Discovering Buddhism (DB) a foundational level course in Buddhist philosophy and practice, spread over an estimated 2-3 years
The aim of the Discovering Buddhism course is to give participants a solid footing in the practice of Mahayana Buddhism. Specifically, Discovering Buddhism is an introduction to the teachings of the Lam-rim, or ‘graduated path to enlightenment’ – a step-by-step blueprint of the realisations a single individual needs to actualise in order to attain full enlightenment.
By engaging in this course, participants will gain an experiential taste of the Buddha’s teachings, some retreat experience, and the skills they need to make their lives most meaningful. Included are presentations of ideas, discussion, meditations and suggestions for further reading.
By the end of this course, participants should have a solid foundation from which to make informed choices about their continued spiritual development. Therefore this course is not designed as an academic study of Buddhism but is intended to change a person’s life.
The course is modular, each one looking at a particular subject area in some depth. The subject areas build through a logical progression, taking us ‘from here to Enlightenment’. Take the first three modules for example:
Mind & Its Potential is not a classic lam-rim topic; however, since most modern audiences have not deeply considered what is mind or even whether or not enlightenment is possible, this seems a natural place to start with the DB curriculum. After waking up to the positive potential of the mind, it is natural to want to know how to develop that potential. As such, the second module How to Meditate, introduces us to the basics of meditation, and how to develop the mind using this powerful tool. What do we meditate on? Module 3: Presenting the Path, provides an overview of the different realisations that we will work to develop within our mind stream, through meditation, in order to attain future happiness, liberation, and the full enlightenment of buddhahood.
To get a taste of the course, check out the 4-minute overview video here, where you’ll also find videos relating to each topic, and more information about the course.
Discovering Buddhism is an FPMT Foundational Program. It is the result of the combined efforts of a number of FPMT teachers and spiritual program coordinators, under the guidance and advice of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Spiritual Director of the FPMT. It was specially created to reflect the FPMT Wisdom Culture.
Students can receive a Certificate of Completion when all requirements have been fulfilled, or they may choose to follow this course in a casual way without fulfilling all the requirements. Graduates of Discovering Buddhism are also eligible to apply for FPMT teacher registration.
It can be followed online or as a course in an FPMT group or centre taught by FPMT registered teachers. It is optimal to follow the modules in the order of presentation, but not necessary.
Overview of the course:
- Mind and its Potential: Examine the mind and how it creates happiness and suffering. Learn to transform destructive thoughts and attitudes to create a positive and joyous mind!
- How to Meditate: Learn the definition and purpose of meditation, how to sit, how to set up a meditation session, different meditation techniques, and how to deal with obstacles to meditation.
- Presenting the Path: Get an overview of the entire Tibetan Buddhist path to awakening. Study the life story of the Buddha and discover the lam-rim, or graduated path to enlightenment.
- The Spiritual Teacher: Investigate the role of the teacher on the spiritual path: the need for a teacher, the qualities of teacher and student, and how to relate to a teacher for greatest benefit.
- Death and Rebirth: Explore the process of death and rebirth and its impact on how we live our lives. Learn to fulfil your purpose in life, resolve conflicts, and develop the skills to help yourself and others at death.
- All about Karma: Learn the essential facts about the law of cause and effect. Explore ways to deal with life most effectively and take control of your future!
- Refuge in the Three Jewels: Find out what it means to take refuge in the Three Jewels and the essential practices of refuge. Learn about the advantage of taking lay vows and their role in enhancing our spiritual growth.
- Establishing a Daily Practice: Assemble the tools you need to develop a successful daily practice and find out the elements necessary to generate realisations. Get some tips for making every action meaningful.
- Samsara and Nirvana: Investigate what samsara is and how we are stuck in it. Find out what nirvana is and how to achieve it. Learn how to be free from suffering and empower yourself with practical tools to deal with and eliminate disturbing emotions forever.
- How to Develop Bodhicitta: Discover practices that develop our innate qualities of compassion. Learn to apply these techniques to generate bodhicitta, the mind of enlightenment, known as the very heart of Buddha’s teachings.
- Transforming Problems: Learn the disadvantages of selfishness and the advantages of cherishing others. Learn to employ the special techniques of mind training (lojong) to transform problems into happiness.
- Wisdom of Emptiness: Learn how to develop calm abiding (shamatha), the ability to remain focused in meditation for as long periods as you want without distraction. Try different ways of meditating on emptiness, the lack of true existence of the self and all phenomena, the realization of which is crucial for the attainment of liberation and enlightenment.
- Introduction to tantra: Learn what tantra is, how it works, and why it is a powerful form of practice. Get a broad overview of the four classes of tantra and learn to practice simple kriya tantric methods. Learn how to integrate tantra with lamrim meditation to obtain the best results.
- Special Integration Experiences: Undertaking intensive practices of purification, a ten-day lamrim course/retreat, and three Nyung Nä retreats creates the inner conditions needed to gain the realisations of the path to enlightenment. The practices can be done at various FPMT centres, including Kopan Monastery in Nepal. More details here
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