Tag Archives: daily life

Winter at the nunneries

In northern India, where all the nunneries supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project are located, the winter can be harsh and long.

This is particularly true for the two remotest nunneries we support, Sherab Choeling Nunnery in Spiti and Dorjee Zong Nunnery in Zanskar, both high in the Indian Himalayas.

Sherab Choeling, Tibetan Buddhist nuns, winter in the nunneries, Spiti Valley

Tibetan Buddhist nuns at Sherab Choeling Nunnery in the Spiti Valley shovel deep snow to clear a path around the nunnery.

Although the nuns at Sherab Choeling nunnery are used to long, hard winters and having to shovel a lot of snow and stock up on supplies, some winters pose extra challenges for them.

For example, during the winter of 2014-2015, the weather in the remote Spiti Valley was so severe that the nuns at Sherab Choeling out of cooking gas. For over two months they had to rely solely on firewood to cook.

winter in the nunneries, Spiti Valley,Sherab Choeling Nunnery, nuns in winter, Tibetan Buddhist nunneries

Nuns at Sherab Choeling Nunnery in the remote Spiti Valley of northern India clear snow from the roof of the nunnery.

The heavy snowfalls in the area that winter meant that the nuns were unable to get supplies and all the local villages were cut off. In order to fetch water from the nearby village, the nuns had to clear a path through waist-deep snow. Thankfully the nuns had enough stores of vegetables and tsampa (roasted barley flour) to last them through the winter months.

Tibetan Buddhist nun in snowfall at Sherab Choeling Nunnery

Snowfall at Sherab Choeling Nunnery in the Indian Himalayas.

The nuns at Sherab Choeling work hard to prepare for winter, when the region is cut off from neighboring villages. They stock up their daily supplies well before the onset of cold weather. During the summer months, the nuns grow food to store for the winter months. The people in a nearby village have given the nuns a plot of land where they now grow spinach, beans, and potatoes.  The head nun also donated her share of a field to the nunnery, so the nuns are able to grow peas and wheat.

During the coldest months, the nuns hold their classes, prayers, and meetings in the kitchen because it is warmer and helps to save wood.

Tibetan Buddhist nun working in kitchen

The simple kitchen at Sherab Choeling Nunnery.

Of course none of the nunneries are heated, not even the large ones like Dolma Ling and Shugsep. There is simply no way to afford heating. In the winter, the nuns will try to sit outside in the sun because the buildings are cold. Tasks such as washing their robes in the stream and drying them outdoors become even more challenging during the cold months.

Although the nuns have difficult living conditions, the quality of their food, housing, and shelter has vastly improved in the past 30 years since the Tibetan Nuns Project was founded. In 2016, generous donors helped with a water project at Dolma Ling Nunnery, part of which was to build a hot-water boiler. The boiler is conveniently located adjacent to the dining hall where nuns are able to fill their thermoses and take them to their rooms.

“Hot water has always been a struggle,” says Co-Director Dr. Betsy Napper. “We were able to put in solar hot water and make bath houses for both Dolma Ling Nunnery and Shugsep Nunnery so that the nuns have an option of bathing with hot water. We also got hot water into the kitchens, using solar panels at both nunneries.”

Wild Plum-headed parakeets come to Dolma Ling Nunnery for food during the cold months

Compassion in action. During the cold winter months, the nuns at Dolma Ling will sometimes feed the wild plum-headed parakeets. This photo was taken by one of the nuns and was featured in our 2015 Tibetan Nuns Project calendar.

Winter months are a quieter time in the nunneries because some nuns travel to see their families or attend teachings elsewhere, such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings in south India last winter or his teachings in Bodhgaya this winter. After Losar (Tibetan New Year), all the nuns return and resume their studies.

Dolma Ling Nunnery, snow mountains, Dhauladhar range, Indian Himalayas, winter in the nunneries

The snow mountains above Dolma Ling Nunnery. The nunnery is located on the foothills of the Dhauladhar range (literally the White Range) of the Indian Himalayas.

We send a warm “Tashi Delek” and express our heartfelt thanks to all our sponsors and donors – new and old – for your kindness and generosity. You are the truly the heart of our work. To learn how you can sponsor a nun, visit our sponsorship page.

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, Dolma Ling Nunnery cows, Buddhist 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.

Dolma Ling Nunnery Cows

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

Daily Life of Tibetan Buddhist Nuns: Part 2

The other day we published Part 1 of Daily Life of Tibetan Buddhist Nuns.

