Tag Archives: Buddhist nun

One of the first Geshema nuns: The Story of Venerable Delek Wangmo

Venerable Delek Wangmo’s journey to the Geshema exams has been a long, arduous and sometimes dusty one.

She is one of the first batch of Tibetan nuns who are sitting the 4-part exams for the Geshema degree, equivalent to a PhD in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. The culmination of 17 years of rigorous study, this is  a level of scholarship and Buddhist training that was previously almost exclusively available to men.

Here is her story.

Venerable Delek Wangmo smiling

Venerable Delek Wangmo in her room at Dolma Ling Nunnery. This photo and the photograph below are both courtesy of Brian Harris.

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Postcard from Dharamsala – Geshema exams, Sagadawa and more

logo of Postcard from Dharamsala

Here’s the latest news from Dharamsala:

Tibetan Buddhist nuns sitting round 2 of Geshema examsThe second round of the Geshema Examinations was held at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute from May 1-16, 2014. 23 nuns sat the 2nd year exam, while 6 sat the 1st year exam. The results were released on July 6, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Birthday. We are very happy to announce that most of the nuns did very well in their exams; only three nuns failed, one from the 2nd year group and two from 1st year group.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns praying Sagadawa 2014Sagadawa, which is considered a holy month, fell this year from June 13 – July 12. Three events in the life of Lord Buddha took place within this holy month, his birth, enlightenment, and demise. If we practice good deeds during this time period, we consider we will earn more merit than usual, so everybody puts their effort into doing some wholesome activities. In the nunneries, they do special Nyungne (fasting retreat) and in some they read the full 108 volumes of the Kangyur (teachings of Lord Buddha) over a number of days. Most observe the specific practice for ordained people of not eating dinner during that month.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns attending the Kalachakra Ladakh 2014The 33rd Kalachakra was held in Ladakh (Choklamsar) from June 3-14, 2014. Nuns from Dolma Ling, Shugsep, Trilokpur and Ganden Choeling formed groups to begin the two-day journey to Ladakh by bus and mini cabs. It was indeed difficult for the nuns to cross the Tanglang Pass, the second highest pass in the world, but the determined nuns ultimately made it to Ladakh, a place resembling our motherland, Tibet. Many of the nuns who escaped from occupied Tibet felt the strong connection with Ladakh. All the nuns who went for the Kalachakra did not pass up the opportunity to visit ancient monasteries and temples that are well preserved, and felt that Ladakh is a beautiful spiritual place to visit. The nuns came back healthy with wonderful moments and memories to cherish.

construction of kitchen at Dolma Ling NunneryWe are in the process of constructing a kitchen behind the completed nun’s café. This will enable the nuns to run a full-scale restaurant.

The bumpy road from Norbulingka to our Dolma Ling Institution had been a major problem for the last few years. However, now we have organized funding and work on the new concrete paving started on July 16. Because of the monsoon, it is taking time but we hope it will be completed by September.road work at Dolma Ling Nunnery, India

On July 25, the Education Department, Central Tibetan Administration organized in Ladakh an arts and crafts exhibition of the nine Tibetan Schools. The Dolma Ling Handicraft Centre was invited on special grounds to exhibit since we are producing some Tibetan items. No other nunneries and monasteries were invited. Sikyong Lobsang Sangay was also present and inaugurated the exhibition. Tibetan Nuns Project table at arts and crafts exhibition India 2014

The following day the nuns gave a short workshop on how to put the nuns and monks robes on the dolls. The school participants enjoyed it very much.

One of the local Indian printers who is an ex-TCV student and speaks fluent Tibetan taught block printing to the children and our nuns also took active part in the training.Tibetan Buddhist nuns at block printing workshop

Video of Losar at a Tibetan Buddhist nunnery

The Tibetan New Year – Losar – is a very special time of year. This year, 2014, the first day of fell on March 2nd which, by the Tibetan calendar, is the first day of the Wood Horse Year of 2141.

