Big changes at Dorjee Zong Nunnery in Zanskar

Dorjee Zong Nunnery is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist nunnery located in the remote high-altitude area of Zanskar in northern India, near Ladakh. Dorjee Zong is now going through a very important and exciting transition.

New buiding at Dorjee Zong Nunnery in Zanskar

Dorjee Zong Nunnery is undergoing an exciting expansion to improve the living conditions and education for the nuns. A number of new buildings are being constructed down the hill from the ancient nunnery. This photo shows the newly completed housing block and the start of a building to house a dining hall, kitchen, prayer/conference hall, and more.

The nunnery is one of the oldest centers in pursuit of monastic education in Zanskar. Founded 700 years ago in the 14th century, it has a long tradition of meditating nuns, some of who are famed for having reached high levels of realization and attainment.

Dorjee Zong Nunnery Zanskar by Olivier Adam

In the past, the nuns at Dorjee Zong did not have the opportunity to engage in rigorous philosophical studies, but their education program is improving. This photo of Dorjee Zong Nunnery was taken prior to the expansion project started in 2019. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam.

Currently, there are 19 nuns at the nunnery. The school is residential in nature, with the senior nuns acting as caretakers for the younger ones. The eldest are in their late 80s, while the youngest is 5. The youngest nuns are provided primary education at the nunnery up to Grade 5.

new housing block Dorjee Zong Nunnery

The new housing block at Dorjee Zong Nunnery was completed in the summer of 2019. It is part of an

One teacher has been sent from the Central Institue of Buddhist Studies to look after the young nuns’ education. Modern and traditional education form the basic teaching practice of the school.

young girls study at Dorjee Zong Nunnery photo Olivier Adam

The girls and women from this area have traditionally been given far less education than boys and men and were often removed from school as early as Grade 4 if they were sent to school at all. The nunnery gives them a chance for an education that they would not have otherwise. Photo by Olivier Adam

Around 9 other nuns have completed their Grade 5 education at the nunnery and, thanks to the generous donors of a school bus, are now attending classes at the government school 6 miles away.

Expansion of Dorjee Zong Nunnery

Until this year, the nunnery had one main building that was used for everything. The building was used as a classroom, sleeping facilities for the teacher, young nuns, and volunteers, a common kitchen, and a single washroom for everyone.

Until now the nuns had only one classroom, so the different classes had to be well planned so as not to conflict. The nunnery had only three rooms for accommodation. All the nuns slept in one big room, while the teachers, volunteers, and caretaker slept in the remaining two rooms.

New and old nunnery buildings Dorjee Zong 2019

The new buildings are located down the hill from the ancient old nunnery.

With the growing number of students, the nunnery needed a well-organized and expanded facility. The nuns’ committee asked the Tibetan Nuns Project for help and, after much discussion, we decided to pursue their project. A generous donor in the U.S. kindly funded the major building project, along with local help.

Construction site for expansion at Dorjee Zong Nunnery 2019

Taken in the summer of 2019, this photo shows the construction site for the expansion at the nunnery, including the newly completed housing block on the right and the prayer hall, kitchen, dining hall, and storeroom under construction behind it.

Construction of the new facilities began in the spring and summer of 2019. Already the new housing block for the nuns is complete.

Distribution of sweets for foundation of Dorjee Zong Nunnery

Nuns distribute sweets to celebrate the building of the foundations for the new buildings at Dorjee Zong Nunnery.

As these photos show, work is well underway on the new prayer hall, kitchen, dining hall, and storeroom, located immediately behind the housing block.

collage of photos showing construction at Dorjee Zong Nunnery in Zanskar

A collage of photos showing the construction at Dorjee Zong Nunnery in Zanskar during the summer of 2019. This is the second building being done and will house the dining hall, kitchen, and storeroom on the ground floor, and a prayer/conference hall on the upper floor, with two adjacent rooms preferably to be used as a library.

History of Dorjee Zong Nunnery

The nunnery was founded by Master Sherab Zangpo, renowned as the Bodhisattva from the upper region of Tibet. He was one of the chief disciples of Tsongkhapa Lobsang Drakpa (1357-1419) founder of the Geluk order.

Young nuns at Dorjee Zong Nunnery

Young girls who live and study at Dorjee Zong Nunnery. Though they live and dress as nuns, they do not take vows until they are old enough to understand.

There have been a number of highly accomplished practitioners who devoted their entire life to dharma at this nunnery. Khandroma Yeshi Lhamo, popularly known as Jomo Shelama, was one of those highly realized practitioners from the nunnery.

At present, the nunnery is very small and basic and seeks to provide education and guide the nuns in community service. The nunnery was accepted into the Tibetan Nuns Project’s sponsorship program in 2009.

Six nuns from Dorjee Zong Nunnery have studied in nunneries in Dharamsala for many years. Among them, three nuns have taken on the responsibility to revive their ancient nunnery.

Two nuns at Dorjee Zong Nunnery

Nuns at Dorjee Zong Nunnery. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam 2014.

 

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