Description to experiences brought by participants. Through presentation and group work, participants experience the benefits of integrating Dharma practice with real life situations.


Rituals Service Seminar

The week long Rituals Service Seminar provides in-depth instruction on Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s method of leading the pujas and practices that he most often recommends for FPMT centers and students. Encompassing Essential Buddhist Prayers, Vol. 2 and Lama Chopa, students learn how to set up the altar, lead motivations and meditations according to Rinpoche’s style, and the specific tunes used by Rinpoche for these pujas.

At the first Rituals Service Seminar held at Kopan Monastery, Khenrinpoche Lama Lhundrup said: “Every major tradition has its own unique way of doing the mudra, the chant, and so forth, and that is always established by the master. Similarly, within the FPMT centers, establishing the tradition of performing rituals according to the instructions of Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche would be the most significant thing we could do. This will help the center and the whole organization to become special.”

The Rituals Service Seminar Manual and MP3 disc is available through the Foundation Store.

Rituals Training was very inspiring, making me want to practice these rituals. I understand their purpose much better now!

–Rituals Training participant

Spiritual Program Coordinator Service Seminar

Spiritual Program Coordinator Service Seminar assists SPCs in developing their skills in counseling, planning center programs, leading meditations and/or classes, and acting as a key player in the harmonious functioning of the center. Participants have both individual and group opportunities to practice the skill areas emphasized in this week-long training.


Teacher Development Service Seminar

This is a pilot of a weekend seminar for existing and potential FPMT registered teachers, course facilitators and meditation leaders.The seminar will introduce principles of contemporary Dharma pedagogy (method and practice of teaching). The workshop is experiential and participatory, and is suitable for experienced Dharma teachers and complete beginners alike, as it will stimulate reflective practice and a sense of professional development, which are essential processes for everyone helping others learn Dharma in FPMT education programs. The seminar is designed to help participants improve their skills in enabling others to grow and develop deeper understanding of Dharma.

Priority booking will be given to FPMT registered teachers, and those already leading groups and meditations; however aspiring facilitators and teachers are also welcome to apply for a place – find out more from your local center director or spiritual program coordinator.


Hosting and Attending an FPMT Service Seminar

To find out when an FPMT Service Seminar is scheduled near you, or if your FPMT center, project or service would like to host a Foundation Service Seminar or any other Service Seminar, please contact your regional or national coordinator

For more information on FPMT Service Seminars, write to FPMT Center Services



As the Dharma takes root in the West, clear translations of Buddhist texts, prayers, and teachings are crucial. FPMT works with translators around the world to translate Tibetan texts into English, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, and many other languages.

FPMT Translation Services

FPMTTranslationServices_logo_111110_v3As the Dharma takes root in the West, clear and accurate translations of Buddhist texts, prayers, and teachings are crucial. FPMT works with translators around the world to translate Tibetan texts into English, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, and other languages.

Resources for Readers

If you would like to help bring the Dharma to sentient beings around the world through the translation of texts, we welcome and appreciate donations of any amount to the FPMT Translation Fund. Thank you so much for your support!

English Translations 

In May 2011, FPMT hosted its first international translation conference, Taking up The Challenge of Translating Buddhism, at Lama Tzong Khapa Institute, Italy. We hope to be able to organize further translation conferences in the future. Please see the complete and summarized reports for the 2011 conference below:

Following the 2011 conference, the FPMT Translation Services team began the long-term project of compiling a Tibetan-English glossary for the organization, together with the Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo Translation Team (LRZTT), composed of FPMT-affiliated translators, and the  FPMT Translation and Editorial Board (TEB). The purpose of this long-term project is to create consistency throughout the translations released by the FPMT, thereby improving readers’ understanding of our texts. The first edition of the this glossary is nearing completion, and a copy will be made available on this site for readers to consult.

Other Language Translations

Some of Our Translators

Our translators live in every part of the world and bring extensive Dharma and language education to their work as translators.

JRepo Joona Repo first came in contact Tibetan Buddhism and the FPMT in his mid-teens. He has a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and has held several postdoctoral teaching and research positions with a focus on Tibetan art and religious history. 

Joona is currently the FPMT Translation Coordinator for Education Services.

