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The full-time residential program at Nalanda Monastery consists of seven years of study and a total of twelve months retreat. Quizzes every second week, written exams every three months, review classes, meditations and discussions support the daily teachings.

Criteria for certification include academic, meditation, behaviour and service components, as well as a minimum attendance in the various aspects of the program.

There are five main components:

Academic Component
daily teachings and tutorials, in-class quizzes and exams, a three-month period of review of the entire studies at the end of the whole program, and a final exam.

The Meditation Component
daily meditations as well as retreats

The Attitude and Behaviour Component
daily self-evaluation, fulfilment of the patience requirement and standard of ethical conduct

The Service Component
contribution of a minimum of five hours per week in the form of various assigned tasks that benefit the Monastery, the community and the program.

The Training Component
Leading discussions and meditations, giving presentations, preparing course materials and discussions, participation in FPMT trainings, etc.

The Academic Component

1. Teachings

Teachings by the MP teacher Khen Rinpoche Geshe Losang Jamphel, abbot of Nalanda, are scheduled to take place four days a week from 9:30 – 12:30. Gen-la teaches in Tibetan, and there are translations into both English and French.

2. Tutorials

Tutorials are four days a week from 14:30 – 16:30 with Wednesday afternoons free for self-study. Tutorials consist of review classes, discussion groups, in-class quizzes and presentations.

tibetan-text-2The first hour will consist of the Teaching Assistant’s review of the material covered in the teachings, whereas the second hour is set aside for discussion groups.  Presentations take place fortnightly on Fridays, alternating with the fortnightly in-class quizzes. 

3. Exams

The academic year consists of three semesters, and at the end of each there is a written exam, which covers all the material of that semester. The exams are graded; for subject completion a minimum mark of 50% is required for all subjects exams. 

4. Three month review and final exam

In accordance with Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s wish there will be a review with final exam when the study of all subjects is completed. Rinpoche expressed the great value of an overall review for all participants; due to renewed familiarization the meaning of the subjects will become clearer. The review and the final exam assignments will approach the subjects from a practice oriented perspective, aiming at integration and application in practice of the studied material.


Curriculum - The Five Subjects in Brief

Students will be studying the five subjects that constitute the Masters Program’s curriculum:

    Here, we will look in detail at the clear realizations gained on the various spiritual paths of the hearers and solitary realizers, and bodhisattvas, in addition to becoming familiar with fundamental Buddhist topics such as bodhichitta, the Three Jewels, the two truths, the four noble truths, and the truth body.

    This text contains a comprehensive presentation of the ten perfections, with a specific emphasis on the perfection of wisdom and the presentations of emptiness by both non-Buddhist and Buddhist schools of thought.

    The teachings on Valid Cognition will focus on logical inference and the establishment of valid authority, while the teachings on Treasury will focus mainly on the chapters presenting actions (karma) and afflictions.

    Here, we will be presented with an overview of the four classes of tantra, with a particular emphasis on the spiritual grounds and paths within highest yoga tantra.

    An in-depth analysis of the generation and completion stages of highest yoga tantra, based on the Guhyasamaja Tantra.

Click here for a more detailed explanation of the five subjects

Meditation Component

1. Daily Meditations

Daily meditations are an obligatory part of the program and are important for keeping the students grounded, inspired, and integrated with the teachings. They are a necessary preparation for longer retreats and will make it possible for students to fulfil the MP completion retreat requirement in a responsible manner. Within each academic year the students will go through one cycle of all the lam-rim topics, whereby the students take their turns in guiding lam-rim meditations. 


"During the program, do students do lam-rim meditation? Meditation should mainly be on lam-rim. Encourage them to develop the experience of meditating on lam-rim during the program...then there will be one year [of retreat], but even during the program the students will get some lam-rim meditation done. That would be good, to go gradually through the lam-rim, from guru devotion up to emptiness...when the subject is calm abiding just go over the outlines without doing the real calm abiding...otherwise do analytical meditation from guru devotion up to emptiness. Forty minutes would be great."
Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Interview with Ven. Joan Nicell, October 2000

 At the end of every meditation, five minutes will be set aside for students to write a very brief account of their meditation. Keeping a meditation log is a means for students to monitor their progress in understanding how to meditate as well as the basis for an annual written evaluation that indicates a student’s understanding of particular topics of meditation covered. This evaluation is submitted to the Teaching Assistant and is the basis for a confidential interwiew intended to give an indication of where feedback and support for the development of students’ practice is needed. Both the written evaluation and the interview are part of the meditation component. 

2. Retreat Requirement

"There has been some discussion about a one year meditation on lam-rim either during or after the Masters Program. One year retreat would give the students a lot of insight, it would be really helpful, because in this way they can immediately do some practice. It would also give them some kind of satisfaction because, having studied, then they would have the opportunity to meditate. That would give them more satisfaction in their life, then when they go out to teach they would be happy. They would have much more to offer through their experience."

