Advanced Buddhist Study Program
“Through study we come to understand phenomena.
Through study we take distance from negative actions.
Through study we give up what is meaningless.
Through study we achieve the state beyond suffering.”
- Bodhisattva Pitaka
The Nalanda Program (PN) provides a unique opportunity to the practitioners who are seriously committed to Buddha Dharma, offering the highest level of Dharma education in Portugal. We are a small Sangha with special benefits. The PN students can in fact take advantage of the possibility of participating in weekly sessions, and of establishing a personal relation with Lama Gyurme, the resident professor of Guyha Mantrika Community, as well as with visiting Lamas.
The PN, structured by Venerable Lama Urgyen Chödor and Lama Gyurme, is an educational non-sectarian Buddhist program, and it is aimed at providing formation to all genuine Dharma students.
With a traditional approach it encourages not only the formal study, but also the profound integration of the teachings through contemplation and meditation. Teachings and additional guidance will be made available by many renown Lamas related with the Sangha of Guhya Mantrika.
Thus, the PN is a Buddhist school for higher education in Dharma Study. It is a place of learning, where dedicated students can come together to listen various topics of Buddha Dharma such as vinaya, sutra or abhidharma, and the secret mantra, which are deeply explained by qualified masters.
Presentation of the Program
“If you do not start with a thorough analysis,
How the perfect certainty can arise?
If this noble faith does not arise,
How can false views eventually cease?”
- The Torch of Certainty
The PN has a duration of five years and it is a study program of texts which are traditionally studied within the Nyingma/Kagyu Tibetan Buddhist Tradition.
Lama Urgyen Chödor conceived and developed this course to meet the needs of Portuguese students for them to gain a deep understanding of Dharma. This course is based on an integrated and systemic approach, including the study and many opportunities of discussion and reflection about topics that are learnt.
Mostly run by Lama Gyurme, this course consists of five academic years on a weekly basis. After completion, the students who wish to progress may choose optional courses for further four years.
Since the PN is directed to serious practitioners of the spiritual tradition Kagyu/Nyingma, it includes written and oral exams as well as vows and commitments related to the compliance of practices to conclude each year. Hence, the PN is a way to gain knowledge and direct experience of the Buddhist Spiritual Path.
“Even if you have to die tomorrow, today you should study.
Even if you may not turn yourself into a wise one within this very life,
Your knowledge will be preserved for the future;
Just like richness is deposited and then recovered,
The Precious Treasure of the Elegant Proverbs,
All Dharma Teachings are included in the Buddha’s words and treatises,
The excellent speech and the commentaries on its intended meaning,
Through these, the Teaching of Sakya will remain for long time in this world.”
- Sutra requested by Devaputra
First Chapter of “Perfect Conduct” and “Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattava”
Second Chapter of “Perfect Conduct” and Chapters I, II, and III of the Bodicharyavatara
Third Chapter of “Perfect Conduct” and Chapters IV, V, and VI of the Bodhicharyavatara
Fourth Chapter of “Perfect Conduct” and Chapters VII, VIII, IX and X of Bodhicharyavatara
Fifth Chapter of “Perfect Conduct” and the Text of Kunzang Lama’i Shelung
“Perfect Conduct: Ascertaining the Three Vows”
The Basis of the course throughout the five years is the text “Perfect Conduct: Ascertaining the Three Vows” of Ngari Panchen, with the commentary of H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche. This ancient and traditional work explains the three levels of moral codes within the Tibetan Buddhism: the vows of self-liberation, those of a bodhisattva and the tantra vows or samaya. It describes in detail the meaning of such vows and gives the practical instructions on how to maintain and use them as tools for a spiritual practice integrated within a daily life.
“Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattava”
Authored by Gyaltse Thogme Zangpo, as the title suggests, this text is about thirty-seven practices of a Bodhisattva: a summary of the Heart Essence, view, meditation and conduct of a Bodhisattava. The very full title suggests two points: firstly, the text condenses all the Mahayana sutras that teach the Bodhisattva practice, and secondly it summarizes the heart essence of view, meditation and conduct of a Bodhisattva, of which exist thirty-seven practices. In Tibetan the word “practice” is literally translated as “bringing to experience”. So, the thirty-seven practices can really be brought to the personal experience of each student.
Shantideva wrote this text in the form of an inner dialogue. He turned the weapons against himself, waging a battle with his own negative emotions. Thus, when we teach or listen to this text, it is important that we do with the aim of progressing spiritually, instead of simply taking it as an academic study object.
His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama said: “This masterpiece of Shantideva is a classical treatise, the Bodhicharyavatara. Shantideva, a Buddhist monk of the VIII century, is one of the most known and estimated figures within all Mahayana Buddhism history. The Bodhicharyavatara is structured based upon the six Paramitas – generosity, ethical discipline, patience, diligence, meditation and wisdom”.
It is said: Understanding this text, is like understanding nearly everything about Dharma. In fact, it contains not only the comprehension, but also the heart, practice, meditation and activity; so, it wouldn’t be necessary to study anything else other than this text, the Bodhicharyavatara”.
“The Kunzang Lam’i Shelung”
For more than a century “The Words of My Perfect Teacher” provided all main four Tibetan Buddhism schools a guide for spiritual practice. It is a classical commentary about the preliminary practices of the Dzogchen Longchen Nyingthig Teachings Cicle, the Great Spiritual Treasure of the Nyingma school. The author, Patrul Rinpoche, makes the topic more accessible through a variety of stories, citations and references to daily life. His poetic sense, and the ironic and colloquial style pervade the text with a sense of vitality typical of an oral teaching.
Conditions and Commitments
“The wise one doesn’t makes a lot of promises,
But, once committed,
It is as the promise would be sculpted in stone,
Even in front of death, he won’t fail.”
- Staff of Wisdom, verse 11
Each student must commit him/herself:
- To finish the PN
- To dedicate the time recommended to study and practice
- To participate to the written and oral exams
- To complete each year the recommended practices and recitations
- To participate to the Yearly Retreat of PN
- To take the vows (Refuge, Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva…)
- To keep a conduct in harmony with the vows of Genyen and Bodhisattva
- To copy texts, make offerings, charity, study, read, memorize, explain, recite out loud, reflect and meditate. These ten activities bring immeasurable merit.
Study material to purchase
- Perfect Conduct: Ascertaining the three Vows (Wisdom Publications)
- Thirty-seven Practices of a Bodhisattva (Guhya Mantrika)
- Bodhicharyavatara - The Way of the Bodhisattva (Shambala)
- The Nectar of Manjusri’s Speech (Shambala)
- Kunzang Lama’i Shelung - The words of my Perfect Teacher (Yale)
- The Guide to the Words of my Perfect Teacher (Shambala)
- The Jewel Ornament of Liberation (Snow Lion Publications) [This book must be studied by the students despite not being addressed during the course]