General Basic Program Information
On this page you can find out how the FPMT Basic Program classes work at DCI – the different elements, discussion nights, costs, etc. If you are considering joining one of the BP subject classes, please learn more about the program below.
Click the + sign at the end of each topic below to read more.
What is the FPMT Basic Program?
The Basic Program is a five-year, twelve-subject course of studies designed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The Basic Program has been devised for Dharma students who wish to progress beyond introductory courses and are ready to commit themselves to more in-depth study and practice.
It offers the chance to develop a good understanding of the complete path to enlightenment, and experience the benefits of serious, practice oriented study, meditation and retreat.
Successful students develop a level of understanding and training which will also serve as an excellent basis for advanced study, meditation and retreat or for service in the wider community, inspired by the Mahayana ethos. FPMT centers worldwide offer the program at a variety of levels.
What subjects are taught?
The Basic Program subjects have been chosen by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and the texts and commentaries used to teach them were decided upon by the FPMT geshes at Rinpoche’s request. The full curriculum, including three optional supplementary subjects, is as follows:
1. Stages of the Path
2. Heart Sutra
3. Mahayana Mind Training
4. Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds
5. Mind and Cognition
7. Ornament for Clear Realizations – Fourth Chapter
8. Sublime Continuum – First Chapter
9. Grounds and Paths of Secret Mantra
Supplementary Topics (optional – these may or may not be offered)
10. Seventy Topics
11. The Three Basic Bodies
12. Highest Yoga Tantra
The teachings are complemented by a support program of discussions, meditations and retreats, and study tools such as supplementary materials, reading assignments and take-home-exams.
How it Works
The Basic Program is taught by Dorje Chang Institute’s highly qualified Lharampa Geshe Wangchen. Study of the standard texts and commentaries is supported by discussions, led by Senior Student Discussion Leaders, as well as reading assignments and meditation. Students are asked to 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.
Senior Student Led Discussion Evenings
In DCI’s second round of the Basic Program we are experimenting with a way of enhancing the discussion element. To allow sufficient time for the teachings on Tuesday and in response to students’ requests for additional discussion time during the subjects, we are adding a second evening on (mostly) alternating weeks. Tuesday evenings Geshe-la will teach the subject’s core material and also sometimes lead discussion sessions, and on Thursday evenings (select dates) the Senior Student Discussion leader for the course will facilitate discussion evenings.
The discussion evening will also include helpful handouts and charts aimed to assist students in understanding the material presented on Tuesdays. It will offer an opportunity for extra reflection, group discussion, encouragement and enquiry that will also help generate questions to ask Geshe-la on the Tuesday evenings. The discussion nights can help students of all levels – beginners will be supported in their digesting of new material, and those already familiar with some of the material will have an opportunity to take their questioning, investigation and integration further.
The discussion evenings are optional (and are not a required part of the attendance requirement for the subject) but they are highly recommended. You can attend as many as you are able or wish to attend. As students have requested more discussion, we hope students will take advantage of this extra discussion evening.
Standards of Successfully Completing a BP Subject
- Regular attendance (eg. usually 75-80% or higher – make up sessions are available)
- Engaging in the reading assignments
- Ethical conduct and practice
- Passing grade on final exam (usually this is a take-home-exam that is given with plenty of time to complete the short essay questions – it serves as an excellent way to review and clarify one’s understanding of the material)
Engaging fully in the class – through good attendance, participation in discussions, reading assignments, reflection and meditation, etc. – is encouraged as an excellent way to gain maximum benefit from each subject. Also please note that these subjects can be studied again and again, so even if you have studied a particular subject once, it is very good to consider attending the same subject again if you have the opportunity in order to deepen your understanding.
BP Completion Card and Completion Certificate
After successfully completing your first subject, you will be given a Basic Program Completion Card. Each subsequent subject that you successfully complete will be stamped and signed off on your Completion Card.
After at least the nine subjects of the core curriculum are completed there is a three-month review concluded by the FPMT Basic Program final exam.
In addition to this there is a retreat component which consists of three months of lam-rim retreat done in not shorter than one month increments (eg. one three month retreat, or three one month retreats, etc.).
This is to help one internalise and deepen one’s understanding and experience of the lam-rim. The lam-rim retreat component can be started anytime after one has completed the Stages of the Path Subject – so you can be already working on completing this requirement well before the conclusion of the nine core BP subjects. Upon successful completion of the core nine subjects, three-month review, final exam and retreat components, students are awarded a Basic Program Completion Certificate, designed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
There are many costs involved in hosting this BP Program – hosting a Resident Teacher, translator, Spiritual Program Coordinator, plus the ongoing running costs of the centre (power, rates, water, etc.). We keep our facility fees extremely low ($10 per class and per discussion night) to allow as many people to attend as possible. Our facility fees only go a small way to paying for our costs. We rely on the generosity of those who can afford it to give more. There is also a materials fee for each subject (which includes a printed text and downloadable supplementary materials).
Please consider becoming a Dharma Friend Monthly Supporter, at whatever level you can afford (from $35 a month on up) to help support the BP classes and other programs at DCI in an ongoing way.
The cost per Tuesday class and per Thursday discussion, if one is not a Dharma Friend monthly supporter, is $10 per class, plus a materials fee (to cover the text and support materials).
If one is a Dharma Friend Monthly Supporter then the facility fee for the classes and discussion nights is free and one only pays the materials fees (which varies per class depending on the amount of materials).
There are Three Payment Method Options for paying the Materials and Facility Fees:
- paying by internet banking (bank account details are provided on the Materials Fee and Facility Fee Payment Forms)
- paying by cash or cheque in person (cheques payable to “Dorje Chang Institute”)
- paying by PayPal using either a PayPal account or a credit card – please note that PayPal takes a small portion of each payment
Is it possible to attend the Basic Program classes without doing the homework and exams?
Yes. People are encouraged to engage as much as they are comfortable with and as much as their own schedules will allow. In this case one would not be issued a BP Completion Card, but would gain the benefit of hearing the teachings.
Is it possible to attend just one or a few of the Basic Program subjects but not the whole five year program?
Yes. You are welcome to attend the subjects that interest you. Your interest in other subjects may grow, the more you learn. Also the FPMT Basic Program is being offered at a number of FPMT centres worldwide. You are welcome to attend BP Subjects at any FPMT centre and you can get your BP Completion Card stamped for each subject you complete wherever you complete your FPMT BP Subject.
Please note that the earlier subjects lay a good foundation for the more advanced later topics.
Basic Program Criteria of Behaviour
Students must also satisfy the criteria of ethical conduct and practice. At the 2001 FPMT International Geshe Summit, the participating geshes and Lama Zopa Rinpoche discussed a standard of ethics for the BP, agreeing that as a minimum students should, over the course of their BP studies, sincerely develop their practice of observing the five lay vows, while emphasizing the development of their concern for others.
Rinpoche added that as much as possible there should be awareness of one’s positive and negative states of mind, development of the practice of patience and putting the bodhicitta motivation into practice.
The conduct requirement is intended to ensure that BP students engage in sincerely working with these practices and avoiding gross infractions. Rinpoche has agreed that Basic Program students can assess for themselves whether they are meeting the standard. To do this realistically, one needs to understand that this requirement is intended as an ongoing practice and one is not expected to be perfect from the beginning.
Explore and Register for an upcoming Basic Program Subject
Learn more about current and upcoming Basic Program subjects. Register to attend. Click the link below to explore further.