Category Archives: Events

Tibetan Buddhist Holidays 2018

This is an illustrated list of some of the major Tibetan Buddhist holidays in 2018, as well as some other important dates in the Tibetan calendar.

Each year, the Tibetan Nuns Project publishes a Tibetan calendar with the Tibetan Buddhist holidays and other important ritual dates, plus phases of the moon, inspirational quotes, and major US and Canadian holidays. This beautiful 2018 calendar is still available from our online store and proceeds from it’s sale help to provide education, food, shelter, and health care for over 700 Buddhist nuns living in northern India.

February 16 2018: Losar (Tibetan New Year)

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Tibetan nuns throw tsampa (roasted barley flour) into the air to mark Losar, Tibetan New Year. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam

Losar, the Tibetan New Year, is a very special time of year. This year February 16th is the first day of the Earth Dog Year of 2145 by the Tibetan calendar. 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 Losar or “new year” is welcomed with prayers and by inviting all good, auspicious things into our homes and our lives. Special food is prepared such as such as khapse and a  noodle soup called guthuk. See this recipe for vegetarian guthuk. Continue reading

Tibetan Buddhist debate and the 2017 Jang Gonchoe

The annual inter-nunnery debate, called the Jang Gonchoe, was held at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute from October 3 to November 2, 2017.

The nuns debated every day from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and again in the evening from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. or midnight. A total of 376 nuns from 8 nunneries in India and Nepal took part this year.

Here’s a 3-minute video of the 2017 Jang Gonchoe:

The participating nuns were from:

  1. Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute, the host nunnery (207 nuns took part)
  2. Geden Choling (27)
  3. Jamyang Choeling (27)
  4. Thukjee Choling, Nepal (27)
  5. Kopan Nunnery (Khachoe Gakyil Ling), Nepal (27)
  6. Jangchub Choling, Mundgod (27)
  7. Jangsem Ling, Kinnaur (19) New participant nunnery this year.
  8. Jampa Choling, Kinnaur (13) New participant nunnery this year.
  9. Nuns’ Committee members (2)

Here’s a gallery of images taken by the Nuns Media Team at Dolma Ling Nunnery.

Taking part in the inter-nunnery debate helps the nuns to pursue higher degrees, to become teachers, and to preserve the rich Tibetan Buddhist culture and religion. We are extremely grateful to those who support this event, and to our scholarship donors and supporters of the Jang Gonchoe Endowment Fund. A total of 168 nuns from nunneries other than Dolma Ling were supported with travel expenses.

Jang Gonchoe scholarships

Nuns taking part in the 2017 Jang Gonchoe line up for meals at Dolma Ling Nunnery. Photo courtesy of the Nuns Media Team

Monastic debate is of critical importance in traditional Tibetan Buddhist learning. Debate is the traditional mode of study of the profound texts of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Opening up this opportunity to Tibetan Buddhist nuns has allowed them to progress in their education and has prepared them for higher degrees, such as the Geshema degree.

The debate tradition for nuns is still very new. While for centuries, monks have participated in an annual inter-monastery debate session, called the Jang Gonchoe, this opportunity was only opened to nuns in 1995. It is an invaluable addition to their studies as they interact with peers from a wide variety of nunneries in India and Nepal. Through debate, the nuns test and consolidate their classroom learning.

For some nuns debate is an exhilarating way to fund tune philosophical points. For some it encourages more intense study and practice. For some it helps improve grammar and linguistic skills. For others it sparks a deeper understanding of particular philosophical texts. For all nuns, it helps increase their knowledge and confidence.

Tibetan Buddhist debate is very demanding and requires daily practice. The questioner stands and chooses a point of philosophical interest from a given text. Another nun sits to await the question and to respond. If the answer is satisfactory, the questioner moves on to ask a new question. But if the questioner is not fully satisfied, the debate begins in earnest. The nuns take turns making points until the question comes to a resolution. The last resort is to consult the text, in the event that neither nun is clearly more correct.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has spoken often about debate and the importance of the Tibetan philosophical tradition. Speaking to an audience to mark the Tibetan Nuns Project’s 30th anniversary, he took time to praise the nuns for their skills at debate. Looking at the Geshema nuns seated in front of him, His Holiness said warmly, “I remember visiting the Bhandara settlement several years ago and because I was impressed by the schoolchildren’s debate performance I asked who had taught them. I was pleased to learn it was this nun here, who told me she trained at Dolma Ling Nunnery,” pointing at one of the Geshema nuns in front of him.