Losar-related rituals fall into two distinct parts. First, the nuns like all Tibetans, say goodbye to the old year and let go of all its negative or bad aspects. Part of this involves cleaning one’s home from top to bottom. After that, the “new year” or Losar is welcomed, with prayers and by inviting all good, auspicious things into our homes and our lives.

Here’s a video of Losar preparations and celebrations at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute near Dharamsala, northern India with photos taken by the nuns themselves. The nunnery is home to over 230 nuns. Enjoy and Happy Losar!

 

2013 Milestone: Geshema Exams for the Tibetan Nuns

May 2013 marked the beginning of the first ever Geshema examinations. After years of rigorous study, 27 nuns from 5 nunneries – 6 from Jangchub Choeling, 7 from Jamyang Choeling, 2 from Geden Choeling, 2 from Khacho Gakyiling (Kopan) and 10 from Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute – gathered at Jamyang Choeling near Dharamsala, India, to complete the first round of a four-year examination process.

The nuns were tested on a variety of areas of study, including the Perfection of Wisdom, the Middle Way, and other subjects such as Tibetan grammar and science through both written examination and demonstration of their debating skills.

Tibetan nuns debate Geshema exams May 2013


In July, just in time for the celebrations of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birthday, the examination results for the first round of examinations were released with the very good news that 25 of the 27 candidates successfully passed the first round. If these nuns can continue to successfully demonstrate their knowledge over the next three years, they will be awarded the prestigious Geshema degree.

The Geshema degree will be the highest degree in Buddhist philosophy for nuns. A basic requirement for the nuns to take the exams is to have completed the full 17-year course of study with average marks of 75% or higher.

low res Yangdron_Delek_2013_05_GeshemeExam_24 copy

The opportunity to take the examinations to earn this degree has been made available especially by the continuous support of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the dedication of the nuns, and the Department of Religion and Culture of the Kasur Rinchen Khando la meeting with the nuns Central Tibetan Administration. The Tibetan Nuns Project and its supporters have also played a significant role in making this landmark achievement possible, working over the past 25 years to increase the educational level of the nuns.

low res Yangdron_Delek_2013_05_GeshemeExam_19 copy

Rinchen Khando Choegyal, the founder of the Tibetan Nuns Project, addresses the nuns at the Geshema exams.

The higher-level educational opportunities that nuns have today were not always available, creating a gap between the education of monks and nuns. The Tibetan Nuns Project has worked to close this gap and prepare the nuns to demonstrate their skills and learning. The debating practice that nuns undertake daily, as well as at the annual Jang Gönchoe inter-nunnery debate, have been highly beneficial to the nuns, expanding their understanding of the Buddhist philosophical texts and allowing them to develop the debating skills that are tested during the Geshema exams.

Congratulations to all the nuns who have successfully completed the first round of exams!

low res Yangdron_Delek_2013_05_GeshemeExam_20 copyEstablished in 1987, the Tibetan Nuns Project provides education and support to more than 700 nuns in northern India.

 

 

208 Tibetan Buddhist Nuns Gather For Debate

On October 4th, 208 Tibetan Buddhist nuns from 8 nunneries in India and Nepal gathered at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute near Dharamsala, India for the start of the month-long Jang Gonchoe debate session.

The nuns have just sent the following photographs showing the start of the event.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns arriving at debate session at Dolma Ling nunnery Oct 2013 Tibetan Nuns Project Tibetan Buddhist nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery debate 2013 Tibetan Nuns Project

The nuns have come from the following nunneries:

  • Khachoe Gakyi Ling Nunnery in Nepal
  • Thukje Choling Nunnery in Nepal
  • Nangchoe Teney Nunnery in Kinnaur, northern India
  • Dhongyue Gatseling in Tashi Jong, India
  • Jamyang Choeling Nunnery in Dharamsala, India
  • Jangchub Choeling Nunnery in Mundgod, south India
  • Geden Choeling Nunnery in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, India and
  • Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute, near Dharamsala, which is the host nunnery for this year’s annual Jang Gonchoe debate session.

