Tag Archives: Buddhist nuns

Rejuvenating Shugsep Nunnery and Institute

Looking after a nunnery is a big job.

Like a university campus, Shugsep Nunnery and Institute has dormitories, classrooms, a library, dining halls, a kitchen, offices, meeting rooms, gardens, a temple, and more.

There are also systems that support daily life there such as power, water, sewage treatment, and so on. The heavy monsoon rains and the harsh environment of northern India are hard on the nunnery complex.

Shugsep Nunnery, nunnery life

Handwritten essay by a Tibetan Buddhist nun at Shugsep Nunnery and Institute about her second home. Photo by Dustin Kujawski

We’re happy to report that, thanks to generous donors, two major projects at the nunnery were just completed: the replacement of the temple floor and the repair and painting of the metal roof.

Here’s a thank you video about the temple floor with “before” and “after” photos.

Here’s a list of projects that we’re working on funding. Some are urgent because of the imminent arrival of the monsoon.

  1. Painting of the nuns’ dormitories
  2. Solar panel roof repair
  3. Water tank repair
  4. Mold removal and prevention
  5. Security system for the nunnery and grounds to avoid break-ins

The total cost for all of these projects is $21,650.

To help rejuvenate Shugsep, you can donate here.

Shugsep is an ancient Nyingma nunnery that traces its rituals and practice to some of the most illustrious female practitioners in Tibetan history. It is one of two nunneries built and fully supported by Tibetan Nuns Project donors.

The 85 nuns who live and study at Shugsep work hard to keep their nunnery strong and healthy, but, unfortunately, there are many jobs that are beyond their ability. They need outside help. Thank you!

Nuns making Tibetan momos with video

If you ask someone to name their favorite Tibetan food there’s a good chance they’ll say Tibetan momos. Momos are steamed savoury dumplings that are much loved by Tibetans around the world and that are often made on traditional holidays.

vegetarian Tibetan momos

Photo of vegetarian Tibetan momos and chili sauce courtesy of YoWangdu Tibetan Culture.

Momos are a bit of a delicacy because of the work involved in making them. They can be stuffed with a variety of fillings such as beef, yak meat, cheese, potatoes or vegetables.

The nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute near Dharamsala in northern India (one of the seven nunneries in India supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project) follow a vegetarian diet and make momos on special occasions such as Tibetan New Year and His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birthday.

Here’s a lovely video that the nuns made in 2012 ago showing them preparing momos to celebrate His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birthday on July 6th. As you will see from the video, it’s no small task to make enough momos to serve over 230 nuns!

If you’d like to make momos at home, here a recipe for vegetarian momos and one for meat momos, both kindly shared by YoWangdu Tibetan Culture.

Tibetan Losar Prayers and Ceremonies in Dharamsala

This is a guest post about Tibetan Losar celebrations at two Buddhist nunneries in India by Dominique Butet and with photos by Olivier Adam.

Last month, on 19 February 2015, my partner Olivier Adam and I participated in the ceremonies for Tibetan New Year or Losar at Geden Choeling Nunnery in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala in northern India.

In the very early morning, at 3:30 a.m., the 135 nuns of the nunnery were already sitting in the temple, beginning their Losar puja or prayers with great dedication.

We shared cups of traditional Tibetan salty butter tea with the nuns. Then two nuns brought the offering of tsampa (roasted barley flour) around to everyone so that we could celebrate the start of the new year by throwing tsampa into the air and wishing everyone “Losar Tashi Delek” (Happy New Year) with pure, joyful smiles.

Buddhist Nuns chemar Losar ceremony

Two nuns carry a chamar bo, an open, decorated box with one half filled with chamar, made of roasted barley flour or tsampa and the other half filled with roasted barley. People are invited to take a pinch of the chemar then offer a blessing with three waves of the hand in the air, then taking a nibble. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam.