Gavin Kilty spent over a decade in Dharamsala, India, studying the Gelug monastic curriculum at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics and becoming proficient in Tibetan. After returning to the UK he trained and worked as an English language teacher, and since the late 90’s he has worked as a Tibetan-English translator. He is also a teacher of Tibetan language and has taught courses for the FPMT’s Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo Translator Program in Dharamsala, Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa in Italy, and Jamyang Buddhist Center in London.

Gavin is a full-time translator for the Institute of Tibetan Classics. His completed works  include Ornament of Stainless Light: An Exposition of the Kālacakra Tantra, Mirror of Beryl: A Historical Introduction to Tibetan Medicine, and Tsongkhapa’s A Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages: Teachings on Guhyasamāja Tantra, and Tales from the Tibetan Operas: The Eight Great Folk Operas of Tibet. His other translations include The Splendor of an Autumn Moon, The Devotional Verse of Tsongkhapa, and The Life of My Teacher: A Biography of Ling Rinpoché by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Understanding the Case Against Shukden, by the International Gelugpa Foundation. 

Gavin is a translation reviewer for 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, and as a member of the FPMT Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo Translation Team he participated in the discussions which formed the basis for the compilation of the FPMT’s glossary of preferred terms.

Gavin contributes to the FPMT Basic Program as a visiting teacher, and translated “The Tathāgata Essence”—the first chapter of the standard Basic Program commentary on the Uttaratantra by Gyaltsab Je. He is currently working on a translation of the Daśacakra Kṣitigarbha Sutra for FPMT Education Services.

Toh Sze Gee holds a BSc with honors in mathematics as well as a postgraduate diploma in education. After teaching in a junior college in Singapore for several years, in 1998 she joined the seven-year residential Masters Program at Lama Tzong Khapa Institute, from which she graduated with high honours. Since then she has been teaching regular Dharma courses in Singapore, as well as translating texts from Tibetan into English for the FPMT Basic Program and Masters Program.

Sze Gee was well known among the her fellow Masters Program students for her incredible energy both for study and Dharma practice. True to form, she accepted and served not only as teaching assitant for Ornament for Clear Realizations during ILTK’s second Masters Program but also as Tibetan-English interpreter. During that time she completed translating Gyaltsab Je’s commentary to Ornament, including the Haribhadra commentary and Maitreya’s root verses, from Tibetan into English.

Sze Gee has since acted as interpreter for Geshe Ngawang Drakpa at FPMT’s Tse Chen Ling Center, California, and was teaching assistant for the Masters Program at Nalanda Monastery in France. She recently completed the translation of Chokyi Gyaltsen’s General Meaning of the Middle Way, another important Masters Program text, and currently supports ILTK’s third Masters Program as teaching assistant by Skype, from Singapore.

Conni Krause participated in the seven-year Systematic Study of Buddhism program under Geshe Thubten Ngawang in Hamburg from 1990 to 1997. She is also a graduate of FPMT’s Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo Translator Program (LRZTP) in Dharamsala, and served as an interpreter for Geshe Thubten Soepa at Aryatara Institute in Munich.

Connie has translated Je Tsongkhapa’s Middle Length Lamrim from the original Tibetan into German, and has helped to make available Discovering Buddhism and the Basic Program texts as well as the FPMT Essential Buddhist Prayer Books in German.

Ven. Fedor Stracke has been a Buddhist monk since 1988 and spent over fifteen years studying at Sera Je Monastic University and attending public teachings given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Since 1996, Ven. Fedor has been teaching in FPMT centers and has served as Tibetan interpreter for various geshes.

He currently teaches the Basic Program at Kopan Monastery in Nepal and at Aryatara Institute in Munich, Germany.

He has translated the Commentary to ‘Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds’ (Spyod ’jug tikka) by Gyaltsab Je, a  standard Basic Program text, and Losang Chokyi Gyaltsen’s Wisdom Debating Ignorance (Gshaga ‘debs), from Tibetan into English. For the Basic Program in Munich Ven. Fedor has translated various Basic Program texts into German.

John Newman was introduced to Buddhadharma by Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Kopan, Nepal in 1973.  He subsequently studied under Geshe Lhundub Sopa Rinpoche at Deer Park Buddhist Center and at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, in Wisconsin, USA. 