This brings the number of nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery to over 450 for this very special month-long event.

opening of Jang Gonchoe debate session

start of Tibetan Buddhist debate session Oct 2013 Tibetan Nuns Project

The chief guest for the Jang Gonchoe is Mr. Pema Chonjor, Kalon (Minister) of the Department of Religion for the Tibetan Government.

Monastic debate is of critical importance in traditional Tibetan Buddhist learning. Through debate, the nuns test and consolidate their classroom learning with the motivation of ending suffering for all sentient beings.

The Jang Gonchoe debate session provides a tremendous opportunity for the nuns to practice this ancient form of learning and for many, it an essential component of working towards their Geshema degree, equivalent to a PhD in Tibetan Buddhism.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns in debate courtyard with new roof

As you can see from the photos, the debate courtyard at Dolma Ling nunnery is a wonderful space where the nuns can debate year-round, regardless of the weather and the season. The photos clearly show the new metal roof that will protect the nuns from the hot Indian sun, the torrential monsoon rains and the other extreme weather in the region.

The Tibetan Nuns Project is extremely grateful to all our supporters who have helped make this event possible through the funding of scholarships to enable nuns to attend, the funding of the creation of the debate courtyard space and also the funders for the debate courtyard roof.

The former soft-cover roof for the courtyard was destroyed in extreme weather. In order to have a new roof in place in time for the start of this event, the Tibetan Nuns Project took out a loan and rushed to create a permanent metal roof for the courtyard.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns at Dolma Ling working to build the new roof for the debate courtyard. Tibetan Nuns Project

As with all the construction projects at Dolma Ling Nunnery, such as the retreat huts and the roof of the debate courtyard, the nuns themselves work tirelessly. This is one of many photos showing the nuns working to get the new permanent roof ready for the start of the Jang Gonchoe debate session on October 4th.

We are still seeking support for both scholarships and the roof fund.

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A Tibetan Buddhist nun helps build roof for debate courtyard at Dolma Ling Nunnery  Tibetan Nuns Project

A Tibetan Buddhist nun helps build roof for debate courtyard at Dolma Ling Nunnery. To complete the project in time for the annual debate event, the Tibetan Nuns Project had to take a loan. We are seeking donations to help with our roof fund.

Background:
The Tibetan Nuns Project was established over 2 decades ago to support a tremendous influx of nuns escaping from Tibet in search of religious and educational freedom. Ranging in age from early teens to mid-80s, they come from all parts of Tibet and from many different backgrounds. Many nuns suffered severely from their long, arduous and often dangerous escape to India. In most cases, the nuns have arrived without money or possessions to a community already struggling to support itself. These women wish nothing more than to live, study, practice, and teach in accordance with their spiritual beliefs.

nuns working on metal roof debate courtyard Tibetan Nuns Project

A taste of life at Dolma Ling Nunnery – with dal recipe

We wanted to give you a taste of life at the nunneries by sharing details of the nuns’ meals and also send you a delicious recipe for dal, Tibetan style, that you can try at home.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns making breakfast at Dolma Ling Nunnery. Tibetan Nuns Project

You have to get up VERY early to prepare breakfast for 230 nuns. Canadian photographer Brian Harris arrived in the kitchen of Dolma Ling Nunnery at about 3 am and found the nuns already at work making hundreds of parathas, an Indian dish of potato-filled fried bread. A typical breakfast for the nuns might be a piece of flat bread, cooked mixed vegetable and tea.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns in kitchen at Dolma Ling Nunnery. Tibetan Nuns Project

All the food is vegetarian and is prepared by the nuns themselves. The head cook is always busy and the kitchen is spotless. The nuns rotate in and out of kitchen duties so everyone participates.

Lunch is the day’s main meal and is often rice, two kinds of vegetables, dal, and sometimes fruit. According to Brian, there’s also a knock-out nunnery hot sauce. Dinner is often a noodle soup and maybe a steamed bun.

