Spiritual programme

28. March 2017

FPMT Basic Programme

Extensive studies of Buddhist philosophy

The Basic Programme has been specifically designed by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the Spiritual Director of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), to provide a balanced approach to the combined academic education and practice of meditation that characterizes the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. This makes the study and understanding of the philosophical subjects of immediate and practical benefit. The Basic Programme has been structured around a schedule of teachings, review classes, meditations and discussion groups alternated with meditation retreats, so as to encourage the integration of the teachings into one's practice with a view to gaining a personal experience of them.

Basic Programme team

  • Resident Geshe – Lharampa Geshe Ngawang Rabga, from Lhowa Khamsten, Sera Je Monastery

  • Basic Programme Coordinator – Ven. Thubten Khadro, 2013 graduate of Master's in Wisdom online programme at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa (Italy)
  • Translator – Anastasia Stoliarova, 2014 graduate of the Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo Translators Program. (Ana will only be with us till end-of-term in April, unfortunately, but we have engaged a new translator for next season.)

  • Teaching Assistant – Shahar Tene, 2014 graduate of Basic Program at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa (Italy) and registered FPMT teacher. (Sadly for us, Shahar will soon be going to join the Masters Program at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, so we are seeking a new teaching assistant for next season.)

Our Basic Programme team
L to R: Ana (translator), Ven. Tenzin Paldron (director), Geshe Ngawang Rabga (resident geshe) and Ven. Thubten Khadro (BP coordinator & spiritual programme coordinator, SPC). 

Subjects of study

  • Mind and Cognition: The way the mind knows phenomena and the mental factors that constitute the basis of our daily experience

  • Tenets: The philosophical systems or tenets of the four main schools of ancient Buddhist thought

  • Heart Sutra: Emptiness and the phenomena qualified by it

  • Stages of the Path: The stages of the path to enlightenment of beings of low, middling and great capacity

  • Mahayana Mind Training (The Wheel of Sharp Weapons): The law of actions and results, or karma, and the states of mind that shape our future experiences

  • Engaging in Bodhisattva Deeds: The six perfections – generosity, morality, patience, joyous effort, concentration and wisdom – and how to practice them in everyday life.

  • Sublime Continuum: The buddha- or tathagata-essence that exists within every sentient being

  • Ornament for Clear Realization, Fourth Chapter: Outlining the bodhisattva's meditation on the aspects of the three exalted knowers by way of a union of calm abiding and special insight for the purpose of attaining enlightenment

  • Grounds and Paths of Secret Mantra: The four classes of tantra with emphasis on the generation and completion stages of the highest yoga tantra.

Please refer to a detailed description of the texts – PDF and detail on the subjects to be studied – PDF.

Time period

  • Classes will be conducted from September to April – eight months per year
  • The complete program will be offered over a time period of five years, including review and final exam, and three months of lam‐rim retreat – see tentative five-year schedule – PDF (please note: updated as of 29 December, 2016)

The following is required of all students who wish to have their Basic Programme completion card signed off for subject completion:

  • A minimum of 80% attendance at teachings by Geshe‐la, four times a week: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays from 7–9 pm.

  • A minimum of 80% attendance at discussion groups – led by the Basic Programme teaching assistant, four times a week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays from 3.30–5 pm.

  • A minimum of 80% of attendance at all meditations and retreats offered as part of the program – this will include morning lam rim meditations (Monday to Saturday)

  • Karma yoga: five hours per week in any one of the three projects at Root Institute and/or at Root institute General

  • Completion of all assessments and tests set by the teaching assistant as part of the program

  • Fulfilling the Basic Programme behaviour requirement.

Students who wish to qualify for the Basic Programme completion certificate need to:

  • Have successfully completed the nine core curriculum Basic Programme subjects with the 80% attendance rate for each element – teachings, discussion groups, meditations and retreats

  • Participate in the three-month review period at the completion of the programme

  • Successfully complete the Basic Programme final exam

  • Fulfil the three-month lam-rim retreat requirement by participating in the one-month lam-rim retreats offered as part of the programme.

