We’ve launched a fundraising campaign to raise $8,450 and supporters can donate here.
Solar Lights So the Nuns Can Study
The nuns and staff at Shugsep Nunnery have asked for solar-powered lights, both for security and so they can study outside their rooms in the evening. The balconies outside the nuns’ rooms need two solar lights each and we’d also like to install lights in each of the two garden areas in front of the main temple. The road to the nunnery gate is very dark, so two solar lights on the road would brighten the path and also help the students study at night.
A nun at Dolma Ling studies at night by lamplight. The nuns at Shugsep Nunnery and Institute have requested solar-powered lights so that the nuns can study and also for security. Photo courtesy of Brian Harris.
Kitchen Equipment Needed
Shugsep Nunnery and Institute is home to 76 nuns plus staff. To make bread and dumplings twice a day for close to 100 people is a challenge. The nuns need a dough-making machine to lighten the considerable workload in preparing dough for bread and Tibetan dumplings.
The nuns have requested a dough-making machine and a fridge-freezer for the kitchen at Shugsep Nunnery and Institute, home to 76 Tibetan Buddhist nuns. Photo courtesy of Brian Harris.
To reduce food waste and save costs by making food last longer, the nuns need a fridge/freezer so that they can purchase more food in bulk at a time since, during the pandemic, it is not always possible to go shopping. The nuns also need two steel shelf units for their pantry to help organize their food supplies.
In addition, the plastic chairs purchased for the dining hall 15 years ago are falling apart and it is time to replace them. The nuns want to avoid plastic and are happy to use wooden benches. The ceiling fans in the dining hall have also worn out and need replacing.
Prayer Hall Tables
The nuns at Shugsep have asked for 15 low tables for the prayer hall and 2 higher tables for the presiding masters or teachers. The office also requires a new large wooden storage unit for keeping the files.
Shugsep traces its rituals and practice to some of the most illustrious female practitioners in Tibetan history. Tables are needed in the prayer hall for the nuns and their teachers. Photo courtesy of Brian Harris.
Our goal is to raise $8,450 to fund all the items requested by the nuns.
You can help the nuns at Shugsep with this essential equipment and furniture.
Thank you for making the annual inter-nunnery debate a big success.
The 25th annual inter-nunnery debate, called the Jang Gonchoe, took place from October 25-November 30th 2019.
At the month-long event, 422 nuns received intensive training in Tibetan Buddhist debate.
Tibetan Buddhist nuns debating in pairs at the Jang Gonchoe Inter-Nunnery Debate held at the Kagyu Monlam Pavilion in Bodh Gaya, India. Over 400 nuns took part in the 25th annual event.
The historic event was held at the huge Kagyu Monlam Pavilion in Bodh Gaya, India. The nuns also debated outdoors in front of the Mahabodhi Temple, the “Great Awakening Temple” marking the location where the Buddha attained enlightenment.
Tibetan Buddhist debate is a unique method of learning that, until very recently, was not open to women. This form of learning has helped to produce many renowned Tibetan scholars over the centuries. With the steady religious and cultural persecution inside Tibet, these important Tibetan Buddhist practices can only survive in exile.
Here’s a video about the 2019 Jang Gonchoe:
The nuns came from the following nine nunneries in India and Nepal:
1. Geden Choeling Nunnery, Dharamsala: 60 nuns attended
2. Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute, Sidhpur: 70 nuns attended
3. Jamyang Choeling Nunnery, Dharamsala: 48 nuns attended
4. Jangchub Choeling Nunnery, Mundgod: 74 nuns attended
5. Jangsemling Nunnery, Kinnaur: 23 nuns attended
6. Jampa Choeling Nunnery, Kinnaur: 16 nuns attended
7. Yangchen Choeling Nunnery, Spiti: 16 nuns attended
8. Khachoe Gakhiling Nunnery, Kopan, Nepal: 60 nuns attended
9. Thugke Choeling Nunnery, Nepal: 55 nuns attended
The vast Kagyu Monlam Pavilion provided an excellent space for the nuns to debate all under one roof. The Kagyu Monlam Committee kindly provided the complex free of cost for the nuns’ Jang Gonchoe, only requesting a small thank-you donation for water and electricity consumption. We are extremely grateful for their support.
At the conclusion of the event, the 7 nuns who passed their fourth and final year of Geshema exams in August took part in a formal damcha debate with the assembled nuns.
