Spiritual programme

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Introductory courses & retreats

Root Institute offers a unique opportunity to learn about Buddhism from renowned Tibetan and Western teachers in the holy land where the Buddha achieved enlightenment.

Courses and retreats often include visits to the Mahabodhi Stupa for extra blessings and inspiration. Many also incorporate pilgrimages further afield, as we are located in an area surrounded by very significant pilgrimage sites.

Being in retreat

  • Gifting yourself the opportunity to do retreat is a very special venture. It will take you away from your conventional life and support your discovery of becoming an "inner being".
  • Retreats require discipline, flexibility and energy. It may take a few days to settle into the schedule; it's good to relax and enjoy the process.
  • You will be asked to relinquish technology including your mobile phone and, for some courses, participate fully in periods of silence. This might be a new experience for you. It is designed to support your spiritual journey by reducing distractions and giving you the space and time for reflection.
  • Being part of a retreat is about the collective experience of all participants. You will all be in this together, supported by your retreat leader, as well as our Spiritual Programme Coordinator and all the family at Root Institute. You won't be alone!

Introductory courses & retreats

Intermediate courses & retreats

For established students or adventurous beginners

Our intermediate courses are ideal for those who are looking to challenge themselves beyond foundational Buddhist philosophy. Having said that, each course or retreat is open to anyone who may wish to attend.

Beginners may find some concepts a little challenging to understand. If you are in this category, you may like to prepare by way of reading or listening to online teachings.

Our intermediate courses are typically taught by special teachers or high lamas who visit Root Institute.


 Intermediate courses & retreats

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 – 15 Jan to 28 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, 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 – Our new translator will be joining us for 2017–18.

  • Teaching Assistant – Our new teaching assistant will be joining us for 2017–18.

Our Basic Programme team
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 (note: updated as of 29 December, 2016)

Requirements

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 10.30am–12 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.

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 the 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

Pilgrimages

Because our region of India is rich in the heritage of Buddhism – with many holy places where the Buddha and his disciples resided, meditated, and taught – Root Institute offers an array of pilgrimages to these sites throughout our spiritual season.

Our pilgrimages are designed to facilitate an "inner spiritual journey" – opportunities to practice, connect, and revive one's inspiration from places in the "outer environment" blessed through the realisations of accomplished beings over millenia.

The beauty of such pilgrimages is that everything is organised for you; free of practical hassles, you can relax and enjoy being able to focus on the spiritual experience with the cameraderie of fellow practitioners.


Pilgrimages

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 are made for the clearing of all obstacles for Rinpoche’s holy projects and centres.

Offering robes to the Lord Buddha statue in the Mahabodhi shrine room

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.

Good vibes while offering flowers

You are very welcome to join us!

For these events, there is no need to register.


 Mahabodhi Stupa events planned so far

Drop-in sessions

Daily morning meditations

  • Monday to Saturday, 6:45–7:30am – suspended during off-season; resuming in early September.

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 – suspended during off-season; resuming in early September.

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

Festival of Lights & Merit

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

Four auspicious events celebrated each year

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

  • 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.

Check below for our next festival dates according to the Western calendar.

 Features of every festival

  • Held principally at the Mahabodhi Stupa, though extensive light offerings are also made at Root Institute
  • This spiritual festival allows people from around the world to sponsor lights, pujas and prayer flags
  • Names and dedications of all sponsors are read aloud each evening during the festival.

Each Festival of Light & Merit includes

Hanging prayer flagsExtensive 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.

Dedications

Additional dedications for all the offerings

  • 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

 

The next festival dates

Show events from all categories


Guidelines of behaviour in a Dharma environment

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

To maintain a condusive, 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 Blessings > Retreat – at Stupa Garden of Compassion, through which you can also book accommodation.