A primary goal of the Tibetan Nuns Project is to help the nuns achieve self-sufficiency through education, skill building, and income generating projects.
As each year goes by, the nuns at many of the nunneries take more responsibility for managing their own institutions. At Dolma Ling, for instance, a committee of eight nuns was formed to take care of the internal concerns of the nunnery. As the nuns take active roles running the nunnery, they are gaining confidence and skills. The nuns run a small “tuck” shop and a guesthouse, manage the pumps that send water throughout the complex, operate the small long-distance phone booth, tend to the cows, and manage the garden. Several nuns have had training in digital technology, including computers, cameras, and video. Because of this, a few now work in the Dolma Ling office.
Another goal of the Tibetan Nuns Project is to empower nuns to teach Buddhist philosophy in nunneries and schools. To do this, the nuns must achieve equal academic standing with the monks, proving their qualifications by earning the highest degrees. For monks, depending on their tradition, these degrees are called the Geshe or Khenpo degrees; for nuns, the equivalents will be the Geshema or Khenmo degrees.
Nuns are beginning to graduate from the 19-year program of philosophical studies required for a Geshema degree and the 12-year program for a Khenmo degree. Traditionally, after completing these programs, monks have the opportunity to spend another few years consolidating their studies in preparation for a very stringent examination. This stage of study has not been available to the nuns. We are committed to working to assure that the nuns will be able to attain these advanced degrees for the first time within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
As part of the skills training and income generation, the Dolma Ling nuns make products for sale through our web site and at the store at Dolma Ling. They hand make nun and monk dolls, door hangings, kataks, prayer flags, cell phone holders and hand string and bless prayer beads. In addition, a number of nuns really enjoy cooking and preparing food and have experience running a successful restaurant out of a storeroom. Recently, a small group learned to make tofu, which they are regularly supplying to the Dolma Ling kitchen, staff, and several other local customers. Lacking suitable space for these activities on a long-term basis, we plan to build a tofu-making kitchen along with a restaurant.