Inside the temple, the sound of the prayers grew to fill the entire space and the nuns’ voices were accompanied by bells and Tibetan hand drums (damaru). We were each served sweet rice with dry fruits, followed by a delicious tsampa soup served with all sorts of nuts and dates. Just as sweet tea was brought to the temple, we were also each given the authentic khapse, the deep-fried pastries served at Losar. They come in all sizes, but the ones we were given looked like two big open ears! (You can learn more about khapse by reading this Tibetan Nuns Project blog about these New Year’s cookies.)  Continue reading

Inauguration of Retreat Huts at Dolma Ling Nunnery

On November 10 2014, the eight new retreat huts built at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute near Dharamsala, India were inaugurated by Dagri Rinpoche. The nuns sent the following photos of the special occasion.

Inauguration retreat huts Dolma Ling 2014

Nuns and monks holding white ceremonial khataks to greet Dagri Rinpoche and others during the inauguration of the retreat huts at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute, November 10th 2014. Photo: Tibetan Nuns Project

Dagri Rinpoche inuagurates retreat huts Nov 10 2014

Dagri Rinpoche, who is living at His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s residence premises at the main temple in Dharamsala, Tsuglagkhang, inaugurates the eight retreat huts. Photo: Tibetan Nuns Project

Dagri Rinpoche inaugurates retreat huts Dolma Ling Nov 2014

Blessing inside one of the eight new retreat huts at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute. Photo: Tibetan Nuns Project

inauguration of retreat huts DF Nov 2014 Dagri Rinpoche

A joyous day at Dolma Ling Nunnery as Dagri Rinpoche inaugurates the new retreat huts. Photo: Tibetan Nuns Project

Continue reading

Tibetan Nuns in India Close to Earning Highest Buddhist Degrees

A group of Tibetan nuns have passed the halfway mark toward a historic milestone: winning the equivalent of a Buddhist doctorate degree, until recently almost exclusively reserved only for men.

In May, 22 nuns passed through the second stage of examinations for a “Geshema” degree, the female equivalent of a Geshe degree. The examination process began in May, 2013.

Three senior nuns awaiting their turns to debate during the 2014 Geshema examinations

Three senior nuns awaiting their turns to debate during the 2014 Geshema examinations

Continue reading

Celebrating Losar at a Buddhist Nunnery

Losar, or Tibetan New Year, falls this year on March 2nd 2014 and is the start of the Wood Horse Year, which is year 2141 in the Tibetan lunar calendar.

Happy Losar card - nuns hanging prayer flags by Olivier Adam

Photo of nuns hanging prayer flags courtesy of Olivier Adam

This year will be the first time in many years that Losar celebrations will take place at Tibetan exile communities and at Dolma Ling Nunnery near Dharamsala, India and other nunneries.

Since 2008 and the unrest in Tibet, many of the Tibetan settlements, monasteries and nunneries in India have not been celebrating Losar. With many Tibetans self-immolating for the cause in Tibet, Tibetans in exile have joined together in prayers, but have not followed traditional Losar celebrations.

Continue reading

Report on the completion of retreat huts at Dolma Ling Nunnery

3 Tibetan Buddhist nuns in front of retreat hutsAt the end of October 2013, thanks to the generous support of Tibetan Nuns Project donors and to the hard work of the nuns themselves, the construction, furnishing and landscaping of 8 permanent retreat huts at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute near Dharamsala, India was completed.

Retreats are a core part of Buddhist practice and these huts will allow the nuns to develop their own insight and knowledge in complete privacy. This is the first time that retreat facilities have been available at Dolma Ling Nunnery, home to over 230 nuns.

Tibetan nun helping to landscape retreat huts

The nuns plant bamboo near the retreat huts.

Each hut consists of a simple room with a bathroom and kitchen area. They are each furnished with a bed, a storage cupboard, a table, a prostration board, provisions for the small kitchen area and supplies for the small bathroom. One solar panel per hut provides light, power and warm water so that the huts are sustainable and ecologically sound. Continue reading

Empowering nuns to tell their own stories

Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Most of us take for granted our ability and opportunity to tell and share our stories. In wealthy nations, we’ve been privileged to have access to the education and tools such as computers and cameras that allow us to document our personal stories, messages and creative projects.

