|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.|
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 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 as a Homestudy and Online program.
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 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 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 Homestudy and Basic Program Online
The Basic Program Homestudy and BP 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 cannot study at a center get to know several of our outstanding Basic Program teachers.
Basic Program Homestudy 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 Homestudy retreat requirement (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.
Basic Program Homestudy 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.
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!
The Basic Program Homestudy FAQ page answers further questions about the program. The Introduction to Basic Program Online course on the FPMT Online Learning Center outlines many details and is freely accessible.
|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 the 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 home study as Basic Program Online courses and as BP Homestudy hard copy packages from the Foundation Store. Subjects not yet available as homestudy are planned to be released within the next few years.
Chenrezig Institute, Eudlo, Queensland
Centro Shiwa Lha, Rio de Janeiro
Gendun Drubpa Center, Williams Lake
Aryatara Institute, Munich
Losang Dragpa Centre
Rinchen Zangpo Center, Torreon
Kopan Monastery, Kathmandu
Dorje Chang Institute, Auckland
Amitabha Buddhist Center
Shakyamuni Center, Taichung
Gyalwa Gyatso Buddhist Center, Silicon Valley, California
Ksitigarbha Tibetan Buddhist Center, Taos, New Mexico
Land of Medicine Buddha, Soquel, California
Liberation Prison Project, San Francisco, California
Thubten Norbu Ling, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Tse Chen Ling, San Francisco, California