Category Archives: News and Updates

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.

Olivier Adam, Geshema nuns, Geshema graduation, tantric studies for women, nuns, Tibetan Nuns Project

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.

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

How you are helping accomplish great things at Dolma Ling Nunnery

In the spring of 2016, we launched a campaign called “Sustaining Dolma Ling Nunnery” that outlined six projects that the nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery asked for help with.

projects at Dolma Ling NunneryDolma Ling is a non-sectarian nunnery in northern India near Dharamsala that is home to almost 250 Tibetan Buddhist nuns.

Although the nunnery has a number of income-generating initiatives like the nuns café and the nunnery shop, like other religious communities around the world, the nuns rely on the generosity of a caring community.

Today we’d like to report back to you on progress on all six of the Sustaining Dolma Ling projects. We’re happy to report that three of the six are fully funded and another two are nearly funded.

We really hope that all six can been fully funded and completed by the end of March 2017.

1. Butter Sculpture Workshop

Tibetan butter sculpture, Tibetan Nuns Project, butter sculptureONLY $167 NEEDED TO COMPLETE THE PROJECT
We are almost there! Only $167 is needed to complete the funding to create a workshop room where the nuns can learn how to make butter sculptures, a sacred Tibetan art that has been practiced in Tibet for over 400 years. Like so much of Tibetan culture, the practice of making butter sculptures is under threat. The nuns at Dolma Ling have an excellent teacher, but they’ve been using a makeshift space. Please help us complete this project.
Make a Donation

2. New Cow Shed

PROJECT FULLY FUNDED – THANK YOU!
The nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute have kept cows for the past 20 years and currently have 14 cows in their small herd. The cows provide the nunnery with milk and also manure for the gardens. Prior to the completion of this project, there wasn’t enough space for all the cows to be protected when the weather was too harsh for them to be out grazing, such as during the torrential monsoon rains. Thanks to five generous donors – Alix, Anna, Bob, Cindy, and Stuart – the cow shed is now complete. See the full report and more photos here.

3. Clean Water Project

clean water project, Tibetan nuns, Dolma LingPROJECT FULLY FUNDED – THANK YOU!
Twenty-one generous donors came forward to support this project to increase the amount of clean drinking water at the nunnery. Thanks to our global family of supporters, the nuns have now been able to purchase and install three additional water filtering machines at different parts of the nunnery to provide safe, clean drinking water for over 280 nuns and staff residing at the nunnery, as well to build a simple shed to provide hot boiled water. The nuns have made a short video showing the new water boiler in action.

4. Painting Dolma Ling Nunnery

Dolma Ling Nunnery, Tibetan Nuns Project$7,150 NEED TO COMPLETE THE PROJECT
This is a huge project that the nuns really need help with. This year they need to paint the main prayer hall, one of the nuns’ housing wings and the staff quarters. Dolma Ling Nunnery is a large complex of buildings, like a monastic university, that needs repainting every five years. The harsh climate in this part of northern India take its toll on the nunnery buildings and it is essential to regularly repaint and maintain the buildings to avoid more costly repairs in the future.
Make a Donation

5. Tables and Stools

tables, Dolma Ling NunneryPROJECT FULLY FUNDED – THANK YOU!
Thanks to seven generous donors, we have fully funded the project to provide 15 tables and 2 stools for the nuns’ rooms at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute in northern India. View more photos and our full report here.

6. Furnishing and Equipping the Kitchen

$1,668 NEEDED TO COMPLETE THIS PROJECT

Last year a new kitchen was constructed at the nunnery because the nunnery population had more than tripled since the nunnery kitchen was built and the nuns had outgrown the space. Now the nuns need help to equip and furnish the new space including these items:

  • An enclosed vegetable storage and chopping area to keep birds and animals out.
  • Environmentally responsible sorting bins for recyclables, compost, waste food suitable to feed to the cows and trash.
  • A large pot rack for heavy pots, steamers and utensils
  • A heavy-duty and hygienic wall drainer for washing up
  • A wall-mounted utensil rack, and
  • Large metal storage containers for grains such as rice and flour.

If you can help support the completion of the kitchen, we would be very grateful.

Make a Donation

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

Sharing your words with the Geshema nuns

Last spring, we asked our global community of supporters if they would like to share messages of congratulations to the 20 nuns who were receiving their Geshema degree on December 22nd. The Geshema degree, known as Geshe when awarded to male monks, is conferred after at least 21 years of rigorous study of the five main Buddhist texts, combined with a regular session of prayers and recitations.

