Center Frequently Asked Questions
I just want to explain simply how meaningful it is that we have Dharma centers so that we can help so many sentient beings while they have this most precious human body by awakening them to the unmistaken causes of happiness and suffering through explaining the Buddha's teachings on karma, which is our experience, not merely belief. By offering this education we open their lives to all happiness - not just that of this life, but that of future lives and the ultimate happiness of liberation from samsara and the peerless happiness of full enlightenment.
How fortunate and happy I am! How fortunate and happy we are!
What does it mean to be an FPMT Center, Project, Service or Study Group?
- If a center, project or service is affiliated with FPMT, it means that it follows the spiritual direction of Lama Zopa Rinpoche. It means that centers and study groups use FPMT's educational programs and material, created in the unique lineage of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
Each FPMT center, project or service is incorporated individually (is a separate legal entity) and is responsible for its own governance and finance.
All FPMT centers, projects, services and study groups follow the FPMT Ethical Policy.
FPMT study groups are groups which are using this status as a probationary period before a group becomes a legal entity and a full FPMT center, project or service.
FPMT study groups are not yet affiliated with the FPMT, and therefore do not have the same responsibilities as a center or project, financially or administratively. FPMT study groups will ideally plan to become an FPMT center, project or service within a period of two years, but this can take longer if needed.
There is no FPMT center or study group near me - how do I find a local Dharma center?
You could contact your nearest FPMT center and ask them if they know of any Dharma centers near you - usually FPMT centers will be familiar with other groups in their local area.
I'm interested in starting an FPMT Study Group - how do I go about it?
Reply from FPMT's Center Services Director
Thank you very much for your interest in the FPMT. I am happy to provide you with some information about what it means to be an FPMT center/study group. I will explain a few things about our organizational structure, to let you know how FPMT study groups start.
FPMT policy is that centers, projects and services begin as informal “study groups” (probationary centers, projects or services) before they are able to apply for full FPMT center, project or service status. This probationary period provides the opportunity to see whether developing according to FPMT policy and guidelines is working for the group and for the group's harmonious coordination with other FPMT centers, projects and services before becoming a full FPMT center, project or service. This period also gives the group some time to build up a base of support before they begin to think about having a permanent facility, inviting a resident teacher, and so on. It is essential that the group has the intention to fulfill the steps required in order to develop from a study group to become a full FPMT center, project or service.
Most FPMT-affiliated centers, projects and services are founded by a student with some connection with Lama Zopa Rinpoche, often by a student who meets Rinpoche on a teaching tour, or at the annual one-month course at Kopan Monastery in Nepal, or through connection with another FPMT center. The student often has the wish to open a center in order to bring Dharma to people in their local area, and have that support themselves. If you have not yet taken teachings from Lama Zopa Rinpoche, it is important to see if you have a connection with Lama Zopa, as Rinpoche is the Spiritual Director of the Foundation, and the personal karmic connection is quite important. So it would be very good if you could actually meet Rinpoche at some point. Rinpoche is always requested to check whether it is beneficial for a new study group to begin.
It may be important at this stage to point out that FPMT centers, projects,services and study groups follow a policy concerning teachers. This means that they generally only invite teachers who are in the Tibetan Gelug tradition of Lama Tsongkhapa, and who are registered as teachers by FPMT International Office. Lama Zopa Rinpoche, as Spiritual Director of the FPMT, appoints resident teachers for FPMT centers.
Any FPMT group must use FPMT education programs, rather than alternative programs which may be excellent, but are not in the unique lineage of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
When a new FPMT Study Group begins, we require that the group accept a guiding center - an existing FPMT center, project or service whose director agrees to take responsibility for helping and guiding the group. This includes helping with teachers and the spiritual program, and checking that the group comply with FPMT policy and guidelines. The Study Group would support the center by recommending that study group members might become members of the center, and so on. I would help this relationship begin.
As mentioned above, during the probationary period the study group can ensure that they are comfortable operating within the FPMT organization, and that there is enough local support for their activities, and so on. During this time the group must plan to become a full FPMT center, project or service and to affiliate with FPMT Inc. according to FPMT policy and local law. Each FPMT center, project, service and study group is responsible for itself legally and financially - the study group is responsible for creating an appropriate legal entity based on the guidelines which we provide before it becomes a full FPMT center, project or service.
FPMT International Office, located in Portland, Oregon, USA, is Lama Zopa Rinpoche's office and the world-wide headquarters of the FPMT organization, especially in terms of communication between Rinpoche and the centers. The International Office offers a lot of guidance to help the study group organize a spiritual program, and establish good management. International Office does not provide financial support for a starting study group, center, project or service - local students must take financial responsibility.
In addition to FPMT International Office, there are also FPMT regional and national offices. We have periodic meetings of FPMT directors - international and more frequent regional and national meetings. Study group coordinators are invited and encouraged to attend these meetings.
Do get in touch with me if you have any questions, or if you feel that would like to take this further. Don't feel that there is any hurry - it is good to be very familiar with the FPMT organization before going further - for example by studying one of our online or correspondence courses; and attending teachings/retreats at existing FPMT centers, especially if Lama Zopa Rinpoche is teaching.