Students keep their own attendance records, which will be turned in on a weekly basis. Use of the self-evaluation card is optional.

Target student population: We are hoping for a combination of Indian national and international students, lay and Sangha.

Casual visitors are welcome to the teachings and meditations on the basis of quiet attendance, leaving active participation to the actual BP students.

Suggested donation: Please email our Spiritual Programme Coordinator (SPC), Ven. Thubten Khadro for more information.

More information about the FPMT Basic Programme is available on the FPMT website.


If you are interested in enrolling in the Basic Programme at Root Institute:

  • please complete the student application form – PDF – including the section on the required obligations you will have to follow as a residential student at Root Institute (unless you clearly indicate that you are planning on staying outside Root Institute campus)
  • provide a letter explaining your motivation to join the programme
  • 1 professional reference
  • 1 personal reference from a spiritual friend, mentor or guide
  • and have a shype interview with the Centre's Director and the Basic Programme Coordinator
  • please send all this to the Basic Programme & Spiritual Programme Coordinator (SPC), Ven. Thubten Khadro:

e  spc@rootinstitute.ngo

In conclusion

We hope that offering a complete, residential Basic Programme, over a five-year period, eight months each year, will make Root Institute for Wisdom Culture an attractive place for beginning and more advanced students and practitioners alike.

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Teaching schedule

  • Mondays, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday – 7:00–8:30pm

Sitting-in short-term on courses within the Basic Programme is an option for our guests and volunteers. To find out more, please email our Spiritual Programme Coordinator (SPC).


FPMT Basic Programme courses in 2016–17

Mahabodhi Stupa spiritual events

Root Institute comes together to make offerings at the Mahabodhi Stupa

Offering of robes

On the full moon, we offer robes to the Mahabodhi Stupa Buddha on behalf of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and dedications made for the clearing of all obstacles for Rinpoche’s holy projects and centres.

Offerings of water, lights, flowers and incense

Occasionally we hold a stupa-practice day where guests, staff and volunteers accumulate merit together by making offerings of water, lights, flowers and incense at the Mahabodhi Stupa.

It is a very special, relaxing activity and a wonderful opportunity to purify negativities, accumulate merit and make a connection with the holiest site of the Buddhist world.

You are very welcome to join us!

For these events, there is no need to register.

 Check out our upcoming dates

Drop-in sessions

Daily morning meditations

  • Monday to Saturday, 6:45–7:30am

Guided meditations are offered daily by experienced meditation leaders and include topics of the Lam Rim (Stages of the Path) and mindfulness.


Teachings with Geshe Ngawang Rabga

Our resident geshe

Geshe Ngawang RabgaYou are welcome to drop in to our resident geshe's classes in the FPMT Basic Programme (September through April; more details here):

  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday – 7:00pm–8:30pm

Enrolled students participating in the full programme will be seated at the front and able to ask questions.

But anyone can drop in for a class and sit quietly, and any donation would be welcome.


Regular pujas and practices

We observe the standard pujas of the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, which anyone can attend. If you are in Bodhgaya and would like to come along, please feel welcome to join us for:

  • Tara puja
  • Medicine Buddha puja
  • Lama Ch'opa ts'og offering
  • Protector puja

Puja in main gompa

Check our announcements on our homepage where we list drop-in sessions scheduled within the next 15 days.

The homepage list of drop-in sessions also includes two other kinds of events which require no booking, held at the Mahabodhi Stupa:

Drop-in sessions planned so far for our September 2016 – April 2017 spiritual programme

Festival of Lights & Merit

Celebrations during four holy times each year, according to the Tibetan calendar

Those who offer one thousand lights will be reborn when Maitreya Buddha shows the deed of gaining Enlightenment and receive his first Dharma teaching.

Arya Maitreya Sutra


The four most important events of Shakyamuni Buddha's life are honoured every year in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition:

  • 15 Days of Miracles culminating in Chotrul Duchen, the Day of Miracles
  • Saka Dawa
  • First Turning of the Dharma Wheel, and
  • Lord Buddha's Descent from the Deva Realm of the Thirty-Three.