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Interview with Ven. Joan Nicell, October 2000


"From now on, all Masters Programs should have a one-year retreat as part of the program."
Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Interview with Merry Colony, IOF, Taos, October 2003

MaitreyaThe three month-long retreats during the program help prepare students for their final retreat, giving them some retreat experience so that they can arrange, structure and conduct this extended individual retreat in a responsible and successful manner. Lama Zopa Rinpoche has given repeated and extensive advice on the need and benefits of a total of one year of retreat as a requirement to complete the Masters Program and has also indicated the ways to do the retreat. A focus on lam-rim meditation remains throughout, while the inclusion of preliminary practices and a daily sadhana practice is also recommended.

Students will be supported with the arrangement of their final retreat; Lama Zopa Rinpoche's retreat instructions and other support materials will also be made available.

Attitude & Behaviour Component

To facilitate this essential training aspect of the program, Lama Zopa Rinpoche has put in place a three-fold assessment of the attitude and behaviour component: a daily self-evaluation, fulfilment of the patience requirement and an acceptable level of conduct as evaluated by MP staff.

"It would be good to implement an assessment for moral conduct; moral behaviour is very important. If it is clear that they are using the teachings to subdue their mind and are being kind, this will touch the hearts of their students, and their teachings will be more effective. It's not just to study to produce knowledge, but to subdue the mind."

Lama Zopa Rinpoche - Geshe Summit, April 2001

1. Daily Self-Evaluation

During the first Masters Program, with Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s detailed input and incorporating feedback from students and staff, a self-evaluation card was agreed upon as an effective method to monitor one’s practice of ethical behaviour, patience and attitude. The card provides a way to record instances of abiding by and transgression of the five lay-vows, occurrences of harsh speech and anger, and actions done with or contrary to the intention to benefit others, and is set up so that it becomes an integrated part of the daily purification practice.

By keeping such a record students have found that their mindfulness of these specific elements of practice in daily life increases; the self-evaluation functions as a tool to develop their practice and as an encouragement to become more aware of developments and lapses.

The card is thus intended as a personal practice tool, to be kept privately, and used and applied as is most suitable for each individual student.

2. Patience Requirement

While the self-evaluation card as such is offered as a personal practice tool, students are required to report the total recorded monthly instances of anger as an extra incentive for developing their practice of patience, which has been indicated by Lama Zopa Rinpoche as a prerequisite for obtaining Masters Program qualification.

" one month, how many times one gets angry - and this means not just upset but hatred, ill will to somebody - to write that down. By writing it down, it becomes part of your job, it makes you to be aware. Always there is the thought “I must be careful.” It gives you awareness and that makes you to get angry less often and it persuades you to think of the meditations, of what to apply. It makes sure you prepare."

~Lama Zopa Rinpoche - Addressing MP students in Padua, Italy, May 2001

"How much one is able to practice patience is part of the examination, the conduct part. The idea is that while studying these extensive teachings, at the same time you are taming your mind against anger, the enemy, and practicing patience, for success. This condition makes us practice. We hear so many teachings but still, If we are not practising patience, thought transformation, and lam-rim, we get angry and we destroy our merits."

Lama Zopa Rinpoche - Advice to Master's Program students, ILTK, September 2004

Fulfilment of the patience requirement is necessary for subject completion.

3. Conduct

Behaviour is also assessed in general, with regard to meeting an acceptable level of conduct. This is evaluated by MP staff.

Service Component

"From the Western point of view social service is something outside the centre. Many people don’t think that working at the centre is social service. While at the centre, they think, “I should do social service - childcare, orphanage, old folks home or something.” Actually, working at the centre is the best social service. It’s the most important social service, the best for the sentient beings. When you do not have the proper attitude like that, you make many problems, and then life at the centre becomes difficult. Then, rather than enjoying the service, work at the centre becomes a burden. So I think it’s very important when you work for the centre, to have the same attitude of offering oneself as you would at an orphanage, or in childcare. The attitude should be the same…

Why is service in a Dharma centre most important? All those other services are very important and necessary, but if the sentient being doesn't know Dharma and if they have no opportunity to practice Dharma, they cannot remove the cause of their sufferings, delusions and karma. Then they will suffer in samsara without end, as they have been suffering without beginning. Therefore, it’s the best service for sentient beings and for yourself. This is the deepest social service."

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Aptos 2001

All students are required to do five hours of community service per week, unless there are extenuating circumstances. This is an important contribution to the Monastery; it allows responsibilities to be shared by many, so that all contribute to the success of the program.
It is an integral part of the Masters Program. Full participation in the service component is a requirement for subject completion.

The Training Component

Several aspects of training form an integral part of the other main components of the program: leading discussions, learning how to guide meditations, setting up and leading short retreats, giving presentations, preparing course materials, preparing discussion topics, etc. The study-related jobs also include valuable elements of training.


Students who have successfully completed the five subjects, have participated in the three-month review, passed the final exam and fulfilled their one year retreat requirement, in brief, those who can present a completion card signed off for all elements of the program will receive a Masters Program Completion Certificate signed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche and their Masters Program Teacher.
Masters Program graduates are eligible to become FPMT registered teachers at In-depth level, and will have a range of opportunities to serve within FPMT in various functions, for example as program coordinator, as teacher in all FPMT programs from Introductory to In-depth, as teaching assistant or tutor for Basic and Masters Programs, in residential or non-residential settings or for online programs, etc.

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