Since we had so many great photos, we decided to do Part 2 to give you a better idea of the many tasks that the nuns do in addition to their studies and practice.

As we said in Part 1, nunneries are complex institutions requiring a lot of hands-on work by the nuns to function smoothly. As you will see from the photos below, the nuns take an active role in running the nunneries. For instance, at Dolma Ling Nunnery, the largest of the 7 nunneries supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project and home to over 230 nuns, there is a nuns’ committee that oversees the various aspects of nunnery life.

Geden Choeling Nunnery exams

Nuns at Geden Choeling Nunnery in Dharamsala taking exams. In addition to their studies and Buddhist practice, Tibetan Buddhist nuns perform many other tasks to keep their nunneries running smoothly.

These leadership roles include kitchen managers who do the purchasing for the kitchen and are often directly involved in cooking; treasurers who are responsible for nunnery finances, running the nunnery store, and making purchases for the nunnery; and the keeper of the temple who makes the daily water offerings, lights the butter lamps, escorts visitors, and keeps the temple clean.

Buddhist nuns handicrafts

Collage of photos showing some of the handicrafts and the shop at Dolma Ling Nunnery.

One of our goals at the Tibetan Nuns Project is to help the nuns achieve more self-sufficiency through skill building and income-generating projects. The nuns at Dolma Ling make a range of handicrafts such as prayer flags and malas for sale in the nunnery shop and through our online store. In spite of the various self-sufficiency projects, the nunneries still need outside support. The nuns are not in their own country. They are refugees and do not have access to major sources of revenue within India.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns shovel snow from the nunnery roof

Tibetan Buddhist nuns at Sherab Choeling Nunnery in Spiti shovel snow from the nunnery roof.

At Sherab Choeling Nunnery in the remote region of Spiti in the Indian Himalayas, the nuns must often shovel the snow in winter. This photo shows them shovelling the nunnery roof. During the winter of 2014/15, the weather was so severe that the nunnery ran out of cooking gas. For over two months the nuns had to rely solely on firewood to cook. The heavy snowfalls in the area meant that the nuns were unable to get supplies and all the local villages were cut off. In order to fetch water from the nearby village, the nuns had to clear a path through waist-deep snow. Continue reading

Daily Life of Tibetan Buddhist Nuns: Part 1

What do the nuns do every day? The nuns do much more than study and pray.

The seven nunneries in India that the Tibetan Nuns Project supports through our sponsorship program are complex institutions that require a lot of work to run smoothly. The largest of them, Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute, functions like a non-sectarian monastic university and is home to over 230 nuns and staff. Just feeding that many people each day is a challenge.

This blog post is a photo essay showing some of the many tasks that the nuns at the various nunneries do in addition to their studies and their Buddhist practice.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns collecting fodder

Nuns with fodder for the cows.

Buddhist nun milking a cow

Milking time at Dolma Ling Nunnery near Dharamsala. Photo courtesy of Brian Harris.

The nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute have been keeping cows for the past 20 years. The nuns have 7 milking cows, as well as five calves and two older cows. The cows provide milk to meet Dolma Ling’s daily needs. Many of the nuns grew up as nomads in Tibet, so daily milking presents no problem.

Buddhist nun working in greenhouse

Growing food at Sherab Choeling Nunnery in Indian Himalayas. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam.

At  Sherab Choeling Nunnery in the remote Spiti Valley, the nuns work hard during the summer months to grow food for the long, harsh winter. Several years ago, people from the nearby village donated a piece of land to the nuns where they now grow spinach, beans, and potatoes. The nuns have three greenhouses where they mostly grow spinach. The head nun has also donated her share of a field to the nunnery so the nuns have also been able to grow peas and wheat.

making tsampa

Roasting barley for tsampa.

Nuns from Shugsep Nunnery prepare tsampa by roasting barley and then grinding it into flour. Tsampa is a staple of the Tibetan diet and is mixed with butter tea. There’s a tradition of throwing pinches of tsampa in the air during many Tibetan Buddhist rituals. Continue reading

Behind the scenes at Tibetan Buddhist nunneries

Here’s a chance for you to take a trip behind the scenes at some of the Tibetan Buddhist nunneries in India that are supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project.

Whether the nunnery is large or small, there are many tasks or chores that the nuns must do to ensure that they are as self-sufficient as possible and to make sure that the nunneries function smoothly and are well maintained.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns chores

Collage of some of the many tasks of the nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery in India, in addition to their studies and prayers.