Tibetan Nuns Project Celebrates 30th Anniversary

On October 2nd 2017, the Tibetan Nuns Project celebrated 30 years of work to educate, empower, and improve the status of ordained Tibetan women.

It was a chance to reflect on how far we have come together and how much more is still needed.

Rinchen Khando Choegyal,

Tibetan Nuns Project Founder and Director, Rinchen Khando Choegyal and Chief Guest Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay arrive at the event to mark the 30th anniversary of the Tibetan Nuns Project. Photo by Nuns Media Team.

A special event was held at Dolma Ling Nunnery in northern India. The non-sectarian nunnery is the largest of the two nunneries built and fully supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project and is now home to over 230 nuns. In October, the nunnery also hosted the month-long annual inter-nunnery debate event, the Jang Gonchoe, bringing up to 450 nuns from about 7 nunneries in India and Nepal.

The timing of the 30th anniversary event was also ideal because the 20 nuns who graduated with their Geshema degree in December 2016 had just gathered at Dolma Ling. In November, they will begin a brand new and historic two-year program in Buddhist tantric studies.

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Hundreds of Tibetan Buddhist nuns and special guests gathered at the debate courtyard at Dolma Ling Nunnery for the formal celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Tibetan Nuns Project on October 2nd, 2017. Photo by Nuns Media Team.

Speaking to the crowds and honored guests at the event, Rinchen Khando Choegyal, founder and director of the Tibetan Nuns Project said, “Our early days were very hard. A huge influx of nuns arrived in India from Tibet with nothing. The nuns were in bad health, 99% couldn’t read or write, and they were traumatized from being imprisoned and beaten. We supported the nuns with their immediate needs and turned our attention to the future – building two nunneries and establishing a system of education for them.”

“Our 30th anniversary is an opportunity to thank our supporters and to take stock of the many historic milestones that would not have been possible without your compassion for the nuns. You and your support will be remembered in the history of Tibet and for future Tibetan Buddhist nuns,” the director said.

Tibetan Nuns Project, Elizabeth (Betsy) Napper, Rinchen Khando Choegyal, Venerable Lobsang Dechen, Betsy Napper

The Tibetan Nuns Project leadership. Left to right: Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) Napper, Co-Director; Mr. Rinchen Khando Choegyal, Founder and Director; and Venerable Lobsang Dechen, Co-Director. Photo by Nuns Media Team.

With the vision and unwavering support of our patron, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and with the compassion and generosity of our global family of supporters, the Tibetan Nuns Project has been able to accomplish many things including:

  • Creating a ground-breaking educational program for nuns;
  • Feeding, clothing, housing, and educating almost 800 Tibetans nuns;
  • Building two nunneries, Dolma Ling and Shugsep;
  • Establishing the annual inter-nunnery debate, the Jang Gonchoe;
  • Laying the groundwork for higher degrees for nuns;
  • Awarding of the Geshema degrees for the first time in the history of Tibet; and
  • Providing studies in Buddhist tantra for the Geshemas for the first time ever.

“It is very sad that we have lost our country,” said Rinchen Khando. “But at the same time, we belong to a strong refugee community with a vision. Through the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the vision is to preserve our culture and religion, and to go back to Tibet.”

The chief guest at the 30th anniversary event, the Tibetan government’s highest official, Prime Minister (Sikyong) Dr. Lobsang Sangay, spoke about the historic achievement of awarding the highest degrees to nuns.

Sikyong, Tibet, Tibetan Nuns Project, Dr. Lobsang Sangay, Buddhist nuns

Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay speaking at Tibetan Nuns Project 30th anniversary event Oct 2 2017

“Accomplishments of the Tibetan Nuns Project over the years including the re-establishment of one of the most illustrious Tibetan Nunneries in Tibet and laying of the groundwork for highest Buddhist education for Tibetan nuns have made significant contributions to the revival of Tibetan Buddhism in exile.”

He expressed his gratitude to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for inspiring the successful revival of Tibetan culture and resilience of the people in the most challenging times.

“This achievement is part of His Holiness’s bigger vision. Primarily the goal of the Chinese Communist Government was to destroy – to make Tibet into China, Tibetans into Chinese people. The primary objective or strategy was to destroy monasteries and nunneries… 98% of monasteries and nunneries were destroyed in Tibet. 99.999% of monks and nuns were distraught. They were sent to prison. Many died of starvation,” said the Sikyong.

