Interview with a Tibetan Buddhist Nun

Venerable Tenzin P. studied at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute from 1990 to 2009 and then trained to become a teacher of Buddhist philosophy. In 2009 she began teaching at the Central School for Tibetans in a Tibetan settlement called Hunsur. She is now fully self-supporting from her teacher’s salary. Venerable Tenzin P. is one of 29 nuns who sat Geshema exams in May 2014.

detailed photo of Tibetan writing in A Tibetan nun's notebook at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute

A Tibetan nun’s notebook at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute. Photo courtesy of Brian Harris.

Here’s an interview conducted in the spring of 2014:

I came from Tibet in 1990 and got this rare opportunity to study in Dolma Ling Nunnery. In 2009, the Department of Education [of the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala, India] had facilitated a competition for the Religious Teacher’s post from which I was selected. I had to leave the nunnery for three-months training to become a qualified religious teacher at a school. After completing my training successfully, I was sent to Hunsur Tibetan Settlement as a religious teacher where I have been working for over five years. Since last year, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has gifted the nuns with the opportunity to acquire Geshema degree. Because of this I got really inspired and applied for this examination. This is the second year of my Geshema examination.

sashes around waist of Tibetan Buddhist nun

Sashes around the waist of a Tibetan Buddhist nun. Photo courtesy of Brian Harris.

Q: How has being at the nunnery made a difference in your life?

A: Before coming into exile, I was nun just in a namesake. Back in Tibet, we do not have an opportunity to study and go into the depth of Buddhist studies like we do at the nunneries in India. So I escaped from Tibet with the hope that I would get a much better and proper education from all aspects. After reaching India, I was admitted to Dolma Ling Nunnery to study here. Whatever I am today is all because of the opportunity I got here at the nunnery and the support extended by the sponsors.

If you really commit to do something, no one can stop you from achieving your goal. And there is nothing you cant do if you have the will power.

Q: If you could speak directly to the sponsor who is helping you get education, food and health care at the nunnery, what would you say to that person?

A: They are extremely generous and amazing. I would like to give the example of my own sponsor, Lynda K_____ [surname removed for privacy reasons] from the USA. She sponsored me from the time I escaped to India in 1990 until I left Dolma Ling Nunnery in 2009. I was extremely surprised as well as blessed when she asked me whether I needed her support even after getting a dignified job. She has never seen me, never heard my voice, never seen me growing up, but still she helped me for almost half a decade I should say. I am sure that the case is the same for all sponsors who have helped nuns at the nunneries.

Sometimes I feel sad thinking that I can’t even talk with her sweetly and thank her personally for whatever she has done for me in the past years. I always wished to meet her at least once. If I ever happen to meet her, I will really be fortunate and will welcome her my like my own mother.

Last but not least, I would like to sincerely thank all our sponsors for their continuous and generous support.

Tibetan Buddhist texts at Dolma Ling Nunnery.

Tibetan Buddhist texts at Dolma Ling Nunnery. Photo courtesy of Brian Harris

Q: What do you think is special about this moment in history of Tibetan nuns of your nunnery and why?

A: In the past, we have always thought that pursuing the Geshema qualification is nearly impossible and is not our cup of tea. After sitting and passing the first year of the Geshema exams, I strongly felt that it is our mentality that makes everything seem difficult. If you have the willpower, commitment and dedication, nothing is impossible. We nuns can also make our nunnery feel proud.

Q: How would you like to use the education that you are receiving at the nunnery?

A: With the grace and blessing of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, along with Ama Rinchen Khando Choegyal, I have such an incomparable opportunity to study and sit for the second year of the Geshema exams. His Holiness used to bless us with his words about getting enlightened and social service. I feel that doing social service is something I can do wholeheartedly for sure. It has been five years since I started working as a religious teacher and I never faced any problems while teaching my students.

Recently on January 10th, 2014, His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited our school and our students debated in front of him and appreciated what I taught them. His precious words have inspired and motivated me to continue to serve our community in a much better way.

Q: What is one thing you’d like Tibetan Nuns Project supporters to know about your life at the nunnery?

A: I really want the supporters to know that their generous support has and will never be in vain. When I first came to India and got admitted to the nunnery, I was not well versed like I am now. The level of education has become much higher, for which I feel is a huge success in my life.

Q: What has been the happiest day of your life?

A: I do not have a specific happiest day as such, but the day when I get to do everything according my plan, that day turns out to be meaningful and happy day for me.

Q: What are the benefits you get from education and being in the nunnery?

A: I have learned everything from the nunnery and it has given me a new life with a bright future. I learned how to communicate differently with various people in a much better way. I never had to face or struggle for basic needs like common people do. With the help of sponsors, our basic needs are fulfilled without any difficulty.

Q: What are the difficulties you face during your course of study?

A: [Laughs] Yes! We have many different subjects and so many things to learn. That is why we lack time to cover all the educational materials.

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