Before studying philosophy, one should start with Lam Rim first, to study about introduction to Buddhism, to generate deep understanding of Dharma, then one can study philosophy. Or at least one should have done the study on Middle Scope of Lam Rim, or the study on renunciation of samsara, then one will get the interest to learn about philosophy
In the fist module, I have found two sets of assessment questions, one with 6 (in the transcript booklet) and one with 8 (in the General Program Information). Which set of questions should I send to you?
1. Is the Discovering Buddhism at Home program self-paced? That is, can I purchase and complete them at on my own schedule as opposed to have a specific time and date to be taken?
Yes! Both the Discovering Buddhism at Home and FPMT’s Basic Program Homestudy programs are designed to accommodate student’s needs and individual situations. Therefore, you are free to study the modules in the order that suits you and in the timeframe that suits you.
2. Is there a limit to how quickly I must complete each module? I am in a position where I can dedicate a significant amount of time to study and could progress quite quickly through the modules.
NO! Study away!! Both programs can be done on either a casual basis or as a certificate student. As a certificate student there are various requirements with each module of both programs. As long as all the requirements are fulfilled you will receive a completion certificate signed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche. And again, the various requirements do not necessarily have to be fulfilled in a linear order, i.e. if you are doing DB at Home Mod 1 you could listen to the teachings and do the meditations straight away, but maybe you don't get around to doing the retreat until later on. So, you simply keep track on your completion card of date you completed each requirement and when all the requirements are fulfilled, at that time, you send in all of your completion cards (or your single passport size completion card that tracks all 14 modules) to the Education Services in order to receive your completion certificate.
3. Is there any opportunity to communicate with students/teachers regarding course material?
Yes! Both programs have an online bulletin board, where students can communicate with each other about their studies, progress, digressions, and questions! The invitation to join these boards is included with the course materials. As well, both boards have elders assigned who contribute to the conversation and help to answer specific questions directed to them. For DB at Home certificate students, there is an assessment which is sent in to a senior teacher, who will respond to you personally. For BP Homestudy there is also someone who will read your final exam and get back to you with comments
4. Are there any retreats that complement what I will be learning?
Both programs have retreat requirements for certificate students. For DB at Home, there are small retreats to accompany each module (1 -2 days) as well as some longer retreats to complete for module 14. We do have a DB retreats page on our web site, which is regularly updated, of FPMT centers hosting these retreats. Students are encouraged to attend these, though all of the retreats can be done at home on your own as well, or elsewhere. You'll find this retreat schedule on page: http://www.fpmt.org/centers/retreat/dbschedule.html
5. Will I duplicate any topics if I do Discovering Buddhism at Home and Basic Program Homestudy?
Not really. While virtually all of the subjects of DB at Home can be found within the subject of “Lamrim”, which is a text studied in the BP Homestudy, I would strongly encourage you to start with DB as the practice/integration element of the lamrim is very strong in this program and will give you an excellent base to then move on to your study of the Lamrim text in BP.
6. In the Mind and its Potential module I have found two sets of assessment questions, one with 6 (in the transcript booklet) and one with 8 (in the module Guidelines information). Which set of questions should I send to you?
The correct set of questions to answer is the set of eight. The reason for this particular discrepancy is that after producing the bound book copy of the transcripts and assessment questions, the teacher of Module one revised her materials, including the assessment questions
7. I have found two versions of the Module 1 Completion Cards in the same two places above. Which do you prefer I send you?
Again use the one in the Guidelines booklet (which is also on your Course Materials CD), for the same reason as above
8. I'm confused what readings FPMT provides in my module packages and what readings I need to purchase. Please clarify
Regarding the readings: What you will receive with any given module is indicated on the Foundation Store page where you purchase the module, as well as within the Guidelines booklet that comes with the module. So for example, with module two, you will see on the Foundation Store page: http://shop.fpmt.org/Discovering-Buddhism--How-to-Meditate--Module-Two_p_165.html
that the book How to Meditate is not included with your package. There are a few such books in the program. What we will always provide for you are those readings referred to as, “Discovering Buddhism Readings” as well as all Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive books.
For module 1 and 2 I received the transcripts of the audio teachings in book form (as well as a PDF file on my Course Materials CD), but I didn't get this same book for module 3 and onward. Is this something that is coming in the future?
For Modules 1 & 2 only, the transcripts are provided in book form as well as on the Course Materials CD as PDF files. Providing them in book form was done with the intention of making something nicer and more user-friendly for daily use, while providing them on the CD was done with the intention of providing a comprehensive Dharma course that is easily transportable and computer compatible. However, we will not be making these books available for future modules.
9. Within the individual study elements, does it matter when or in what sequence the texts/readings should be approached?