He added that the Chinese leadership may have thought that they had won because the foundation of Tibetan civilization which is Buddhism is gone. But then, in exile, the Tibetan culture and religion is being preserved. “Brick by brick, stone by stone”, he said, the major monastic institutions are being rebuilt.

Tibetan Nuns Project, Tibetan Buddhist nuns, Buddhist nuns, Dolma Ling Nunnery

Helping to prepare for the 30th anniversary event at Dolma Ling.

“All this started very small… You all worked to empower women and have nuns on an equal footing with monks.”

Also gracing the occasion were the Education Kalon, Ngodup Tsering, Members of the standing committee of the Tibetan parliament, Joint Secretary of the Department of Religion and Culture, other representatives and also the first ever batch of Tibetan Geshema holders and 15 Tibetan nun lopons.

Audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama

On October 4th, a special group audience for the Tibetan Nuns Project was given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The group included staff, board members, donors and nearly all the 20 nuns who became Geshemas last winter.

Tibetan Nuns Project, Dalai Lama, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, donors

Tibetan Nuns Project donors and supporters with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on October 4 2017

Speaking in Tibetan, His Holiness the Dalai Lama praised the assembled nuns holding the highest degrees in their traditions (the Geshemas and the Loponmas).

“Since the Buddha ordained his stepmother, Mahaprajapati Gotami and conceded that nuns’ aptitude for study and practice was equal to that of monks,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, “I felt it was appropriate to give nuns the opportunity also to study on an equal footing.”

Geshema, Tibetan Buddhist nuns, Dalai Lama,

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with the Geshemas

His Holiness the Dalai Lama praised the nuns for their debating skills. “I remember visiting the Bhandara settlement several years ago and because I was impressed by the schoolchildren’s debate performance I asked who had taught them. I was pleased to learn it was this nun here [pointing to a Geshema nun in the front row who wiped her eyes with deep emotion] , who told me she trained at Dolma Ling Nunnery.”

He told the assembled group that the Buddha’s teachings flourished in India at such great seats of learning as Takshashila, Nalanda and Vikramashila. It was not a tradition merely based on faith, but was rooted in the use of reason and logic and included instructions for transforming the mind.

Lopon, Shugsep, nunnery, Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhist nuns

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with the Shugsep Lopons

He concluded by saying, “What you have all achieved is something for the Tibetan people as a whole to be proud of.”

Without the support and dedication of many people – His Holiness the Dalai Lama, our three devoted directors, board members in India and the US, our monastic and lay teachers, staff, sponsors, donors, and kind friends around the world, the Tibetan Nuns Project and the nuns would not be where we are today.

message of congratulations, Tibetan Nuns Project

One of the many messages of congratulations to the Tibetan Nuns Project from nuns at various nunneries and posted on the bulletin board at Dolma Ling Nunnery

Another Historic Achievement: Geshemas to Receive Higher Education in Tantric Studies

For the first time in the history of Tibet, nuns will be given the opportunity to receive higher education in tantric studies. Although there have been accomplished female practitioners in Tibet’s history, women have never before been given an opportunity to formally study tantric Buddhism.

Geshema, Geshema nuns, Tantric Buddhism, Tibetan Nuns Project

18 of the 20 Tibetan Buddhist nuns who received their Geshema degrees from His Holiness the Dalai Lama in December 2016. The Geshema graduates now have the opportunity to study tantric Buddhism.

Traditionally, monks who have attained their Geshe degree, equivalent to a Ph.D. in Tibetan Buddhism, must also study tantric treatises in order to become fully qualified masters capable of teaching their complete tradition. Monks have always been able to receive these teachings at one of the great tantric colleges.

After the first-ever Tibetan Geshemas graduated in December 2016, a committee of representatives from six nunneries approached His Holiness the Dalai Lama for advice on starting a tantric studies program for the nuns. He kindly gave detailed instructions about the curriculum and the treatises to be used. He recommended that the Geshema nuns study as a group at Dolma Ling Nunnery, one of the nunneries founded and supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project, since it has a quiet and peaceful atmosphere, conducive to intense study.

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Joy among the 20 Geshema nuns who received their degrees from His Holiness the Dalai Lama in December 2016 at Drepung Monastery in Mundgod, India. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam

The committee then asked the Tibetan Nuns Project to provide funding for this groundbreaking program. On August 30th, the program was fully funded.

