Basic Program Certification

"It would be good to offer a Basic Program certificate to recognise what the students have done... Also a certificate recognising study produces more respect for qualified western teachers, particularly if the teacher is lay - and the organisation needs more teachers. To bring the message about living a moral life across, sangha teachers are more effective. Due to lack of sangha the organisation needs lay teachers, so the certificate will bring them more respect... The certificate indicates that the student can teach the subject that he studied, which does not mean that he or she is a scholar, but that she has the ability to impart knowledge"

Lama Zopa Rinpoche - 2001

A Basic Program completion certificate will be awarded by the FPMT Education Department to those full-time students who have:

Completed the core curriculum subjects of the Basic Program by fulfilling all the attendance, study and retreat requirements and completing the exams, while fulfilling the requirements for ethical conduct; participated in the three month review and passed the final exam; and completed a three month lam-rim retreat as part of the program.

BP graduates are eligible for FPMT teacher registration at Foundational or In-Depth level, which qualifies to teach, upon request and in an FPMT center, either Discovering Buddhism and introductory level courses (as a Foundational level registered teacher), or Basic Program subjects they feel confident and inclined to teach (as In-Depth level registered teacher).

Attendance Requirements

To receive certification an attendance level of 90% is required for each element of the program—teachings, review classes (with discussion sessions) and guided meditation sessions. For specific urgent family situations exceptions can be made, as well as in the case of temporary sickness.

Retreat and Meditation Requirements

At the end of the program, Nalanda will organise a three-month lam-rim retreat. Short lam-rim retreats will be organised between the teaching periods and these are obligatory as well. After some training, students will be asked to lead the lam-rim meditations in order for them to learn how to lead meditations in a group retreat environment.

Ethical Conduct Requirements

Lama Thubten Yeshe, the founder of the FPMT, asked that the five precepts be respected at all times in all FPMT centres and monasteries:

  • No killing
  • No stealing (taking what is not given)
  • No sexual misconduct
  • No lying
  • No use of intoxicants (alcohol, drugs, tobacco)

All students are requested to abide by these five precepts.

All students are expected to familiarise themselves and abide by all rules and customs of the monastery. These will be given to students on arrival. These rules enable the community to live together harmoniously, safely and create an environment that is beneficial to study and practice. Monastics must pay attention to their mindfulness in all respects and keep their vows as purely as possible. In addition, all students should satisfy the criteria of ethical conduct and practice that characterise the values of the FPMT in general and of prospective Dharma teachers in particular.

For the Basic Program, Lama Zopa Rinpoche has further specified this requirement as follows: students should, over the course of their BP studies, sincerely develop their practice of observing the five lay vows, while emphasising the development of their concern for others. 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.

This conduct requirement is intended to ensure that BP students engage in sincerely working with these practices and avoiding gross infractions. Lama Zopa Rinpoche has agreed that program students can assess themselves in meeting these standards. To do this realistically, one needs to understand that this requirement is intended as an ongoing practice - one is not expected to be perfect from the beginning!

As well as this self-evaluation, one needs to be reliable and diligent in Karma Yoga commitments, and have an acceptable level of conduct in this area as evaluated by the Basic Program staff.

Karma Yoga

All full-time students are required to offer at least seven hours per week to the monastery for community service. This contribution of time, called ’karma yoga’, can be seen as a way for students to share in making this course of study possible for everyone by helping with the day-to-day running of the program and the monastery. Assignments of specific tasks are determined based on a number of factors, including the skills that are needed for each job. When possible, the preferences of the student will be considered, but students are asked to be flexible in their assignments

"The three main qualities of a student should be knowledge, good moral conduct and loving kindness - the same as in the monasteries…"

"The attitude in daily life is to look at everyone as the source of all one’s past, present and future happiness, liberation and enlightenment. Then also, cherishing and caring for others. That comes under ethics and behaviour….Then on this basis to be helpful and to have respect for others…"

“Over the course of their Basic Program studies, students should emphasise the development of their concern for others. As much as possible there should be awareness.”

Lama Zopa Rinpoche

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