It is of course advised that you go through the programs sequentially from Module 1-13, though the order in which you read the given texts and readings for any given module is entirely up to you, and ultimately it is also up to each student to decide the order in which you go through the modules. We do not monitor any of this, as part of the intention of this particular program is to give complete freedom to the student to go through the program how and when they like. The exception to sequentially going through the modules is Module 14, which we advise certificate students to start as soon as they are able. Because Module 14 contains some quite hefty practice requirements, if one is serious about completing the entire program, you may want to start sooner than later to take on some of the Module 14 practice requirements as a daily practice, rather than leaving them until the end of the program. In this way you can be completing Module 14 as you go through Module 1 - 13. You can read more about this aspect of the program on page: http://www.fpmt.org/education/pdfs/aboutspecialintegrationexperiences.pdf
10. How does one access the on-line bulletin board for further discussion with other DB at home students and teachers?
You write to: email@example.com and will then be sent an invitation letter that will come from Yahoo groups.
11. What is the advantage of getting the certificate? When I took the classes over the previous 2 years, that was never clear. Does it enable someone to be a teacher at some point or something else?
- They provide a sense of completion just as any degree or certificate from any Institute does. They indicate that the student has gone through a certain course of training and has completed all the necessary requirements. In the same way that we are asked to do 100,000 of any given preliminary practice or mantra recitation, one could ask why 100,000? What does it signify? A lot of the purpose about completing a number or a set of requirements is so that one can rejoice! Given what an important role rejoicing plays in our tradition and how rejoicing can actually increase the karmic benefit, then completing an action so that we can rejoice becomes very important
- The completion certificates indicate that one can teach the topic. Now of course they do not indicate if one feels ready or willing to teach the topic, and one would still need to go through the FPMT teacher approval process. However, looking into the long-term, for an organization as large as FPMT, who must ensure quality control and credentials/criteria for our teachers, ultimately we have to go the same route as the universities, which is to provide a certificate to say that you have studied a topic adequately. FPMT will of course always have additional criteria for a teacher than simply a certificate as we will always look at someone's behavior, as well as their meditation practice experience before approving them, but the certificate definitely accounts for something and as time goes on in the organization it will account for more and more. Standard programs with certificates have only emerged in the organization in the last 10 years. I would say give it another 20-30 years and it will be difficult to teach within FPMT without having graduated from at least one of our standard programs. Though of course there will always be exceptions for those who are the great meditators and who have not done a lot of formal study, but I don't think these people will be the norm.
- Certificates, like all other aspects of our standard programs, have evolved from request. Lama Zopa Rinpoche has advised that all of our programs include the academic component of listening and reflecting (which includes some form of examination, be it an assessment, a “public exam”, or an actual sit down exam), a behavior component (although this doesn't really show up in DB too much) and a practice component. As well many centers add in an attendance component. Rinpoche has then advised that anyone completing all of these components should receive a completion certificate for both of the reasons above.
12. The practice of Vajrasattva is one of the module 14 practices. Can we engage in this practice without initiation?
There is no problem to do the Vajrasattva practice without initiation. The only thing you can't do is visualize yourself as the deity, but you can do the entire practice of Vajrasattva on the crown with lights descending, ascending, and absorbing into your heart. In the Vajrasattva practice you don't visualize yourself as Vajrasattva anyway so there is no problem. There is some explanation about this in The Preliminary Practice of Vajrasattva book page 96 – 97 (FPMT Education Services, available from the Foundation Store). Also on page 100 of the book it says “Lama Zopa Rinpoche has advised for the purpose of doing the Vajrasattva preliminary practice of 100,000 mantras, the aspect of Vajrasattva with consort be used; and has given permission to do this practice without having first received empowerment, as long as one does not generate oneself into the aspect of the deity. Practice instructions for how to do the sadhana if one does not have the requisite empowerment are included where needed in the Vajrasattva practices contained in this booklet. For those who are not completely comfortable visualizing Vajrasattva in the aspect of having a consort A Simple Vajrasattva Practice is provided on page 128 – 33. If this is more suitable for your mind A Simple Vajrasattva Practice can be used as the basis for completing your accumulation of 100,000 mantras.
Please advise anyone starting this practice to read the entire guidelines for completing 100,000 Vajrasattva mantras section from The Preliminary Practice of Vajrasattva page 92 - 101. Actually all the instructions throughout this book should be read for anyone doing this practice seriously!
13. How and when do I complete Module 14, Special Integration Practices?
Please refer to the following two pages for further information about module 14:
14. How do I get the Tibetan font so I can view the Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun text properly?
In the Discovering Buddhism at Home course materials, there is a note that reads, “Part One of this text contains Tibetan Fonts on pages xiii and xiv. If you do not have these fonts installed on your computer, the Tibetan characters will not show properly. We apologize for this inconvenience. The remainder of the text will appear normally in English.”
The font used in the text is called LTibetan. Links to download it and installation instructions for both Mac and PC can be found at: https://collab.itc.virginia.edu/access/wiki/site/26a34146-33a6-48ce-001e-f16ce7908a6a/ltibetan.html.