The two-year program starts in the first week of October. Two teachers are being hired and the Geshema nuns will receive training in tantric theory, rituals, and mind-training techniques used by those engaged in advanced meditation.

About Saga Dawa

The most important month in the Tibetan lunar calendar is Saga Dawa, the 4th month. This year Saga Dawa starts on May 23, 2020, and runs until June 21.

The 15th day of this lunar month, the full moon day is called Saga Dawa Düchen. Düchen means “great occasion” and this day is the holiest day of the year for Tibetan Buddhists. This year, Saga Dawa Düchen falls on June 5, 2020. Saga Dawa Düchen commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and parinirvana of Buddha Shakyamuni. In other Buddhist traditions, it is known as Vesak or is sometimes called Buddha Day.

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A young Tibetan Buddhist nun at Dolma Ling Nunnery reads scriptures to mark Saga Dawa. Photo courtesy of Tenzin Sangmo.

Saga Dawa is known as the month of merits. Tibetan Buddhists make extra efforts to practice more generosity, virtue, and compassion in order to accumulate greater merit. Tibetans believe that during this month, the merits of one’s actions are multiplied and that on the 15th day of the month the merits of one’s actions are hugely increased.

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A senior Tibetan Buddhist nun prostrates at Dolma Ling Nunnery during special ceremonies to mark Saga Dawa. Photo courtesy of Tenzin Sangmo.

The Tibetan Buddhist nuns at the seven nunneries supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project celebrate Saga Dawa in special ways.

Normally practices undertaken during this month include:

  • Praying and reciting of mantras
  • The lighting of butter lamps
  • Making pilgrimages to holy places
  • Refraining from eating meat
  • Saving animals from slaughter and releasing them
  • Making prostrations and circumambulations
  • Giving money to beggars.
Tibetan nun, Buddhist nun, Tibetan Nuns Project, nun reading scripture, Tibetan Buddhism, Saga Dawa, Dolma Ling Nunnery

Each year over 230 nuns who live at Dolma Ling Nunnery in India read the entire Kangyur, the 108 volumes of the spoken words of the Buddha, during the month of Saga Dawa. Photo courtesy of Tenzin Sangmo.

Every year, during the month of Saga Dawa, over a period of several days, the nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute read the entire Tibetan Buddhist canon or Kangyur, the 108 volumes of the spoken words of the Buddha. Because this month includes some of the holiest days in the Buddhist calendar, the nuns believe they can accumulate more merit by doing such practices at this time. Butter lamps will also be lit during the full moon and everyone will try to practice positive deeds during the full month.

On this day many individuals from the monastic and lay communities also take Thekchen Sojong. In previous years, His Holiness at the main temple gives the vow if he is in town or it is given by an Abbot or Geshe. The vows are to follow the eight Mahayana precepts for 24 hours. Individuals taking this vow to take just one meal that day before noon, after which they fast. One can drink water or light drinks, but not whole milk, thick juice with pulp etc.

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Another sacred text is finished and placed carefully on the stack. It takes several days for the nuns to read the entire Kangyur, the 108 volumes of the spoken words of the Buddha. Photo courtesy of Tenzin Sangmo.

In Dolma Ling Nunnery many nuns eat only twice a day during the month of Saga Dawa. Nuns refrain from eating any solid food after finishing their lunch. They can drink water and are served light tea (with little milk) at 6 p.m.

At Tilokpur Nunnery, the nuns participate a number of pujas such as the Nyugney puja, Vajra puja, Avalokiteshvara mantra, Guru Rinpoche puja, Green Tara puja, Phakmo Dakini puja. The nuns also do prostrations and offer thousands of butter lamps during the month. The other nunneries like Geden Choling also do the Nyugney puja (fasting).

This year, with the coronavirus pandemic and the need for social distancing, Saga Dawa will be different at the nunneries than in the past.

Tibetan nuns Geshema Graduation Ceremony December 2016

This blog post is our special record of the historic milestone, the Geshema graduation ceremony, and is a permanent placeholder for the video of the event.

On December 22, 2016, His Holiness the Dalai Lama awarded 20 Tibetan Buddhist nuns with Geshema degrees at a ceremony at Drepung Monastery in Mundgod, South India.

Geshema graduation ceremony

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with the 20 Geshema graduates at the degree ceremony in Mundgod, December 22, 2016. Photo courtesy of OHHDL.

