Spiritual programme

FPMT Basic Programme

FPMT Basic Programme

Extensive studies of Buddhist philosophy

Root Institute is offering this residential programme for in-depth study of Buddhist philosophy and psychology. Participants are welcome to study one module, one year, or the whole programme. In our first year, 2016–17, a small, enthusiastic and harmonious group of students gathered from all over the world. We are now inviting applications for second year.

Studying in Bodhgaya, where the Buddha manifested enlightenment, is extremely auspicious and brings great blessings. Typically during our winter season Root Institute has the great good fortune to host Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and to have teaching-visits from other high lamas and renowned teachers.

Basic programme students are also able to participate in the short-courses of our spiritual programme which brings inspiration from a range of teachers to complement their understanding of Buddhism, to meet many like-minded people and create meaningful and rewarding friendships.

To study the subjects of BP 2nd year at Root Institute it is not compulsory to study the subjects of 1st Year, students can join the programme at any stage. Having had said that, for the maximisation of these 2nd Year subjects it will help to have a foundational Buddhist philosophy understanding, so doing an introductory course is advisable.

An updated motivation letter is asked from returning students that completed 1st year of BP at Root Institute.

2nd Year – September 2017 to April 2018 – covers three subjects

Tenets – 4 Sep to 25 Nov

Tenets is a concise and accessible introduction to the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhist tenets, a crucial topic to build up a solid foundational understanding of the range of Buddhist philosohical views.

Heart Sutra – 27 Nov to 15 Dec

The Heart Sutra explicitly reveals the truth of emptiness and implicitly references to the five Mahayana paths of accumulation, preparation, seeing, meditation, and no-more-learning through which a bodhisattva attains buddhahood.

Calm Abiding and Special Insight – 29 Jan to 7 Apr

Calm abiding and special insight are the concluding topics of Lama Tsong Khapa's middle-length text on Stages of the Path (Lam-rim), which covers all the topics of the graduated path to enlightenment. This presentation is in great depth, as the union of these practices is essential to realise the true nature of the mind.

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, 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 Instituto Lama Tzong Khapa (Italy)
  • Translator – Melanie Eikema

  • Tutor – Sally Ong, 2011 graduate of Master Programme subjects: Ornament of Clear Realisation & Supplement to the Middle Way & 2007 graduate of Basic Programme at Instituto Lama Tzong Khapa (Italy).

Our Basic Programme team
Sally Ong (tutor), Ven. Thubten Khadro (BP coordinator & spiritual programme coordinator), Geshe Ngawang Rabga (resident geshe), Ven. Tenzin Paldron (director), and Melanie Eikema (translator)

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 (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.

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

  • 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.

Qualification for completion certificate

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 three one-month lam-rim retreats offered as part of the programme.

General information

  • 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.

Application process

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

  • Please complete the form to express interest & find out more – 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)
  • Once that has been acknowledged, send the following documents to the Basic Programme & Spiritual Programme Coordinator (SPC), Ven. Thubten Khadro: spc@rootinstitute.ngo:

    • a letter explaining your motivation to join the programme

    • 1 professional reference

    • 1 personal reference from a spiritual friend, mentor or guide

  • Finally, a Skype interview with the Centre's Director and the Basic Programme Coordinator.

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.



FPMT Basic Programme subjects

Guidelines of behaviour in a Dharma environment

Root Institute is a delightful, semi-monastic meditation centre.

To maintain a conducive, spiritually harmonious atmosphere for inner reflection and meditation, we kindly ask all our students, guests and visitors to observe the following guidelines:

  • 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 romantic 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, you 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 meditation hall (gompa) and 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.

  • Couples: can stay in the same room for two weeks or less under the celibacy policy.

Please be aware:

  • * The Bihar state government has passed laws totally prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol in the state, with very severe penalties! Please ensure that 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.

To book your own individual or group retreat, please go to Bodhgaya's blessings > Retreat – at Stupa Garden of Compassion, through which you can also book accommodation.