Preparatory Study and Practice
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.