In 1987 he received a PhD in Buddhist Studies, and he currently teaches Asian religions at New College of Florida in Sarasota, Florida, USA.  He continued to study under Geshe Lundub Sopa Rinpoche and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and his research focuses on Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, especially Madhyamaka and Vajrayana.

Philip Quarcoo was born in Freiburg, Germany. He studied Modern European Languages at the University of Durham in Britain. He participated in Geshe Tashi Tsering’s two -year course Foundation of Buddhist Thought, at Jamyang Buddhist Centre in London and later attended classes with Geshe Thubten Soepa at FPMT’s Aryatara Institute. Philip graduated with an M.A. in Tibetan studies from the University of Munich in 2007 and then lived in Mongolia teaching English at FPMT’s Shedrup Ling Centre in Ulaanbaatar. He has translated three short booklets on vegetarianism by Geshe Thubten Soepa, as well as texts by the 19th Century Mongolian scholar Agvaanbaldan. In cooperation with Conni Krause, he recently translated Je Tsongkhapa’s Middle Length Lamrim from Tibetan into English for FPMT’s Basic Program; the work is to be published shortly by Wisdom Publications.

Ven. Geshe Tenzin Namdak first worked as an environmental researcher having graduated in hydrology. He started studying Buddhism at Maitreya Instituut in The Netherlands in 1993 and took ordination from His Holiness the Dalai Lama before engaging in his formal studies in Buddhist philosophy and psychology at Sera Je Monastic University, South India, in 1997. He completed the entire twenty-year Geshe program in 2017 and the traditional one year Vajrayana study program at Gyume Tantric College in January 2019, the first Westerner to do so.

Geshe Namdak interpreted over a decade various teaching events from Tibetan into English, is an interpreter for the annual ordination rituals with His Holiness in Dharamsala, and was a founding teacher of Sera Je’s Translators Program and member of Sera Je’s Education Department for six years. Currently he teaches at Jamyang Buddhist Centre in London and at other centers in Europe and in India. He translated a cycle of texts related with Chenrezig Gyalwa Gyatso and various prayers and practices for FPMT Education Services and is working on translation projects of Khedrub Je’s Clearing Mental Darkness, An Ornament of Dharmakīrti’s “Seven Treatises on Valid Cognition,” Vinaya material, and practices related with Guhyasamāja.


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Frequently Asked Questions About…


Shakyamuni Buddha. Image by Jane Seidlitz.

Most of the following questions and answers are extracted from The ABC of Buddhism and I Wonder Why, copyright Ven. Thubten Chodron, found on Amitabha Buddhist Centre’s website.

Who is the Buddha?

There are many ways to describe who the Buddha is, according to different ways of understanding. These various interpretations have their sources in the Buddha’s teachings.

One way is to see the historical Buddha who lived 2,500 years ago as a human being who cleansed his mind of all defilements and developed all his potential. Any being who does likewise is also considered a buddha, for there are many buddhas, not just one.

Another way is to understand a particular buddha or Buddhist deity as omniscient mind manifesting in a certain physical aspect in order to communicate with us.

Yet another way is to see the Buddha–or any of the enlightened Buddhist deities–as the appearance of the future Buddha that we will become once we properly and completely have engaged in the path to cleanse our mind of defilements and develop all our potentials.


Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical founder of Buddhism, was born in India approximately 2,500 years ago. Shakyamuni Buddha was the son of Shuddhodana, the king of the Shakyas, a small tribe whose kingdom was located in the foothills of the Himalayas south of what is now central Nepal, fifteen miles from Kapilavastu. “Shakya” i is taken from the name of this tribe and “muni” means “sage” or “saint.” His family name was Gautama (Best Cow) and his given name was Siddhartha (Goal Achieved).

Seven days after his birth, his mother, Maya, died and he was raised by his mother’s younger sister Mahaprajapati. His mother’s death may have been a great influence upon the delicate youth who later became very perplexed by the question of mortality. His father took good care of his introspective, quiet-mannered son, and gave him special training in literature and the martial arts.

As a boy, Shakyamuni was deliberately shielded from the many realities of life, having been brought up amid the pleasures of the royal palace. It was natural for his family to expect that he would take over as the leader of his tribe and succeed his father.