Lisa Farmer, Tibetan Nuns Project, Geshema nuns, congratulations messages

Lisa Farmer, Executive Director of the Tibetan Nuns Project, showing the messages of congratulations to the Geshema nuns. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam

We included brightly colored cards with our spring 2016 letter and many of our donors mailed back lovely messages for the nuns. You can see and read some of the messages in our earlier blog post.

Today’s blog post is a special one to report back to everyone who sent a message to the nuns.

On December 23, 2016 in Mundgod, South India, the Executive Director of the Tibetan Nuns Project, Lisa Farmer, sat down with the nuns after a special luncheon and read the congratulations messages to them.

“The nuns were really moved,” said Farmer. “They were amazed that people from all over the world had been following their progress and had taken the time and trouble to send warm words of congratulations and best wishes for their futures.”

Geshema nuns, Buddhist nuns, Tibetan nuns. Tibetan Nuns Project

Lisa Farmer reading congratulations messages sent from Tibetan Nuns Project supporters around the world to the nuns who graduated with their Geshema degree. Photo courtesy of Delek Yangdon.

messages to Geshema nuns

The conferment of the Geshema degree to Tibetan Buddhist nuns was a longstanding wish of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and reflects a historic milestone, as the degree was only awarded in the past to monks.

Geshema, Geshema nuns, Tibetan nuns, His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Collage of photos from the Geshema graduation event on December 22, 2016. Photos courtesy of Olivier Adam and OHHDL.

At the graduation ceremony on December 22nd 2016, the Tibetan political leader, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, welcomed the conferment of the Geshema degree to Tibetan Buddhist nuns as a step towards gender equality in education. “I heartily congratulate the twenty nuns who are receiving the Geshema degree. This is a result of your hard work and dedication,” he said.

He also expressed his gratitude to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for envisioning this step. “His Holiness the Dalai Lama is instrumental in making possible the historic conferment of the Geshema degree to Tibetan Buddhist nuns. We owe him a debt of gratitude.”

Rinchen Khandro Choegyal, Geshema, Tibetan Buddhist nuns, Tibetan nuns, Tibetan Nuns Project

Rinchen Khando Choegyal, the founder and director of the Tibetan Nuns Project, congratulates the Geshema nuns at a special luncheon in their honor on December 23 2016 in Mundgod. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam

 

Witness history in the making: Geshema Graduation Ceremony

In one week’s time, twenty Tibetan Buddhist nuns will receive their Geshema degrees from His Holiness the Dalai Lama at a special Geshema Graduation Ceremony in Mundgod, South India.

Geshema nuns

This historic event will be attended by hundreds of monks and nuns.

Here’s the formal schedule of events:

schedule for Geshema Graduation event

The event will be livestreamed from India and can be viewed on the home page of the Tibetan Nuns Project.

Please note the time difference for your region. The event starts at 8 am on December 22 Indian time which is equivalent to 6:30 pm on December 21st Pacific Standard Time.

livestream of the Geshema Graduation Ceremony

Photo courtesy of Tenzin Choejor, OHHDL

If you are unable to watch the livestream of the event, check back to the Tibetan Nuns Project homepage sometime from December 28th onwards and where we’ll have the video embedded.

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

geshema, Buddhist nuns, Tibetan nuns, Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan Nuns Project, Buddhist women, nuns education

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

Clean water project completed at Dolma Ling Nunnery

In the spring of 2016, the 223 nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery in northern India asked for help with a project to provide more clean drinking water at the nunnery.

Twenty-one generous donors came forward to support this $2,750 project. Today we’re delighted to report back to you on it and to share photos of the water filters and the water boiler in action.

nuns using water filter, clean water

Nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery using one of the three new water filters purchased and installed thanks to our generous community of supporters.

When Dolma Ling Nunnery was built a water filter was installed. However, that single filter was no longer sufficient because the number of nuns has so greatly increased. Thanks to the support of our 21 project donors, the nuns have been able to purchase and install three additional water filtering machines that will be enough for over 280 nuns and staff residing at the nunnery.

water filter Dolma Ling Nunnery, clean water

Here’s another photo of one of the three new water filters in action at Dolma Ling Nunnery. Experts say that unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation cause 80% of all the sickness and disease in the world.

