This is a special report from Rinchen Khando Choegyal, Founder and Director of the Tibetan Nuns Project and Tsering Diki, Project Co-Ordinator. The beautiful photos are all by media nun, Delek Yangdron, who accompanied us on the trip.
In August 2015, we travelled for three days over rough, bumpy roads from Leh in Ladakh to Zanskar, a remote area in northern India. Located in this majestic, arid landscape is Dorjee Zong Nunnery, home to 19 nuns.
It was good to see the nuns and the nunnery once again. Since 2010 the Tibetan Nuns Project has been helping this small nunnery with sponsorship and a teacher’s salary, and it was wonderful to see the assistance we have been providing used to the fullest extent. The nuns are very happy to be receiving support and care from us and their sponsors.
During our short visit, the Director gave a warm and personal talk to all of the nuns and we could see how inspired they were and how cared for they felt. This was encouraging and inspiring for those of us who are trying to work for them.
There are 12 young nuns and 7 elder nuns. The younger nuns looked very bright and happy to be where they are, and we felt energized to help them even more. Our focus will be mainly on education, health care, and overall development, including setting up infrastructure for an education system and facilitating a good educational programme.
The nuns are beautiful beings and the place where they live amazingly serene and untouched by modernity. It is certainly conducive for study and inner development. Fortunately, there are three nuns who have studied in Dharamsala and who are enthusiastic about taking responsibility for making their nunnery into something productive and useful towards educating the women of Ladakh.
We are very grateful to Ngari Rinpoche’s office in Ladakh for fully funding the journey from Leh to Zanskar which was so well organized by their Chanzoe la. En route we stopped at Kargil and then in Rangdum (Ngari Rinpoche’s monastery). On the way we passed by many small villages whose residents stood by the roadside to welcome Ngari Rinpoche. The whole landscape was truly mesmerizing and the people seemed innocent and pure at heart.
About Dorjee Zong Nunnery
Dorjee Zong Nunnery is located in Zanskar, a very remote region of northern India near Ladakh, a two-day journey northwest of Dharamsala. It was founded in the 14th century and has a long tradition of meditating nuns, some of whom are famed for having reached high levels of realization and attainment.
The nunnery was accepted into our sponsorship program in 2009. Currently 8 nuns from this nunnery are being sponsored through us and we are looking for sponsors for a further 11 nuns.”
In the past the nuns in this nunnery have not been engaged in rigorous philosophical studies, but they have one teacher who has been teaching them the core Buddhist studies and Tibetan. The nuns spend a lot of time performing needed rituals on holy days as well as offering special prayers and rituals requested by the people from the nearby villages. Thanks to their teacher, the nuns have recently learnt how to offer the Tara Puja.
Although the senior nuns at Dorjee Zong are elderly, they are very strong physically and mentally. They look after all the nunnery buildings and chores, and they work in the nunnery’s fields each summer growing barley, cauliflowers, cabbage, radishes, carrots, and potatoes.
As at Dorjee Zong, the winter weather can be very extreme and in some years there is heavy snowfall. However, in this arid region, the nuns recognize that a good snowfall leads to healthier vegetation and an abundance of water during the summer months, making their food-growing efforts easier.