Although his family had such expectations for him, Shakyamuni was extremely introspective and quiet as a youth, possessing a sharp sense of justice and seeking the answers to life’s perplexing questions. It is said that he ventured out of the palace compounds on a number of occasions as a youth and each time was confronted with the sufferings of life. On one such occasion he came upon a very old man. On another venture he met a sick man, frail and burning with fever. On yet another journey, he was impressed when he met a wandering monk (bhikshu) who had renounced the world to lead an austere life in search of spiritual enlightenment. And again on another occasion he saw a person dead in the street. These events are recounted in the Buddhist scriptures as the four meetings. He was said to have been deeply moved by these confrontations with human suffering.

Knowing his son’s tendency toward deep introspection and his desire to seek a spiritual path, his father sought to tie him down to life within the confines of the palace and their land. Marriage seemed a way to dissuade the young prince from pursuing the life of an ascetic, so at the age of sixteen, the young prince married the beautiful Yashodhara who bore him a son, Rahula.

Following the birth of his son, Shakyamuni could no longer repress the resolve he felt to abandon the secular world and go out in search of a solution to the four inescapable sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death.

Siddhartha renounced secular life and his princely status around the age of nineteen and began living a religious life. Having left the palace of the Shakyas at Kapilavastu he traveled to Rajagriha, the capital of the kingdom of Magadha, where he studied with various ascetics, however, after following their disciplines, he still could not find the answers to his questions. He then left Rajagriha and proceeded to the bank of the Nairanjana River near the village of Uruvilva, where he began to practice various austerities in the company of other ascetics. He subjected himself to disciplines of extreme severity, surpassing the efforts of his companions, trying to reach emancipation through self-mortification, but after six years he rejected these practices as well. To restore his strength from having fasted for such a long time he accepted milk curd offered to him by Sujata, a girl of the village. Then, near the town of Gaya, he sat under a pipal tree and entered meditation. There he attained enlightenment at the age of thirty. The pipal tree was later called the bodhi tree because Shakyamuni gained bodhi or enlightenment under this tree, and the site itself came to be called Bodhgaya.

After his awakening, Shakyamuni remained for a while beneath the Bodhi tree rejoicing in his emancipation. Shakyamuni contemplated how he should communicate his realization to others. It is said he questioned whether or not he should attempt to teach others what he had achieved. He finally resolved to strive to do so, so that the way to liberation from the sufferings of birth and death would be open to all people.

First he made his way to the Deer Park in Varanasi, where he preached the Four Noble Truths to five ascetics who had once been his companions. Over the next fifty years from the time of his awakening until his death, Shakyamuni continued to travel through many parts of India disseminating his teachings. During his lifetime his teachings spread not only to central India but also to more remote areas and people of all social classes converted to Buddhism.

At the age of eighty, Shakyamuni passed away. The year before his death he stayed at Gridhrakuta (Eagle Peak) in Rajagriha. He set out on his last journey from Gridhrakuta proceeding northward across the Ganges River to Vaishali. He spent the rainy season in Beluva, a village near Vaishali. There he became seriously ill, but recovered and continued to preach in many villages. Eventually he came to a place called Pava in Malla. There he again became ill after eating a meal. Despite his pain, he continued his journey until reaching Kushinagara. There in a grove of sal trees he calmly lay down and spoke his last words. He admonished his disciples, saying, “You must not think that your teacher’s words are no more, or that you are left without a teacher. The teachings and precepts I have expounded to you shall be your teacher” It is said that his final words were, “Decay is inherent in all composite things. Work out your salvation with diligence.”

What are the Three Jewels?

The Three Jewels are the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Buddha is one who has purified all the defilements of the mind the afflictive emotions, the imprints of the actions motivated by them, and the stains of these afflictive emotions and who has developed all good qualities, such as impartial love and compassion, wisdom knowing all existence, and skillful means of guiding others.

The Dharma embodies the preventive measures which keep us from problems and suffering. This includes the teachings of the Buddha, as well as the realizations of those teachings the cessations of problems and their causes, and the realizations or paths which lead to those cessations.

The Sangha are those beings who have direct non-conceptual perception of emptiness or ultimate truth. On a relative level, Sangha also refers to the ordained people who put the Buddha’s teachings into practice.

The Dharma is our real refuge, the medicine we take which cures our problems and their causes. The Buddha is like the doctor, who correctly diagnoses the cause of our problems and prescribes the appropriate medicine. By assisting us in the practice, the Sangha is similar to the nurse who helps us take the medicine.