A high-pitched gong sounds 3 times a day to announce meals.The senior nuns enter the dining hall first as the younger nuns, holding their bowls, cups and spoons, wait their turn. The dining hall also doubles as a place for the nuns to memorize the scriptures.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns chopping onions at Dolma Ling Nunnery - Brian Harris copy

Due to rapid inflation, rising food and fuel prices in India are putting a lot of pressure on all of the nunneries. In the last month, the price of onions has doubled. The price of cooking fuel – which was already expensive – has increased 5-fold in a year. The Tibetan Nuns Project is seeking more sponsors and supporters as we struggle to keep up with rising costs.

In July we launched a campaign to increase both donations and the number of sponsors. Thank you and welcome to our 34 new sponsors! To help with this campaign, with either a single gift or as a sponsor, please visit https://tnp.org.

Now here’s a recipe from our friends at Yowangdu Tibetan Culture for how to cook dal (or dal bhat) Tibetan style.

Dal bhat is a traditional Nepali or Indian food consisting of lentil soup (dal) served with rice (bhat), which Tibetans began to cook after coming into exile. Traditionally Tibetans in Tibet don’t cook dal, but it is a very common dish of Tibetans who live outside our country, especially those who live in India and Nepal.

Dal Bhat Recipe

Preparation time: 40 minutes (2 People)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red lentils (masoor dal) (other types of dal can take much longer to cook)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ingredients for dal1 small red onion, chopped small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric*
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds*
  • ½ teaspoon coriander powder*
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • ½ tablespoon butter or ghee (optional, but it gives a nice flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro and/or green onion, chopped, for garnish
  • water, to make soup
  • basmati rice (or any kind you wish)
  • Indian chutney or pickle (achar) of your choice. We love Patak’s lime pickle. You can also find Patak’s at many other large grocery stores.
  • Optional: add pepper of your choice, or red pepper flakes.
  • If you prefer, you can use Shan Dal Curry Mix, or garam masala instead of the turmeric, cumin and coriander.

Preparation

  • Wash the lentils and rinse a couple of times. Be careful to remove any stones. If you have time, soak the lentils in water as long as you can, up to overnight, before you cook. They get very soft and can cook faster.
  • Begin preparing the rice any way you like so it will be ready when you’re done cooking the dal.
  • Chop your onion, and mince the garlic and ginger and set aside.
  • Chop the tomato and set aside.
  • Wash your cilantro and or green onion. Chop for garnish and set aside.
  • Heat oil on high for a minute or two.
  • Add ginger, garlic and onion, and stir fry on high until the onion is a little brown on the edges, 1-2 minutes.
  • Stir in cumin seeds, salt, turmeric, mustard seed and coriander powder. Turn the heat down to medium (6 out of 10 on our stove), and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.
  • Note: The stove’s temperature will remain at medium (6/10) for the rest of the cooking process, and you will stir occasionally.
  • Add tomatoes and butter. Stir, cover with lid and cook for 4 minutes.
  • After 4 minutes, stir in the lentils, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  • After cooking for 5 minutes, add one cup of water, cover with lid and cook for 5 more minutes.
  • When the 5 minutes are up, stir in 2 more cups of water, as the water will begin to decrease as you cook.
  • Continue cooking on medium for 10 minutes.
  • Now your dal is ready. Turn off the stove and sprinkle the chopped cilantro and/or green onion on top.

cooked dal Tibetan Nuns Project recipe

Serve

Serve with rice. Many Tibetans like to serve the dal in a small soup bowl, beside a plate of rice. Some people like to ladle the dal over the rice and mix it up to eat. Indians and Nepalis often eat dal baht with their hands, as do some Tibetans, but many of us also use a spoon.

Add some Indian chutney or pickle (achar) or hot sauce. We can’t more highly recommend the Patak’s Lime Pickle or relish, which is just heavenly and is perfectly complementary with this dal bhat. You can get it medium or hot. Medium is more spicy in a flavorful way than a hot way The hot has some bite!

