The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
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Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa
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The Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa (ILTK) in Pomaia, a village in Tuscany, in Italy (40 km south of Pisa) is a branch of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international network of Gelugpa dharma centers.
Established in 1977 by the FPMT founders, Lamas Thubten Yeshe and Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, the ILTK offers various courses on Tibetan Buddhism in Italian, English, and (to a lesser extent) several other European languages.
The Masters Program
The ILTK Masters Program is based on several previous (and abortive) attempts to abbreviate and adapt the course of studies traditional among Gelugpa monks, to an audience whose members did not come from this background (i.e., the Western dharma students who formed the bulk of the FPMT's members).
The first "Masters Program" was held between 1998 and 2004.
About thirty students finished the course, with others participating in portions of it.
A second course began in 2008, with some modifications, and is scheduled to continue until 2013.
Five major texts are studied:
- 1. The Abhisamayalamkara (Ornament of Clear Realization), a commentary on the Prajnaparamitasutras, revealed by Maitreya to ::Asanga;
- 2. The Madhyamakavatara of Chandrakirti;
- 3. The Abhidharmakosa of Vasubandhu;
- 4. Kirti Losang Trinle's exposition on the Grounds and Paths of Secret Mantra (commenting on Tsongkhapa's Great Exposition ::of the Stages of the Path of Tantra); and
- 5. Aku Sherab Gyatso's commentary on the Guhyasamaja Tantra.
Guhyasamaja is a major tantric practice emphasized by Gelugpa lineages, owing perhaps to its prominence in the writings of Tsongkhapa (emphasized in the original, expanded curriculum as designed by Lama Yeshe).
Students are not expected to observe the five precepts, but are asked to aim at conduct according with them.
The Masters Program course includes both resident (in Pomaia) and on-line participants.
Some of these are modules in sequences such as "Discovering Buddhism" (two years of weekend study) or the FPMT's "Basic Program" (a standardized sequence of seven courses which requires several years to complete).
In addition to Tibetan Buddhist subjects, ILTK also offers "alternative" courses on such subjects as hatha yoga, qigong, Sufism, astrology, aromatherapy, and massage. Psychological counseling services are also available.
ILTK has been a member of the Unione Buddhista Italiana (Italian Buddhist Union) since that organization's founding in 1984, and served as its headquarters until 1992 (when the UBI opened offices in Rome).
Their monastery,Tagden Shedrub Dhargye Ling ("Place Where Study and Practice Proliferate Uninterruptedly"), was built during the 1980s under the patronage of Lama Zopa.
The group (possibly defunct?) had two categories of membership: monastic and lay.
In Buddhism in the Modern World (Steven Heine & Charles S. Prebish, eds), Oxford UP: 2003, ch. 9. Cozort discusses the ILTK's Masters Program in the context of the overall educational curricula of the FPMT, which he compares with the traditional system of Sera Je Monastery as well as that another Western organisation, the New Kadampa Tradition.