Taking refuge means that we rely wholeheartedly on the Three Jewels to inspire and guide us towards a constructive and beneficial direction to take in our life. Taking refuge does not mean passively hiding under the protection of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Rather, it is an active process of taking the direction they show and improving the quality of our life.

What is guru devotion in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition?

In FPMT centers, a great deal of emphasis is placed on the practice of guru devotion. Advice Regarding Gurus (PDF, .epub, .mobi) introduces new students to the concept of guru devotion and explains why such importance is placed on establishing and maintaining a positive relationship with a qualified spiritual teacher.

“Although you can learn a lot from books,” long-time student Ven. René Feusi explains, “if you want to become excellent in any field of knowledge, you have the best chance of success if you have a qualified teacher. This is true if you aim to become a ballet dancer, a pianist, a pilot, a craftsman, a scientist, etc. Likewise, if you aspire for spiritual development, your progress will be safer and faster if you are under the guidance of a qualified guru.”

Many other resources are available to those wishing to delve deeper into the practice of guru devotion:

  • The Heart of the Path: Drawing from nearly fifty teachings, this is a lengthy collection of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teachings on guru devotion. 
  • Guru Devotion: A Brief Introduction for New Students (PDF, .epub, .mobi): New students will enjoy this twelve-page introductory excerpt from The Hearth of the Path.
  • Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Advice on Guru Devotion: In this short and poetic composition, Lama Zopa Rinpoche outlines the essence of guru devotion and includes a beautiful dedication.
  • Discovering Buddhism, Module 4: “The Spiritual Teacher”: This module from FPMT Education Services’ online Discovering Buddhism course is an excellent place for students new to the Dharma to begin their studies of guru devotion.
  • Living in the Path: “Guru is Buddha”: This module from FPMT Education Services’ online Living in the Path course offers an experiential taste of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teachings on guru devotion.

What is the essence of the Buddha’s teachings?

Simply speaking, this is to avoid harming others and to help them as much as possible. Another way of expressing this is, Abandon negative action; create perfect virtue; subdue your own mind. This is the teaching of the Buddha. By abandoning negative actions (killing, etc.) and destructive motivations (anger, attachment, close-mindedness, etc.), we stop harming ourselves and others. By creating perfect virtue, we develop beneficial attitudes, like impartial love and compassion, and do actions motivated by these thoughts. By subduing our mind, we cut away all false projections, thus making ourselves calm and peaceful by understanding reality.

The essence of Buddha’s teachings is also contained in the three principles of the path: definite emergence, the dedicated heart and wisdom realizing emptiness. Initially, we seek definitely to emerge from the confusion of our problems and their causes. Then, we see that other people also have problems, and with love and compassion, we dedicate our heart to becoming a Buddha so that we are capable of helping others extensively. In order to do this, we develop the wisdom understanding the real nature of ourselves and other phenomena.

Why are there many Buddhist traditions?

The Buddha gave a wide variety of teachings because sentient beings (any being with mind who is not a Buddha, including those in other realms of existence) have different dispositions, inclinations and interests. The Buddha never expected us all to fit into the same mould. Thus, he gave many teachings and described various ways of practicing so each of us could find something that suits our level of mind and our personality.

With skill and compassion in guiding others, the Buddha turned the wheel of Dharma three times, each time setting forth a slightly different philosophical system in order to suit the various dispositions of sentient beings. The essence of all the teachings is the same: the wish definitely to emerge from the cycle of constantly recurring problems (samsara), compassion for others and the wisdom realizing selflessness.

Not everyone likes the same kind of food. When a huge buffet is spread before us, we choose the dishes that we like. There is no obligation to like everything. Although we may have a taste for sweets, that does not mean that the salty dishes are not good and should be thrown away!

Similarly, we may prefer a certain approach to the teachings: Theravada, Pure Land, Zen, Vajrayana, and so on. We are free to choose the approach that suits us best and with which we feel the most comfortable. Yet we still maintain an open mind and respect for other traditions. As our mind develops, we may come to understand elements in other traditions that we failed to comprehend previously.

In short, whatever is useful and helps us live a better life, we practice, and whatever we do not yet understand, we leave aside without rejecting it.