(This recipe has been slightly edited for length. To see the full recipe and photos, as well as recipes for other Tibetan dishes such as momos and thukpa, visit Yowangdu Tibetan Culture’s website.)

Enjoy!

The Tibetan Nuns Project could not do what it does without the generous support of a caring community. Thank you again for your support.

To learn how you can help nourish the nuns bodies and minds with a single gift or as a sponsor, please visit https://tnp.org.

Bird song and prayers at Buddhist nunneries

A special post by photographer and Tibetan Nuns Project supporter, Brian Harris.

My wife Paula and I spent five weeks photographing at four Tibetan Nuns Project nunneries in India in April 2013.

It was an experience full of beauty I will never forget. What I recall most vividly are the lovely songs of the many birds in the morning accompanied by the soft murmuring sounds of the nuns reciting prayers and scriptures. (You can listen to exactly what Brian is writing about by clicking his audio recording of the bird song and prayers at http://tmblr.co/ZeUSItheHrQj)

Tibetan nun standing reading outside in India

In the foothills of the Himalayas, Tibetan Buddhist nuns pursue their studies. Photo courtesy of Brian Harris.

It was as if we were living inside a spiritual beehive. The imagery of a productive beehive was heightened by the sight of solitary nuns, at all times of the day and in all kinds of locations, walking back and forth or just standing reciting with those soft, soothing sounds.

three Tibetan nuns sit outdoors and study their texts

Thanks to the Tibetan Nuns Project supporters, over 700 nuns now have equal access to education. At Dolma Ling Nunnery, they can pursue a 19-year course of study. Photo courtesy of Brian Harris.

This beauty obviously comes primarily from the nuns’ own powerful and dedicated effort inspired by the profound teachings of the Buddha. It also comes from all of the Tibetan Nuns Project supporters, who lovingly contribute to the well being of the nuns and the programs and projects created by the Nuns Project.

Buddhist nun studying at Dolma Ling Nunnery by Brian Harris

Here’s what one sponsor said about supporting a nun: “Education offers improvement on so many levels, including the crucial basic needs of survival. There is a lot of “bang for the buck” here it seems, and women are now stepping forward as leaders. I think it is amazing to be reaching all the way around the world to put my hand in the hand of the woman I support. Go Tibetan Nuns Project!” MM, Seattle WA

It was truly a great pleasure and honour for Paula and me to give once again to the Tibetan Nuns Project and the nuns they support!

Brian Harris

There are always nuns who are awaiting sponsorship. For less than $1 per day, sponsors can help provide a nun’s basic necessities including education, food, shelter and health care. 100% of sponsorship money goes directly to India to meet the nuns’ living expenses. You can become a sponsor today. Learn more at https://tnp.org/youcanhelp/sponsor/

To see many more of Brian’s photos of life at the nunneries in India, visit the Tibetan Nuns Project Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TibetanNuns

Nun walking in courtyard reading Buddhist text

Buddhist nun at Dolma Ling Nunnery studying at night. Photo courtesy of Brian Harris

A Tibetan Buddhist Nun’s Story

The following story was originally printed in the Winter 2012/2013 Tibet Foundation Newsletter. The nun’s name was changed to protect her and her family. The nun was born in Dhir in Kham in 1986 and is now living and studying at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute in India. This nunnery was founded and is supported by Tibetan Nuns Project donors.

My name is Dolma and I was born and brought up in Dhir in Kham Province in eastern Tibet. My family consists of my father and two brothers and three younger sisters. My mother died 13 years ago after giving birth to my youngest brother. She had complications during her delivery.

Tibetan Buddhist nun's colourful waist sashes

My eldest brother is married and is living with his wife at our house. One of my younger sisters is going to a school in Lhasa and the other two sisters are at home. They help our father in the fields as well as with household work.

I was never sent to school because my parents could not afford it. I spent my childhood looking after our animals – yak, sheep, goats and cows. We are semi-nomads, which means we cultivate the land as well as keep animals. We cultivate crops of wheat, barley and vegetables. Farming is our only source of income.