The Geshema degree is equivalent to a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy and is the highest level of training in the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. It could previously only be earned by monks and is called the Geshe degree.

This historic milestone for the 20 nuns was the culmination of decades of study and dedication. The rigorous exam process for the Geshema degree takes a total of four years to complete. Each May  the nuns  took 12 days of exams to test their knowledge gained in a 17-year course of study.

nuns watching Geshema graduation ceremony

Nuns attending the first Geshema convocation at Drepung Lachi in Mundgod, Karnataka, India on December 22, 2016. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam.

At the graduation ceremony, His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke about the important of education for women and girls. “Through the power of education, women have been able to rise up to prominent roles including leadership in various societies. Education has played a big role in the advancement of gender equality and material development,” His Holiness said.

Tibetan political leader Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay was also in attendance, offering congratulations for the nuns’ hard work and dedication.

As doctors of philosophy, the nuns will now be expected to teach, a role reserved only for men until this point.

Video of the Geshema Graduation Ceremony

The full graduation ceremony can be seen here:

Watch the Tibetan language version of the ceremony.

On the day following the ceremony, the Tibetan Nuns Project shared many messages of congratulation that came from around the world for the nuns.

Geshema nuns, Tibetan Buddhist nuns

A joyous occasion. Some of the 20 nuns react to a comment by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The ceremony took place in the courtyard of Drepung Lachi Monastery in Mundgod, Karnataka, India on December 22, 2016. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam.

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Tibetan Nuns Project

Our 30th anniversary is an opportunity to thank our supporters and to take stock of the many historic milestones made possible through their compassion for the nuns. The support of our donors will be remembered in the history of Tibet and for future Tibetan Buddhist nuns.

Here are just some of the accomplishments:

  • Creating a ground-breaking educational program for nuns;
  • Feeding, clothing, housing, and educating almost 800 Tibetans nuns thanks to our sponsors;
  • Building and establishing of Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute, a non-sectarian nunnery;
  • Constructing and re-establishing Shugsep Nunnery in India;
  • Establishing the annual inter-nunnery debate, the Jang Gonchoe;
  • Laying the groundwork for higher degrees for nuns; and
  • Awarding of the Geshema degree for the first time in the history of Tibet.
Losar, tsampa, Tibetan Buddhist nuns, Dolma Ling Nunnery, Tibetan New Year, New Year celebrations

Tibetan Buddhist nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery in India throw tsampa (roasted barley flour) in the air as part of the traditional celebrations of Losar, Tibetan New Year. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam.

In the coming months, we will be sharing more news about ways in which you and our wonderful global family can connect, such as through house parties and through online sharing of news, photos, and videos to commemorate this milestone.

We will be holding a gathering at Dolma Ling Nunnery in India and Institute in India on October 2nd 2017. For information, please contact us at info@tnp.org

Geshemas graduates celebrated at Dolma Ling Nunnery

On February 16, 2017, the nuns and staff at Dolma Ling Nunnery in northern India held a special celebration in honor of the six Geshema graduates from the nunnery.

The six nuns returned to the nunnery for the ceremony, which included the offering of white katak (or khata), the ceremonial scarves that are offered as a sign of respectful greeting.

Tibetan Buddhist nun, Geshema, khatas, ceremonial scarves

A smiling Geshema nun is almost submerged under a huge pile of katak. As part of the ceremony in their honor, the six Geshema graduates sat and received hundreds of white kataks (or khatas) from the nuns, teachers, and staff of Dolma Ling. These ceremonial scarves are offered as a sign of respect and they symbolize purity and compassion.

Also a part of the event was special debate session, called a Dam-cha, in which all of the nuns of the nunnery had a chance to challenge the Geshema’s with debates on difficult philosophical points.

Geshema nuns debating, Tibetan Nuns Project, Tibetan Buddhist nuns

The six Geshema graduates from Dolma Ling are seated during the special debate session.

Geshema nuns, Tibetan Nuns Project, Tibetan Buddhist debate

Traditional Tibetan Buddhist debate is a integral part of monastic education. The nuns of Dolma Ling take turns debating with the six Geshema graduates.

Continue reading

Congratulations messages to Geshema graduates

During May 2016, as twenty nuns were taking their fourth and final round of the Geshema exams, the Tibetan Nuns Project put out a call for people around the world to share their messages of congratulations to the Geshema nuns.

Here are some of the many messages of congratulations that have been sent via mail, email, and social media.