Not everyone has this opportunity. The Tibetan nuns have been among the world’s most disadvantaged in this regard. Not only did they face horrific human rights abuses prior to their escape, many of them received little or no education in Tibet and were illiterate on arrival in exile.

picture of 4 Tibetan Buddhist nuns at computers

Computer and media training at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute. Photo courtesy of Harald Weichhart who spent a month at Dolma Ling in May 2013 and has visited the nunnery 2 other times to offer training to the nuns in film-making, video editing, photography, design and Photoshop.

“I was 19 years old when I reached Dharamsala and was first introduced to formal education,” says Delek Yangdron. Delek was among a group of 40 nuns who arrived in Dharamsala from Lithang, Tibet in 1990 after a 28-day escape to Nepal, trekking over the Himalayas at night to avoid capture. Continue reading

A taste of life at Dolma Ling Nunnery – with dal recipe

We wanted to give you a taste of life at the nunneries by sharing details of the nuns’ meals and also send you a delicious recipe for dal, Tibetan style, that you can try at home.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns making breakfast at Dolma Ling Nunnery. Tibetan Nuns Project

You have to get up VERY early to prepare breakfast for 230 nuns. Canadian photographer Brian Harris arrived in the kitchen of Dolma Ling Nunnery at about 3 am and found the nuns already at work making hundreds of parathas, an Indian dish of potato-filled fried bread. A typical breakfast for the nuns might be a piece of flatbread, cooked mixed vegetables, and tea.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns in kitchen at Dolma Ling Nunnery. Tibetan Nuns Project

All the food is vegetarian and is prepared by the nuns themselves. The head cook is always busy and the kitchen is spotless. The nuns rotate in and out of kitchen duties so everyone participates.

Lunch is the day’s main meal and is often rice, two kinds of vegetables, dal, and sometimes fruit. According to Brian, there’s also a knock-out nunnery hot sauce. Dinner is often a noodle soup and maybe a steamed bun.

A high-pitched gong sounds 3 times a day to announce meals.The senior nuns enter the dining hall first as the younger nuns, holding their bowls, cups and spoons, wait their turn. The dining hall also doubles as a place for the nuns to memorize the scriptures.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns chopping onions at Dolma Ling Nunnery - Brian Harris copy

Due to rapid inflation, rising food and fuel prices in India are putting a lot of pressure on all of the nunneries. In the last month, the price of onions has doubled. The price of cooking fuel – which was already expensive – has increased 5-fold in a year. The Tibetan Nuns Project is seeking more sponsors and supporters as we struggle to keep up with rising costs.

In July we launched a campaign to increase both donations and the number of sponsors. Thank you and welcome to our 34 new sponsors! To help with this campaign, with either a single gift or as a sponsor, please visit https://tnp.org.

Now here’s a recipe from our friends at Yowangdu Tibetan Culture for how to cook dal (or dal bhat) Tibetan style.

Dal bhat is a traditional Nepali or Indian food consisting of lentil soup (dal) served with rice (bhat), which Tibetans began to cook after coming into exile. Traditionally Tibetans in Tibet don’t cook dal, but it is a very common dish of Tibetans who live outside our country, especially those who live in India and Nepal.

Dal Bhat Recipe

Preparation time: 40 minutes (2 People)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red lentils (masoor dal) (other types of dal can take much longer to cook)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ingredients for dal1 small red onion, chopped small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric*
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds*
  • ½ teaspoon coriander powder*
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • ½ tablespoon butter or ghee (optional, but it gives a nice flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro and/or green onion, chopped, for garnish
  • water, to make soup
  • basmati rice (or any kind you wish)
  • Indian chutney or pickle (achar) of your choice. We love Patak’s lime pickle. You can also find Patak’s at many other large grocery stores.
  • Optional: add pepper of your choice, or red pepper flakes.
  • If you prefer, you can use Shan Dal Curry Mix, or garam masala instead of the turmeric, cumin and coriander.

