FAQ about FPMT Basic Program Homestudy
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. BP graduates are eligible for the teacher registration process and can become FPMT registered teachers, BP Homestudy graduates do not qualify for teacher registration.
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?
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 Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa and by Nalanda Monastery 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 includes 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.
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Without understanding how your inner nature evolves, how can you possibly discover eternal happiness? Where is eternal happiness? It’s not in the sky or in the jungle; you won’t find it in the air or under the ground. Everlasting happiness is within you, within your psyche, your consciousness, your mind. That’s why it’s important that you investigate the nature of your own mind.