The 2015 Jang Gonchoe Inter-Nunnery Debate in Dharamsala

The 2015 Great Winter Debate Event, also known as the Jang Gonchoe, took place at Geden Choeling Nunnery in Dharamsala, India and started on October 3rd. This year marks the 20th anniversary of this special annual event.

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Nuns gather for a formal debate presentation with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on October 31. Photo courtesy of Tenzin Choejor, OHHDL

This year 359 nuns from 7 nunneries in India and Nepal took part in the month-long debates, with the event fully funded by the Tibetan Nuns Project. The $100 scholarships given by Tibetan Nuns Project donors cover costs such as transportation, food and accommodation.

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A teacher explains to the nuns during the 2015 Jang Gonchoe debate event in Dharamsala. 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the inter-nunnery debate which draws hundreds of nuns each year.

The seven nunneries that took part this year included five from from India: Geden Choeling Nunnery (host nunnery), Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute, Jamyang Choling Institute, the Buddhist Education Centre for Women in Kinnaur, and Jangchub Choeling Nunnery; and two nunneries from Nepal: Thukjee Choeling and Khachoe Ghakyil Ling.

For centuries, Tibetan monks have held an annual month-long debating session called Jang Gonchoe, but until 1995 nuns had no such opportunity.

The practice of debate is an essential part of monastic education in the Tibetan tradition. Establishing a comparable debate session for nuns has been an integral part of the nuns reaching their current level of excellence in their studies.

The Tibetan Nuns Project has supported the nuns’ annual Jang Gonchoe debate since 1997. The event is important for their education and brings them closer to equality with the monks in terms of learning opportunities and advancement along the spiritual path.

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Nuns debate in front of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the close of the 21st annual Jang Gonchoe. Photo courtesy of Tenzin Choejor, OHHDL

At the conclusion of this year’s event, the nuns gathered at the main temple in Dharamsala and a specially selected group gave a special debate presentation to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His Holiness praised the nuns for their studies and congratulated them twice on being on the threshold of achieving the Geshema degree, equivalent to a doctorate in Tibetan Buddhism.

Tibetan Nuns Project Founder and Director Reflects Back on the Jang Gonchoe

As we mark the 20th anniversary of Jang Gonchoe is drawing near, my thoughts go back to when we had just introduced the inter-nunnery debate session to the nuns. There were not many nunneries that took part in this or many nuns who had the courage and confidence to participate in the debates. And of course there were the financial problems in organizing and facilitating many aspects of it!

What immense joy to feel that after slogging for the last 17 plus years of studies, the first batch of the nuns will be obtaining their Geshe degree next year for the 1st time in the history of Tibet.

As I think more deeply and with full respect and gratitude, it all happened because of the kindness, generosity, and genuine concern shown by all the wonderful donors who supported us for the last so may years. Much as we had the blessings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the vision, determination, and courage to pursue this matter to the full, without their generosity we would not have been able to have the Jang Gonchoe every year, which was and is the moving force behind every step of progress in education the nuns have made.

Because of that, the number of nuns and nunneries taking part in Jang Gonchoe is increasing every year, which gives us boundless joy to see them grow in confidence. This is the main reason I feel the importance of endowment for Jang Gonchoe, so that it can continue providing this unique opportunity to all the nuns and continue to produce women scholars in the field of Buddha Dharma.

There is so much more to share with all our friends and well wishers, but I stop here by saying we will never forget the immeasurable support that we have received from all our kind friends from all over the world. We are ever grateful for your kindness and generosity and the history of Tibet will never forget you.

With sincere prayers for your well-being!

Rinchen Khando Choegyal

If you would like to support the 2016 Jang Gonchoe through our Endowment Fund or scholarships, we would be most grateful.

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