Tag Archives: Buddhist nun

Life at Sherab Choeling Nunnery in Spiti

In the remote Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh in northern India, lies Sherab Choeling Nunnery, currently home to 42 Tibetan Buddhist nuns, many of whom are sponsored by Tibetan Nuns Project supporters.waterfall in Spiti Valley

group of nuns at Sherab Choeling Nunnery in Spiti

Sherab Choeling nuns in 2006

The nunnery is very secluded and lies in the village of Morang (between Manali and Tabor) at 4,000 meters altitude. It was built in 1995 by 20 nuns and their teacher with the intent of addressing the problem of the inadequate education of women in the region. The nunnery was consecrated in 1995 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama who encouraged the nuns to study. There is a main building, a prayer hall, a classroom, an office, a kitchen and a storeroom. In 2006, Sherab Choeling Nunnery approached the Tibetan Nuns Project to help develop their institution and we accepted them into our sponsorship program.

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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. Continue reading

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.

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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. Continue reading

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.

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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. Continue reading