Following the damcha, there was a Geshema graduation ceremony to conclude the Jang Gonchoe. The graduation of 7 more Geshemas brings the total number of Geshemas to 44.
The 7 nuns who earned their Geshema degree, the highest degree in their tradition, debate with other nuns in a formal session called a damcha at the conclusion of the 2019 Jang Gochoe. With their graduation in November, this brings the total number of women with this highest degree, equivalent to a Ph.D. in Tibetan Buddhism, to 44.
The practice of debate combines logical thinking with a deeper understanding of Buddhist philosophy and is an essential part of monastic education in the Tibetan tradition. To grasp the importance of Buddhist debate, one might compare it to the significance of essay writing in secondary and post-secondary education. Both methods of learning develop skills in critical thinking, demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the topic, involve structuring and organizing an argument, referencing texts, and gaining different points of view.
During the 2019 Jang Gonchoe, the nuns also debated outdoors in front of the Mahabodhi Temple. The “Great Awakening Temple” marks the location where the Buddha attained enlightenment.
Until the 1990s, Tibetan Buddhist nuns were excluded from this form and level of education. The Tibetan Nuns Project has worked hard to open up this opportunity for the nuns and make debate a core part of their education.
Establishing a comparable debate session for nuns has been an integral part of the nuns reaching the level of excellence in their studies that they have.
It is only by attending the Jang Gonchoe and getting intensive debating practice that the nuns can advance their knowledge and gain the necessary confidence and experience to pursue higher degrees such as the Geshema degree, equivalent to a Ph.D. in Tibetan Buddhism.
Let’s Make the Inter-Nunnery Debate Sustainable
The Jang Gonchoe for nuns was started in 1995. Since 1997, the Tibetan Nuns Project has been fully supporting it.
The obstacle to wider attendance at the Jang Gonchoe has always been funding. Sadly, more nuns wish to attend than there is funding available to support them.
We would like to make the nuns’ Jang Gonchoe sustainable. To that end, we have created a Jang Gonchoe Endowment Fund so that revenue from the endowment can cover the annual costs.
Our goal is to have $600,000 in the Jang Gonchoe Endowment Fund.
A generous donor has offered to match every gift to the Jang Gonchoe Endowment Fund up to a total of $30,000 so you can double the power of your gift here.
The individual costs for each nun are very low. For instance, the food allowance for each nun is 100 rupees a day, equivalent to US$1.46. However, with hundreds of nuns attending for one month, these small costs add up. It now costs about $30,000 a year to fund the event each year.
Congratulations to the 7 new Geshema graduates. At the end of the Jang Gonchoe, they took part in a formal debate and graduation ceremony. The graduation of 7 more Geshemas brings the total number of Geshemas to 44.
By donating to the Jang Gonchoe Endowment Fund, you would be opening up a centuries-old tradition to the nuns and enabling and empowering them to become great teachers in their own right. The benefit of this is inestimable and will be an enduring legacy for generations to come.
By helping nuns attend the annual Jang Gonchoe, you will also be helping to preserve the Tibetan religion, culture, and language — all of which are under severe threat inside Tibet.
This is a unique opportunity to build capacity and equality for the nuns, to foster the dharma for future generations, and to ensure that this unique tradition continues and grows. Donations to the Jang Gonchoe Endowment Fund can be made here. Thank you for helping the nuns!
Dorjee Zong Nunnery is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist nunnery located in the remote area and high-altitude area of Zanskar in northern India, near Ladakh.
The nunnery is one of the oldest centers in pursuit of monastic education in Zanskar. Founded 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.
Currently, there are about 25 nuns at the nunnery. The eldest are in their 80s, while the youngest is about six. 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. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam.
The nunnery was founded about 700 years ago by Master Sherab Zangpo, renowned as the Bodhisattva from the upper region of Tibet. He was one of the chief disciples of Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Dorjee Zong Nunnery in Zanskar by Olivier Adam
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.
Young nuns study at Dorjee Zong Nunnery. The girls and women from this area have traditionally been given far less education than boys and men. The nunnery gives them a chance for an education that they would not have otherwise. Though the young girls live and dress and nuns, they do not take vows until they are old enough to understand. Photo by Olivier Adam
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. Currently, about 19 of the nuns are sponsored thanks to Tibetan Nuns Project donors.
Nuns at Dorjee Zong Nunnery. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam.
School Bus Project
One of our urgent projects this summer is to purchase a school bus for Dorjee Zong Nunnery so that the young nuns can continue their education. Without it, nuns aged 13-15 will have to stop going to school.