Preparation

  • Wash the lentils and rinse a couple of times. Be careful to remove any stones. If you have time, soak the lentils in water as long as you can, up to overnight, before you cook. They get very soft and can cook faster.
  • Begin preparing the rice any way you like so it will be ready when you’re done cooking the dal.
  • Chop your onion, and mince the garlic and ginger and set aside.
  • Chop the tomato and set aside.
  • Wash your cilantro and or green onion. Chop for garnish and set aside.
  • Heat oil on high for a minute or two.
  • Add ginger, garlic and onion, and stir fry on high until the onion is a little brown on the edges, 1-2 minutes.
  • Stir in cumin seeds, salt, turmeric, mustard seed and coriander powder. Turn the heat down to medium (6 out of 10 on our stove), and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.
  • Note: The stove’s temperature will remain at medium (6/10) for the rest of the cooking process, and you will stir occasionally.
  • Add tomatoes and butter. Stir, cover with lid and cook for 4 minutes.
  • After 4 minutes, stir in the lentils, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  • After cooking for 5 minutes, add one cup of water, cover with lid and cook for 5 more minutes.
  • When the 5 minutes are up, stir in 2 more cups of water, as the water will begin to decrease as you cook.
  • Continue cooking on medium for 10 minutes.
  • Now your dal is ready. Turn off the stove and sprinkle the chopped cilantro and/or green onion on top.

cooked dal Tibetan Nuns Project recipe

Serve

Serve with rice. Many Tibetans like to serve the dal in a small soup bowl, beside a plate of rice. Some people like to ladle the dal over the rice and mix it up to eat. Indians and Nepalis often eat dal baht with their hands, as do some Tibetans, but many of us also use a spoon.

Add some Indian chutney or pickle (achar) or hot sauce. We can’t more highly recommend the Patak’s Lime Pickle or relish, which is just heavenly and is perfectly complementary with this dal bhat. You can get it medium or hot. Medium is more spicy in a flavorful way than a hot way The hot has some bite!

(This recipe has been slightly edited for length. To see the full recipe and photos, as well as recipes for other Tibetan dishes such as momos and thukpa, visit Yowangdu Tibetan Culture’s website.)

Enjoy!

The Tibetan Nuns Project could not do what it does without the generous support of a caring community. Thank you again for your support.

To learn how you can help nourish the nuns bodies and minds with a single gift or as a sponsor, please visit https://tnp.org.

The nuns need your help

The following is a message from Rinchen Khando Choegyal, Director and Elizabeth Napper, Co-Director of the Tibetan Nuns Project.

Due to rapid inflation in India, our sponsorship program is unable to keep up with the rising cost of living for the nuns. For instance, the cost of a tank of cooking gas has more than doubled in the past year, putting a huge strain on all the nunneries.

The Tibetan Nuns Project sponsorship program currently supports over 700 Tibetan Buddhist nuns living in 7 nunneries in northern India, as well as numerous nuns living on their own.

For less than $1 a day, you can help provide a nun’s basic necessities including shelter, food, education, and health care.

By becoming a sponsor you will also help:

  • Build self-sufficiency through skills training opportunities
  • Train nuns to take leadership and service roles within their communities
  • Improve the level and status of ordained Buddhist women 

100% of your sponsorship money goes directly to the nunneries in India. 

Your gifts will help nuns like Kelsang, age 78 from a village in Amdo, the eastern province of Tibet.

Here is Kelsang’s story:

My family belonged to a farming community. We grew barley, wheat, peas, buckwheat and different kinds of vegetables. We also kept yaks and sheep. Until the age of 20, I remained with my family helping them in the fields. This I guess was perhaps the best part of my life. Then the Chinese came. Continue reading