Spiritual programme

25. April 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 has been our tutor in 2016–17 and a new translator will be joining us for 2017–18.

  • Teaching Assistant – Shahar Tene, 2014 graduate of Basic Program at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa (Italy), and registered FPMT teacher, has been our tutor in 2016–17 and a new teaching assistant will be joining us for 2017–18.

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

Introductory courses and retreats

Root Institute offers a unique opportunity to learn about Buddhism through two different but complimentary environments. Students are able to listen, learn and discuss Buddhist philosophy with our resident geshe and visiting senior Western Teachers in the traditional class environment. Buddhism then steps off the page and into the day-to-day through pilgrimage to the holy sites of the Buddha and interaction in socially engaged projects.

Nowhere else in the world can you learn, reflect and meditate on the teachings of the Buddha in this way.

We offer three signature courses for those new to Buddhism as well as students who have a basic understanding of the teachings.

Essence of Buddhism with Geshe Ngawang Rabga – 3-days

These three day courses are taught once a month in Tibetan by our resident geshe, Geshe Ngawang Rabga and translated into English. (Hindi translations will be available in the future.)

It is an excellent opportunity for students to connect with the depth of wisdom and experience of a monastic trained Lharampa Geshe.

Geshe Rabga focuses on the essential Buddhist concepts such as:

  • The Four Noble Truths
  • 12 Links of Dependent Arising
  • Relative Truth and Ultimate Truth
  • Nature of the Mind

Taste of Buddhism – 5-days

These five day courses are taught in English throughout the season by visiting senior Western teachers. They present the ancient teachings of Tibetan Buddhism through a contemporary framework, encouraging each student to reflect and apply the teachings to their own personal lives and create lasting positive change.

Students will also have meditation and practice sessions at the Mahabodhi Stupa.

Subjects covered include:

  • Nature of the Mind
  • Two Truths (Relative and Ultimate)
  • Karma and Delusions
  • Death and Impermanence

Experience Buddhism at the root – 10-days

Our signature 10 day introductory course is renowned for its experiential component of pilgrimage and practice. Students will spend the first few days grounding their minds in the wisdom of the Buddha before adventuring out to the Buddha’s land of Bodhgaya.

Pilgrimages include the holy sites of:

  • Mahabodhi Stupa
  • Vulture’s Peak, Rajgir
  • Ancient Nalanda University
  • Mahakala Cave & Sujata or Gurupada

Subjects are similar to our Taste of Buddhism course, but more in-depth:

  • Meditation
  • Anger
  • Nature of Mind
  • Karma
  • Two Truths (Relative and Ultimate)
  • Tools for a Compassion life
  • Death and Impermanence

It is mandatory for students to attend every session, no matter which program they attend. Students who repeatedly miss sessions will be asked to leave without a refund.

Consequently it is strongly recommended that students live on site and take advantage of our extensive library, peaceful surroundings and wholesome dining experience!

While schedules may change with teacher preference.

Being in retreat

Gifting yourself the opportunity to do retreat will take you away from your conventional life so it’s important to prepare yourself mentally for what this entails. Taking part in retreat requires discipline, flexibility and energy. You will be required to relinquish technology, including your phone and participate fully in periods of silence.

Your retreat will be made up of students from India and abroad. You will also be asked to consider your fellow students and attend every session with them.

This retreat environment can be quite unfamiliar. Some people may not experience much discomfort while others may find their minds react. It’s good to be aware of the following:

  • Silence can be confronting
    Silence reduces our distractions, leaving us with more time and space to experience what arises in our mind. Any discomfort or confusion can be lessened if you arrive with an open, caring mind towards yourself.

  • It can take a few days for your mind to settle into the schedule
    If the retreat schedule is different to your normal day-to-day then your mind may experience some initial ups and downs. It’s good to remember that your fellow retreat students are likely to experience the same, so you will not be the only one having challenges. Retreat leaders are an excellent support for you.

  • We’re all in this together
    Being part of a retreat is not just about your individual experience. The retreat is founded on the collective and students who do not participate fully will have a direct impact on the retreat experience of others. As His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama says, we are interdependent, relying on each other to attain ultimate happiness.

  • Consider that there is more than one way
    Some of the teachings, discussions and practices you do may not conform to your expectations or beliefs. That’s okay. Buddhism does not ask you to accept everything. Keep an open mind if you find yourself reacting to something. Take things slowly, reflect and don’t allow your inner reaction to influence the experience of those around you.

With this mindfulness you can transform any potential negative experience into a positive one.

If you wish to register, it is important to read about registration, the requirements of course/retreat discipline, and guidelines of behaviour in a Dharma environment, which are linked at the bottom of the booking form.

Introductory courses in the 2016–17 season

Intermediate courses and retreats

For established students or adventurous beginners

Our intermediate courses are ideal for those who have 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 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 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.

 Check out our upcoming dates

Drop-in sessions

Daily morning meditations

  • Monday to Saturday, 6:45–7:30am – until Wednesday 26 April, conclusion of the 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 – until Wednesday 26 April, conclusion of the 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 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 – 16 Feb to 2 Mar 2018, the most holy day being the 2nd

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:


The next festival dates

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.