Debate Fund

Thanks to you, the Jang Gonchoe Endowment Fund is fully funded! Here is our report on the impact of your generosity.

The Jang Gonchoe Endowment Fund

In 2014, the Tibetan Nuns Project launched the Jang Gonchoe Endowment Fund to enable hundreds of Tibetan Buddhist nuns in India and Nepal to receive intensive training in Tibetan Buddhist debate. The goal of the Endowment is to make the annual, month-long training event sustainable for decades to come.

Our initial aim was to raise US $300,000 which was the amount needed to fund the annual debate event at the costs, exchange rates, and interest rates in India at the time. However, over time, an increasing number of nuns and nunneries wished to take part in the event, so the annual costs kept rising. Therefore, the board of directors voted to increase the endowment to $600,000 to ensure that the annual event would be self-sustaining.

We’re happy to report that, thanks in large part to your generosity, the Jang Gonchoe Endowment Fund is now fully funded.

monastic debate in Tibetan Buddhism

A teacher explains some point of monastic debate to Tibetan Buddhist nuns at the annual Jang Gonchoe inter-nunnery debate held in 2014 at Geden Choeling Nunnery in Dharamsala.

The Importance of Monastic Debate

The Tibetan Nuns Project aims to elevate the educational standards and the position of women. Traditionally, Buddhist nuns have not had the same access to education as monks. For centuries, Tibetan monks held intensive training sessions in debate but it was only in the 1990s that women and girls were taught Tibetan Buddhist debate.

Training and practice in Tibetan Buddhist debate is an essential part of monastic education in the Tibetan tradition. The practice of debate takes years to master and is critical to fostering the nuns’ ability to assume roles as fully qualified teachers of their tradition. Through practicing debate, the nuns learn critical thinking and logic, they demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the topic, they practice organizing an argument, and they gain different points of view.

Establishing training in debate has played a huge role in nuns reaching a high level of excellence in their studies. Without the annual inter-nunnery debate to hone their skills, the nuns would not have the confidence and ability to sit exams for the Geshema degree, equivalent to a PhD in Tibetan Buddhism. Now, since 2016, 44 nuns have made history by attaining this highest degree and some are now teaching in the nunneries.

Here’s a video made by the nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute about the importance of monastic debate.

Long-Term Impact of the Debate Fund

One of our board members wrote, “Humanity needs this gender equity if we are to navigate perilous times ahead. The fact that growing numbers of women are achieving equality with men in the highest levels of Buddhist monasticism, by earning the equivalent of doctorate degrees, is joyous and of enormous importance to the world.”

By gathering together to practice Tibetan Buddhist debate, the nuns hone their intellectual skills and are able to progress to take higher degrees such as the Geshema degree. This degree, equivalent to the doctorate, enables Tibetan Buddhist nuns to become teachers, leaders, and role models. It makes these dedicated women eligible to assume various leadership roles in their monastic and lay communities that are reserved for degree holders and hence previously not open to women. There are now two Geshemas who have taken on teaching roles at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute – an historic accomplishment. Another nun who benefited from the debate training at the Jang Gonchoe made history in 2020 when she was appointed as an Election Commissioner for the elections of the Tibetan Parliament. This was an important milestone for Tibetan women and specifically for nuns and received some media attention.

“Educating women is powerful,” says Rinchen Khando Choegyal, Founding Director and Special Advisor to 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.”

COVID-19 and Monastic Debate

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tibetan Buddhist nuns were not able to hold the Jang Gonchoe in 2020 or 2021 because it was too dangerous for hundreds of nuns to gather in a large group and debate. This was the first time that the Jang Gonchoe was cancelled since it began in 1995.

Here’s a video of the 2019 Jang Gonchoe Inter-Nunnery Debate:

Our New Project: The Long-Term Stability Fund

Now that the Tibetan Nuns Project has been able to fully fund the Jang Gonchoe Endowment, thereby assuring that the inter-nunnery debate will continue for many years into the future, we have launched an important new initiative. We need to establish the same long-term assurance of our core programs to educate, feed, and house Tibetan Buddhist nuns at seven nunneries in northern India.

To support the Long-Term Stability Fund

  1. Make a gift online – see below.
  2. Call our office in Seattle, U.S. at 1-206-652-8901
  3. Mail a check to:
    The Tibetan Nuns Project
    (for Long-Term Stability)
    815 Seattle Boulevard South #418
    Seattle, WA 98134 USA
  4. Donate securities
  5. Leave a gift in your will to the Tibetan Nuns Project

Give to the Long-Term Stability Fund