“Thank you for studying and learning the dharma. In doing this you become a treasure for all beings.” Rebecca

messages to Geshema nuns

“Please convey my best wishes for successful completion for all participants. I am looking forward to hearing the results of this year’s examination. All their hard work, some learning to read and write, to reach this stage is amazing to me. The dedication, hard work & constant studying is impressive. I will keep all of them in my thoughts and prayers.” dgordon243

“Congratulations to all whose generosity makes learning and living possible for Tibetan nuns! Congratulation to the 20 nuns who have taken advanced exams! Congratulations to their teachers, too! We are so proud of each one you and your hard work. Thank you for your efforts and sacrifices to continue lifelong learning! With much love and encouragement,” Joy R., Northern California, USA

Geshema, Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan nuns, Buddhist women, Tibetan Nuns Project,

“Very happy for the nuns who are finally given this opportunity. I am sure the exams will be a success and a new and happy path for them and the ones who follow. I am with you, girls! Love and support from Maria (Portugal).” MariaLuís

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Two of the many messages of congratulations to the Geshema nuns that we have received from supporters worldwide.

“One of the nuns I sponsor from Geden Choeling is sitting her final exams and my prayers are with her as always. She is so special, as are all the nuns. I know she will do well and I will be bursting with pride to call her Geshema when I see her in September.” Karen D. Continue reading

The importance of debate in Tibetan Buddhist monastic education

Monastic debate is of critical importance in traditional Tibetan Buddhist learning. Through debate, nuns test and consolidate their classroom learning.

The following video is a great primer on Tibetan Buddhist debate by nuns. It’s taken from a longer video made by the nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery in northern India and it answers many of the frequently asked questions about Tibetan Buddhist debate, such as the meaning of the hand movements.

Nuns Learning Tibetan Buddhist Debate

In addition to their daily debate practice, each year in India, hundreds of Tibetan Buddhist nuns from nunneries in India and Nepal gather for a special, month-long inter-nunnery debate called the Jang Gonchoe. This annual inter-nunnery debate takes place each autumn and is a critical part of the nuns’ education, allowing them to really “up their game” so to speak.

nuns debating in the debate courtyard

This photo shows the nuns during a night debate at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute. Thanks to generous donors, the new roof of the debate courtyard was completed in 2013. The special courtyard allows the nuns to debate year-round and in all weather, including during the heaviest storms and monsoon rains.

Prior to 1995, there was no Jang Gonchoe for nuns and this learning opportunity was only open to monks. The Tibetan Nuns Project, with the wonderful support of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, played a critical role in opening up this learning opportunity to women. 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 inter-nunnery debate helps bring the nuns closer to equality with the monks in terms of learning opportunities and advancement along the spiritual path. For many, the Jang Gonchoe is an essential component of working towards higher academic degrees, such as the Geshema degree, equivalent to a doctorate in Tibetan Buddhism.

“It all happened because of the kindness, generosity, and genuine concern shown by all the wonderful donors who supported us for so many 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,” said Rinchen Khando Choegyal, Founder and Director of the Tibetan Nuns Project.

The Jang Gonchoe Annual Inter-Nunnery Debate

The inter-nunnery debate has been supported since 1997 by the Tibetan Nuns Project. We hope that, with gifts to our Jang Gonchoe Endowment Fund and to help the annual debate, the inter-nunnery debate will be able to continue for many years to come. Donations help to cover costs such as transportation, food, and accommodation for the nuns who wish to attend.

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Nuns debate in front of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the last day of the Jang Gonchoe in 2014. Photo courtesy of Tenzin Choejor, OHHDL

 

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has often spoken of the need to examine the teachings of the Buddha closely and with an inquisitive mind. “This is the 21st century and we need to understand the Buddha’s teachings in the light of reason. When we teach, we need to do so on the basis of reason,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama told the nuns at the end of the 2014 Jang Gonchoe.

His Holiness added, “Nowadays, the Nalanda tradition of approaching the Buddha’s teachings with logic and reason is only found amongst Tibetans. It’s something precious we can be proud of and should strive to preserve.”

Tibetan Buddhist nuns debating at the Jang Gonchoe in 2015

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

If you would like to support the Jang Gonchoe, we would be most grateful. Gifts to our Jang Gonchoe Endowment Fund help to both preserve the Tibetan culture and open up this centuries-old tradition to the nuns, enabling and empowering them to become great teachers in their own right.