The filters are located in three different places in the nunnery so that the nuns can more easily access safe drinking water — one in the nuns’ dining hall, one in the staff mess, and one in the cafeteria where most of the nuns come for refreshment. Continue reading

Happy Cows at Dolma Ling Nunnery

We love reporting back on completed projects made possible by your generosity.

In the spring of 2016, we asked for your support to help the nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery with their request for a cow shed for their small herd of milk cows.

You responded and now we’re happy to share a video, photos, and news of the completed cow shed. On behalf of all the nuns at the nunnery and their happier (and drier) cows, we’d like to say a huge thank you to Alix, Anna, Bob, Cindy, and Stuart for making this dream a reality.

This video was made by the nuns.

cow house at Dolma Ling Nunnery

The new cow house at Dolma Ling has been built adjacent to the existing cow sheds and provides shelter to 5 cows. This is very important because without shelter from the harsh sun and torrential monsoon rains the cows would suffer.

The nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute have been keeping cows for the past 20 years. The nuns now have a herd of 14 cows, made up of 7 milking cows, five calves, and two older cows.

The cows are an important aspect of the nunnery’s income-generating efforts and provide the main kitchen with sufficient milk for the nuns’ daily needs. They also provide manure for the nunnery’s flourishing vegetable and flower gardens. Continue reading

Tibetan Buddhist Nuns Make History: Congratulations Geshema Nuns!

Twenty Tibetan Buddhist nuns have just made history, becoming the first Tibetan women to successfully pass all the exams for the Geshema degree, equivalent to a Doctorate in Buddhist philosophy. Exam results were announced by the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration. All 20 candidates for the degree passed.

Tibetan nun, Buddhism, Geshema, Gesha, Tibetan Nuns Project, Geden Choeling, Dharamsala, Tibetan Buddhism

A Geshema candidate on Day 1 of the Geshema examinations held this year at Geden Choeling Nunnery in Dharamsala, India. Photo courtesy of Venerable Delek Yangdron.

Their success fulfills a longstanding wish of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and marks a new chapter in the development of education for ordained Buddhist women and is a major accomplishment for Tibetan women.

The Geshema degree (a Geshe degree when awarded to men) is the highest level of training in the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. These women pioneers have accomplished a level of scholarship and Buddhist training that, until recently, was only open to men.

The Geshema examination process is an extremely rigorous one that takes four years in total, with one round per year each May. During the 12-day exam period, the nuns must take both oral (debate) and written exams. They are examined on the entirety of their 17-year course of study of the Five Great Canonical Texts. In 2011, a German nun, Kelsang Wangmo, who spent 21 years training in India, became the first female to receive the Geshema title.

The new Geshema nuns will formally receive their degrees from His Holiness the Dalai Lama at a special ceremony at Drepung Monastery in Mundgod in southern India.

Geshema exam nuns

Good luck! Nuns departing from Dolma Ling Nunnery to take their Geshema exams in the spring of 2016 receive wishes of good luck from the other nuns. Photo courtesy of Venerable Delek Yangdon

This occasion is also a milestone for the Tibetan Nuns Project, which was founded in 1987 to provide education and humanitarian aid to Tibetan Buddhist nuns living in India. A number of the Geshema candidates were illiterate when they escaped from Tibet. To reach this historic milestone, the Tibetan Nuns Project had to build an educational system from the ground up.

“Educating women is powerful,” says Rinchen Khando Choegyal, Founder and Director of the Tibetan Nuns Project. “It’s not just about books. It is also about helping nuns acquire the skills they need to run their own institutions and create models for future success and expansion. It’s about enabling the nuns to be teachers in their own right and to take on leadership roles at a critical time in our nation’s history.”

Earning the Geshema degrees marks a turning point for the nuns. This degree will make them eligible to assume various leadership roles in the monastic and lay communities, previously reserved for men.

Tibetan nun, Buddhism, Geshema, Geshe, Tibetan Nuns Project, Geden Choeling, Dharamsala, Tibetan Buddhism

Nuns must take both written and oral (debate) exams each year as part of the rigorous 4-year Geshema examination process. Photo courtesy of Venerable Delek Yangdron

The Tibetan Nuns Project supports 7 nunneries in India as well as many nuns living on their own for a total of nearly 800 nuns. Many are refugees from Tibet, but the organization also reaches out to the Himalayan border areas of India where women and girls have had little access to education and religious training.

Learn about our Endowment Fund in support of the Geshema exams.