While we may find one particular tradition best suited for our personality, do not identify with it in a concrete way: “I am a Mahayanist, you are a Theravadin,” or “I am a Buddhist, you are a Christian.” It is important to remember that we are all human beings seeking happiness and wanting to realize the truth, and we each must find a method suitable for our disposition.

However, keeping an open mind to different approaches does not mean to mix everything together at random, making our practice like chop suey.

Do not mix meditation techniques from different traditions together in one meditation session. In one session, it is better to do one technique. If we take a little of this technique and a little from that, and without understanding either one very well mix them together, we may end up confused.

However, a teaching emphasized in one tradition may enrich our understanding and practice of another.

Also, it is advisable to do the same meditations daily. If we do breathing meditation one day, chanting the Buddha’s name the next, and analytical meditation the third, we will not make progress in any of them for there is no continuity in the practice.

What are the various Buddhist traditions?

Generally, there are two divisions: Theravada and Mahayana.

The Theravada lineage (Tradition of the Elders), which relies on sutras recorded in the Pali language, spread from India to Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, etc. It emphasizes meditation on the breath to develop concentration and meditation on mindfulness of the body, feelings, mind and phenomena in order to develop wisdom.

The Mahayana (Great Vehicle) tradition, based on the scriptures recorded in Sanskrit, spread to China, Tibet, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, etc. Although in the Theravadin practice love and compassion are essential and important factors, in the Mahayana they are emphasized to an even greater extent.

Within Mahayana, there are several branches: Pure Land emphasizes chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha in order to be reborn in His Pure Land; Zen emphasizes meditation to eliminate the noisy, conceptual mind; Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle) employs meditation on a deity in order to transform our contaminated body and mind into the body and mind of a Buddha.

What does the imagery in tantric art mean?

Vajrayana deals a lot with transformation, and therefore, symbolism is widely used. There are representations of some deities, which are manifestations of the Buddha, that are expressing desire or wrath.

The sexual imagery is not to be taken literally, according to worldly appearances. In Vajrayana, deities in sexual union represent the union of method and wisdom, the two aspects of the path that need to be developed in order to attain enlightenment.

Wrathful deities are not monsters threatening us. Their wrath is directed toward ignorance and selfishness, which are our real enemies. This imagery, when properly understood, shows how desire and anger can be transformed and thereby subdued. It has deep meaning, far beyond ordinary lust and anger. We should not misinterpret it.

What is the purpose of reciting mantras?

Mantras are prescribed syllables to protect the mind. What we want to protect our mind from are attachment, anger, ignorance, and so on. When combined with the four opponent powers, mantra recitation is very powerful in purifying negative karmic imprints on our mindstream. While we recite mantras, we should also be thinking and visualizing in a beneficial way so that we are building up constructive habits in the mind.

In the Vajrayana practice, mantras are recited in Sanskrit, rather than being translated into other languages. The reason for this is that there is a special beneficial energy or vibration that is induced by the sound of the syllables. While doing recitation, we can concentrate on the sound of the mantra, on its meaning, or on the accompanying visualizations that the master has taught.

Is a mantra an act of faith? I understand mantra can help me, but can it help others as well?

A mantra is an example of speech that can be directly experienced. Many attributes of mantras cannot be verified by ordinary persons’ direct perception or inference. Such attributes are relied on by virtue of scriptural authority. Scriptural authority is verified by examining documentation, lineages, and tradition, as well as reasoning. Reasoning is used to determine if there is consistency of what was said (i.e. a scriptural statement is not contradicted by other scriptural statements), and is not contradicted by direct perception or logic. There are functions of mantra that may be initially relied on by the power of faith that are later relied on by one’s own experience. For example, a person may recite a mantra initially because his or her teacher recommended it. Later, during or after recitation, the practitioner discovers that mantra recitation was an effective method for concentrating the mind. In the future, the practitioner recites the mantra to concentrate the mind, because of appreciating this particular value directly experienced. The same can be said of other positive experiences obtained through the recitation of mantra.