In terms of regular tasks, one could view a nunnery as something like a cross between a very large household and a university or college. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of chores that need to be done each day, week, month, and year in order to keep everything running like a well-oiled machine. Continue reading

An updated, larger kitchen for the nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery!

The nuns who live at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute near Dharamsala, India now have an expanded kitchen facility thanks to the generosity of some very special donors.

The old kitchen at the nunnery was initially built in 1993 when there were just 82 nuns. Slowly, over time, the number of nuns more than tripled to 240 plus 40 staff so it was no longer large enough to adequately prepare food for that number of people.

To try to cope, the nuns, in 2001, took over a ground floor classroom as a vegetable storeroom and cutting room. The space was very cramped and the classroom that served as a kind of kitchen extension was sorely needed by the expanding education program.

Enter some very generous donors who made the nuns dream of a new kitchen a reality. We’re excited to show you these photos and a little video.

Dolma Ling kitchen

The front of the new kitchen showing the solar panels for hot water. By extending the kitchen forward into the courtyard, an additional 750 square feet of functional space was added.

In the spring of 2015 we sought funding for the kitchen extension project. Our donors have helped the nuns solve many problems at once. Not only do the nuns have much more space for preparing and storing food, but by moving the solar panels and water tanks the nunnery has been able to solve problems with maintenance and leakage.

Dolma Ling Nunnery kitchen

The ground floor of the kitchen extension is a purpose-built space for the storage and preparation of vegetables and supplies. The nuns follow a vegetarian diet.

The nuns also make tofu each week to supply the nunnery kitchen and to sell to other monastic institutions and local people to raise some funds for the nunnery.

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Nuns working in the spacious new kitchen at Dolma Ling. The nuns have 3 meals a day and all the cooking is done by the nuns themselves.

The head cook is always busy and the kitchen is kept spotless. The nuns rotate in and out of kitchen duties so everyone participates. Breakfast preparations begin as early as 3 a.m. Lunch is the main meal of the day and is often rice, two kinds of vegetables, dal, and sometimes fruit. Dinner is often a noodle soup and maybe a steamed bun.

See this blog post showing the old kitchen space at Dolma Ling and giving a recipe for dal.

ktichen at Dolma Ling

A dream come true. A view into the new kitchen space at Dolma Ling Nunnery. Our deepest thanks to the donors who made this possible.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns go shopping with the new truck (with video)

This summer the nuns at Dolma Ling requested help to purchase a new truck that would allow them to manage their many transportation tasks.

Thanks to a special anonymous donor and to Alicia, Margaret, Karen, Swetlana, and Robert, we were able to purchase the small, multi-purpose truck. This blog post shows the nuns, through video and photos taken by the nuns themselves, on some of their many recent expeditions.

Buddhist nuns, Dolma Ling Nunnery, Tibetan nuns, shopping, Dolma Ling truck, Tibetan Nuns Project

The nuns leave for shopping

With 240 nuns at the nunnery, the nuns must travel often to buy vegetables and other food, as well as supplies for the their small shop, the nunnery’s tailoring section, for the tofu-making facility, and for the paper-recycling section. Continue reading

Our visit to Dorjee Zong Nunnery by Rinchen Khando Choegyal

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.

Dorjee Zong Nunnery low resIn 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.
Buddhist nuns, ladakh, Rinchen Khando Choegyal, Tibetan Nuns Project, nuns, sponsor a nun, Dorjee Zong, Buddhist nunnery

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.nuns, Buddhist nuns, Dorje Zong Nunnery, Tibetan Nuns Project, sponsor a nun
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. Continue reading

Life at Sherab Choeling Nunnery in Spiti

In the remote Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh in northern India, lies Sherab Choeling Nunnery, currently home to 42 Tibetan Buddhist nuns, many of whom are sponsored by Tibetan Nuns Project supporters.waterfall in Spiti Valley

group of nuns at Sherab Choeling Nunnery in Spiti

Sherab Choeling nuns in 2006

The nunnery is very secluded and lies in the village of Morang (between Manali and Tabor) at 4,000 meters altitude. It was built in 1995 by 20 nuns and their teacher with the intent of addressing the problem of the inadequate education of women in the region. The nunnery was consecrated in 1995 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama who encouraged the nuns to study. There is a main building, a prayer hall, a classroom, an office, a kitchen and a storeroom. In 2006, Sherab Choeling Nunnery approached the Tibetan Nuns Project to help develop their institution and we accepted them into our sponsorship program.

Continue reading