The nuns need the bus to make the 12-mile round-trip journey to the government school where they will study as day students. Currently, there are 9 teenage girls who have completed Grade 5 and who need the school bus so that they can continue their education. At the government school, they can study up to Grade 10. In the future, there will be more girls who will need the school bus which can seat 20 students.
Our wish is to complete the funding before August 25th. The nunnery needs to buy the bus from Leh, Ladakh and get it to the nunnery before winter snows block the roads.
Young girls studying at Dorjee Zong Nunnery. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam
The girls began primary school at the nunnery. There they can study from Class 1 to Class 5, but the nunnery is unable to provide higher studies. Girls from the Himalayan regions of India traditionally have had little access to education. Nunneries like Dorjee Zong provide them with opportunity. More families are sending their girls to the nunnery to get an education.
The young nuns at Dorjee Zong Nunnery need a school bus to make the 12-mile round trip journey to the local school to continue their education past Grade 5. When they joined Dorjee Zong at ages 6 or 7, the girls began primary school at the nunnery. There they can study from Class 1 to Class 5, but the nunnery is unable to provide higher studies. Photo of Dorjee Zong Nunnery courtesy of the Venerable Delek Yangdron
The school bus and the access to further education it will provide education are the keys to empowerment. The young girls dress as nuns but have not taken vows. Once they are old enough to decide for themselves, they can choose to take nuns vows and begin their monastic education.
An elderly Tibetan Buddhist nun at Dorjee Zong Nunnery in Zanskar. Note the rugged terrain in the background. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam.
Future Photos from Dorjee Zong Nunnery
This blog post features some of the many stunning photographs by our supporter, Olivier Adam.
We’re delighted to tell you that, thanks to the donors to our Media Equipment Project in 2018, the nuns at Dorjee Zong now have a camera and can document life and important milestones at the nunnery (like the school bus, we hope).
One of the nuns from Dorjee Zong traveled this summer to our headquarters in India at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute to get the camera and receive training, as well as for other nunnery business. She said she very happy to receive the camera because she would now be able to share with Tibetan Nuns Project supporters pictures and videos of the nuns. She was never able to do so in the past.
Some of the young girls studying at Dorjee Zong Nunnery. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam
Like a university campus, Shugsep Nunnery and Institute has dormitories, classrooms, a library, dining halls, a kitchen, offices, meeting rooms, gardens, a temple, and more.
There are also systems that support daily life there such as power, water, sewage treatment, and so on. The heavy monsoon rains and the harsh environment of northern India are hard on the nunnery complex.
Handwritten essay by a Tibetan Buddhist nun at Shugsep Nunnery and Institute about her second home. Photo by Dustin Kujawski
We’re happy to report that, thanks to generous donors, two major projects at the nunnery were just completed: the replacement of the temple floor and the repair and painting of the metal roof.
Here’s a thank you video about the temple floor with “before” and “after” photos.
Here’s a list of projects that we’re working on funding. Some are urgent because of the imminent arrival of the monsoon.
Painting of the nuns’ dormitories
Solar panel roof repair
Water tank repair
Mold removal and prevention
Security system for the nunnery and grounds to avoid break-ins
The total cost for all of these projects is $21,650.
Shugsep is an ancient Nyingma nunnery that traces its rituals and practice to some of the most illustrious female practitioners in Tibetan history. It is one of two nunneries built and fully supported by Tibetan Nuns Project donors.
The 85 nuns who live and study at Shugsep work hard to keep their nunnery strong and healthy, but, unfortunately, there are many jobs that are beyond their ability. They need outside help. Thank you!
We have a kind of stinky problem. It’s also an urgent one.
The septic systems are failing at two Tibetan Buddhist nunneries in India, Shugsep Nunnery and Dolma Ling Nunnery. This poses a health risk to the nuns and their neighbors. The nuns need your help before the situation gets even worse.
The repairs to both septic systems must be made before the arrival of monsoon rains at the end of June.
Properly functioning septic systems are vital for the health and well-being of the nunneries and their neighbors.
Unfortunately, both nunneries are entirely dependent on their septic systems to treat both sewage and greywater. There are no main sewer lines or sewage treatment systems nearby that they can tap into.
This is not just a smelly problem for the nuns and the surrounding community. Without urgent repairs, there is the very real danger of outbreaks of disease such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis. Learn about all our Current Needs here.