According to scripture and commentaries, as provided to me by my teachers, the recitation of mantras, such as “manis” actually benefits other beings. As I have no reason to doubt my teachers, I recite those mantras with the intention of benefiting others. There are practitioners who testified with their personal experience the effectiveness of reciting mantras for the welfare of others. As one person succeeded, and others applied the method and succeeded as well, I’d say the effectiveness of mantras was scientifically proven. However, to satisfy your concern, I believe the only recourse is for you to find out how to recite mantras as those successful practitioners did, and apply the method assiduously, just as they did. This is the scientific method.

What do the various titles of the Mahayana traditions mean? (e.g., “Geshe,” “Rinpoche,” “Lama,” “Venerable”)

Answered by Kendall Magnussen:

“Geshe” refers to a certain level of monastic and philosophical training. It is traditionally received after approximately 25 years of full-time intensive study at one of the great monasteries. It is similar to someone getting a “ph.d.” level of study and accomplishment, although it is much more than that. There are also different levels of Geshe. For example, a “Lharampa Geshe”
graduated with great honors and was among the top of his class. It is primarily a title referring to academic excellence and degree of training in the Buddhist philosophical texts.

“Rinpoche” means “precious” and refers to someone who in their last life attained such a high degree of mastery that they did not have to take any more rebirths. However, out of their compassion for others, they took another birth at will – or rather took a human form – in order to teach others. Hence, they are “precious” because they returned to show us how to do it ourselves.

“Venerable” is a term for those who are ordained. Any monk or nun is traditionally referred to as “venerable”. It is simply a term of respect for those who have chosen the monastic life and have taken it upon themselves to preserve the teachings in this way.

“Lama” means literally “heavy with qualities”. It is a title which implies that the person who is the referent of this term has demonstrated spiritual qualities and the ability to lead others in their spiritual life and path. There are some Tibetan Buddhist traditions where you can “earn” the title “lama” after doing a certain amount of retreat and study. In other traditions, one must earn the title “lama” by way of demonstrating their qualities over the years – or because they have been recognized clearly as a “Rinpoche” – and then are a “lama” by definition!

His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that the real temple is in the mind and the real philosophy is kindness. If that is true, why are you building so many temples and holy objects?

You have a really good question! I think we have to take context in which His Holiness the Dalai Lama was speaking, and also remember that great teachers like His Holiness always teach to the students at hand. Therefore, they may say or do things that look contradictory on the surface, but with deeper analysis, we can see there is actually no contradiction.

His Holiness was speaking to an organization that is dedicated to bringing the principles of Buddhism into the larger society, without its religious trappings (the Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom). We all understand what Buddhism teaches on compassion, loving-kindness, peace is very much needed in the larger world. Because the Dharma is so flexible, it can be taught in an entirely non-religious context. For some people, this is very much needed and this is the only way they can relate to these ideas. This is not to say that this presentation is inferior in any way – it’s not at all! It’s just that Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche (who founded FDCW) and also His Holiness are using their skillful means to help sentient beings in the best way.

Then there are people who respond very much to temples and beautiful holy objects like prayer wheels and statues. Even a lot of people who are non-Buddhist respond well to these things, and certainly a lot of people who are practicing Buddhists really find inspiration in these things. They uplift the mind and help us remember what we are trying to do. They offer support for our practice. And it is said in the teachings that even seeing a Buddha statue or a stupa plants the seed in the mind for future liberation and enlightenment. Even if you don’t have faith, this is true. Lama Zopa Rinpoche says it is like electricity – you don’t have to believe in it for it to work. Turning on a switch and having an electric light come on is not dependent on your faith in electricity. This is just how it works. Holy objects have a similar power to create enlightenment.

Therefore, it is also really important to have holy objects. His Holiness is very supportive of such things, and has actively endorsed FPMT’s Maitreya Project, which will build a 500-foot statue of Maitreya and also provide top rate education and medical help for the people in that part of India. You can see a short video about this project and His Holiness’s explanation for why it is important here.

So we have these two ideas that seem contradictory – no need for temples and complicated philosophy, and then lots of temples and things like that being built. But when you examine closely, you will see that there is no contradiction. His Holiness is completely correct – the real practice is in the mind and as one other teacher said, all you really need is kindness. But for many people, the temples and holy objects help move the mind in the right ways and inspire us to practice kindness. They support the inner temple of the mind and the outer practice of kindness. That said, they are just supports. In this way, there is no contradiction between what His Holiness said and building actual physical temples.

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