As I grew, I thought of becoming a nun because I would be able to have an education and practice my religion and this would be of benefit, not only for this life, but for lives to come. I told my family about my wish and they were very happy for me. So I became a nun when I was 18 years old by offering my hair to a Geshe [a degree-holding monk] and cutting it short. As there were no nunneries in my village, I couldn’t go to a nunnery and I was not allowed to wear the nun’s robes. I stayed at home and practiced my prayers there.

After a month, I heard that some local monks and nuns had decided to leave to try to go to Dharamsala in India. I wanted to go with them as I heard they were nunneries there where I could be educated in the Dharma. I told my father; he was happy for me and wished me luck and was anxious for me to take care of myself.

We started our journey to Lhasa on foot. Once in Lhasa, we did circumambulations and prostrations for 10 days. It was there that we met many other people who were also leaving for India, so we all formed a big group – about 50 altogether – and hired a guide to take us to the border.

First, we went by road to Sharkumbu [near the Tibetan border just west of Mt Everest; also known as Solo Khumbu] and from there we had to walk because there were no proper roads and there was also the chance of being caught by the Chinese police. After nearly 20 days of walking, we reached Nepal. We were very lucky that we did not meet any Chinese police on the way nor face any great difficulty.

In Nepal we stayed at the Tibetan Reception Center and had to wait for our turn to be sent to Dharamsala. They took good care of us and finally, after 2 ½ months, we were put on a bus and sent to Dharamsala. Here we also stayed at a Reception Center and after 20 days I was sent to the Transit school.

During this time, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was giving teachings at the main temple so I used to go and listen. I was very happy when I got the chance to have an audience with His Holiness. I was very happy and cried a lot and thought so much about my family. I met many nuns from Dolma Ling during the teachings and got to know that the education system is very good. So I wanted to join.

As soon as the time came for new admissions, I immediately applied and, after my interview, I was selected.

I am very happy here. The education system is very good. I am now reading the Ngondro [the foundation to all 4 schools of Tibetan Buddhism] and doing my studies really hard.”

Dolma is one of over 700 Tibetan nuns who are now able to freely and safely practice their religion thanks to the support of the Tibetan Nuns Project donors. Ranging in age from pre-teen to mid-80s, these nuns come from all parts of Tibet and from many different backgrounds. Upon arrival in India, many nuns are suffering severely from the stresses of their long, arduous and dangerous journeys of escape. Some have faced torture and imprisonment at the hands of the Chinese authorities in Tibet and are enduring immense physical and emotional pain. In most cases, the nuns arrive without money or possessions. 

Please help support the nuns by becoming a sponsor. For less than $1 a day, you can help provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and education for a Tibetan nun in India. 100% of sponsorship money goes directly to India to meet the nuns’ living expenses.

Start sponsoring a nun today by:

You will receive a photo and biography of the nun you sponsor and have the opportunity to correspond with her.

Buddhist Nun Studying in Room

Here are a few testimonial quotes about the Buddhist nun sponsorship programme through the Tibetan Nuns Project:

“I love my adopted nun. She writes to me. She is a part of our family now and we’re proud of her and her accomplishments. I like that I have her on my side.”

LT, San Diego CA, sponsor

“Education offers improvement on so many levels, including the crucial basic needs of survival. There is a lot of “bang for the buck” here it seems, and women are now stepping forward as leaders. I think it is amazing to be reaching all the way around the world to put my hand in the hand of the woman I support. Go Tibetan Nuns Project!”

MM, Seattle WA, donor

“I can make an important change in the life of a particular woman on the other side of the world whom I don’t really know and will not likely meet by helping her live as a nun. This makes all of sentient life more real to me, and every month when I write a sponsorship check, I have a moment of freedom from my own self-preoccupation and a moment of deep gladness that I can be of use to someone else.”

JK, Louisville CO, sponsor