Our next festival will be 15 Days of Miracles – 17 Feb to 12 Mar 2017, the most holy day being the 12th

The Festival of Lights and Merit (FLAM) is held each time at the Mahabodhi Stupa. FLAM is a spiritual festival that allows people from around the world to sponsor lights, pujas and prayer flags. The names and dedications of all those who sponsor are read aloud each evening during the sponsored festival.

Hanging prayer flagsEach Festival of Light & Merit includes

Extensive light offerings

Tens of thousands of electrical light offerings create the illusion of a starry sky surrounding the Stupa itself, a beautiful and inspiring sight. Together with the thousands of electrical lights at Root institute, these lights are offered and dedicated each evening by Root Institute on behalf of sponsors.

Three special pujas

Three specific pujas are specially arranged – Tara Puja, Protector Puja and Guru Puja – with monks from the Bodhgaya branch of Namgyal Monastery.

Hanging of blessed prayer flags

Traditional Tibetan Prayer Flags are blessed, raised beside the Mahabodhi Stupa and dedicated on behalf of sponsors. The blessings of which are spread across the Stupa grounds and inner Bodhgaya city.



All of the offerings will also be dedicated for:

  • The long lives of our holy gurus
  • The preservation and spread of the pure Dharma
  • The temporal and ultimate happiness of the sponsors and their loved ones
  • The quick enlightenment of all sentient beings
  • Peace and harmony around the world
  • The removal of all obstacles and quick success to FPMT projects.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche has advised Root Institute that each single recitation of the actual light offering prayer is equivalent to the number of lights offered. Therefore, on one night during the 15 Days of Miracles, if 100,000 lights are offered by 10 students, according to Rinpoche’s advice, one million lights would be offered on that night alone!

Sponsorship of FLAM also helps the Root Institute family:


Festival dates planned for 2016–17

Show events from all categories

Guidelines of behaviour in a Dharma environment

Root Institute is a meditation centre with resident nuns and monks and not a guesthouse, so couples, and men and women, must have separate accommodation.

If participating in courses or retreats, friends and family of the same gender will also be asked to stay in separate rooms to help support silence and their focus on the course / retreat.

We ask all our guests and visitors to observe the following rules of discipline in order to maintain an atmosphere conducive to inner reflection and meditation:

  • Respect all life: do not intentionally kill any living being, even small insects.

  • Respect others' property: do not steal or take anything not freely given.

  • Be honest and straightforward: do not lie or intentionally deceive others.

  • Be celibate: no sexual activity; this also includes no holding hands, hugging, massages and other physical displays of affection.

  • Be alert and mindful*: avoid intoxicants such as alcohol, drugs and cigarettes; we encourage you to stop smoking while here, but if this is impossible, one can smoke outside the gates.

  • Be considerate of others' silence: keep silence in the appropriate areas and at all times during residential courses, especially in the Gompa and the dormitories; no singing or playing music and, in general, maintain a quiet demeanour while on the property.

  • Be considerate of the monks and nuns: dress respectfully; please no shorts above the knee, tank-top shirts or tight and revealing clothing.



Please be aware:

  • In April 2016 the Bihar state government passed laws totally prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol in the state, with very severe penalties, up to capital punishment for those involved in manufacture! Please ensure you do not carry any alcohol with you in Bihar.

  • Also, please note that those in service or teaching in FPMT centers and projects do not engage in the practice of Shugden.

General information about the spiritual programme

Our spiritual programme now runs from beginning of September through to end of April.

On the appropriate dates in the Tibetan calendar year-round, however, we observe the standard pujas of the Gelug tradition and these are drop-in sessions which anyone can attend. If you are in Bodhgaya and would like to come along, please feel welcome to join us for:

  • Tara puja
  • Medicine Buddha puja
  • Lama Ch'opa ts'og offering
  • Protector puja

Unless otherwise indicated, registration is required for all spiritual programme events except drop-in sessions, Festival of Lights & Merit, and Mahabodhi Stupa events.

If you are interested in doing intensive individual practice at Root Institute, please go to Blessings > Personal retreat.