Tag Archives: Dolma Ling

Celebrating Losar at Dolma Ling – Photo Essay

Sit back, relax, and take an armchair journey to Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute in India, home to about 250 Tibetan Buddhist nuns. The wonderful team of Media Nuns at Dolma Ling took dozens of photos showing the nuns preparing for and celebrating Losar, Tibetan New Year.

butter sculptures, Losar, Tibetan butter sculptures

The art of making sculptures out of butter has been practiced for over 400 years in Tibet. This highly revered artistic tradition is now being taught to nuns at Dolma Ling and is being preserved by them.

Losar or Tibetan New Year is a very special time of year. This year, Losar fell on February 10th and, according to the Tibetan calendar, is the start of the year of the Wood Dragon 2151. In the traditional calendar, each year has an animal, an element, and a number.

Losar-related rituals fall into two distinct parts. First, the nuns, like all Tibetans, prepare for the new year and say goodbye to the old year, letting go of all its negative or bad aspects. Part of the preparations involves cleaning the nunnery.

Tibetan butter sculptures

In the weeks leading up to Losar, the nuns make elaborate butter sculptures of flowers and Buddhist sacred symbols to decorate the Losar offering table and offering boxes.

Since 2001, the Dolma Ling nuns have been studying the ancient art of butter sculpture making. In addition to the larger butter sculptures made for the Losar altar, the nuns make smaller displays on individual sticks, called tsepdro, for each person in the nunnery — nuns, staff, and teachers. This means that each Losar, the nuns make around 300 of these, using a wide variety of designs. The nuns display them in their rooms as part of their Losar altars and offerings, as a kind of bundle of auspiciousness.

Besides making butter sculptures, the nuns prepare special Losar foods like the deep-fried biscuits called khapse. Khapse means literally “mouth-eat” and the dough is usually made with flour, eggs, butter, and sugar. It is then rolled out into various shapes and sizes. The most common shape is the small twisted rectangular pieces served to guests.

making khapse for Losar or Tibetan New Year

Each year the nuns make khapse in various shapes and sizes. These deep-fried Tibetan cookies are a staple of Tibetan New Year celebrations everywhere.

On the night of the 29th day of the 12th month, or the eve of Losar, Tibetans eat a special soup called guthuk. Guthuk is eaten only once a year as part of a ritual of dispelling any negativities of the old year and to make way for an auspicious new one.

special food for Losar or Tibetan New Year

The top photos show nuns getting guthuk soup with the dough balls containing hidden messages. The bottom photos show the special tea and sweet rice served in the temple at Losar.

Guthuk has at least nine ingredients and the soup is extra special because each person receives a large dough ball containing a hidden item or symbol in it. Each item is meant as a playful commentary on the character of the person who gets it.

Before the first day of Losar, the nuns create an elaborate altar or offering table using their large butter sculpture flowers and stacks of specially made khapse. The Losar altars serve as prominent, central symbols of a wish to cultivate a generous heart and to invoke beautiful blessings for the New Year for all sentient beings.

The nuns also use their butter sculptures to decorate chemar bo. The chemar bo is an open, ornately carved wooden box divided down the middle. The left side is traditionally filled with roasted barley seeds and the right side is filled with chemar, made of roasted barley flour (tsampa), sugar, and butter. On arriving, Losar guests are invited to take a pinch of the chemar, after which they offer a blessing and good luck wish while throwing the chemar in the air with three waves of their hands and then taking a tiny nibble. The chemar is an auspicious offering to make at the Losar shrine to bring blessings in the new year.

Losar offering tables, Losar altar, Losar at Dolma Ling, Losar 2024, Tibetan New Year

The Losar offering tables are decorated with butter sculptures and large pieces of khapse called bhungue amcho or donkey ears. These big hollow tubes of crispy pastry are stacked on the Losar altar and decorated with strings of dried Tibetan cheese.

On the day of Losar itself, Tibetans get up early in the morning and wish each other “Tashi Delek” or Happy New Year and then go to the prayer hall for prayers. Part of the prayer ceremony includes tsok, the offering of blessed food including khapse and fruit.

At the end of the puja or prayer ceremony, all the nuns line up to pay homage at the throne of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to the nunnery’s leaders. They offer white kataks, ceremonial Tibetan prayer scarves.

Losar at Dolma Ling, throwing tsampa, Losar 2024, Tibetan New Year

Nuns play a Tibetan wind instrument called gyaling somewhat like an oboe as part of their prayers. They also offer kataks to the portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Visiting others is a special part of Losar. The nuns and staff at the nunnery visit each other’s rooms to wish each other a happy new year and to drink cups of traditional Tibetan salty butter tea.

It is customary to hang new sets of prayer flags at Losar. Old prayer flags from the previous year are taken down and burned with bunches of fragrant pine and juniper. The nuns also hang new prayer flags with a wish that all beings everywhere will benefit and find happiness.

If you would like to hang Tibetan prayer flags, you can order prayer flags that are made and blessed by the Dolma Ling nuns.

hanging prayer flags at Dolma Ling Nunnery, Tibetan prayer flags, Tibetan prayer flags at Losar, Tibetan New Year

Tibetan prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be spread by the wind and bring goodwill and compassion to benefit all beings.

On the third day of the Tibetan New Year, a special incense-burning offering called sang-sol is held. While many nuns travel home to visit their families at Losar, some nuns remain at the nunnery and take part in this special event.

After the Losar holiday, the new academic year begins and, if space allows, new nuns join the Tibetan nunneries in India. If you would like to sponsor a nun for just $1 a day, we are always looking for more sponsors.

Losar at Dolma Ling, throwing tsampa, Losar 2024, Tibetan New Year

The nuns gather in a line or circle. Each nun takes some tsampa (roasted barley flour) in her right hand as an offering. They raise their arms simultaneously twice and then, on the third time, they throw the tsampa high into the air shouting “Losar Tashi Delek”.

Thank you for supporting the nuns! You are educating and empowering them and helping to preserve Tibet’s wisdom and culture. We wish you a very happy, healthy, and peaceful New Year.

 

Tibetan Buddhist Nuns Urgently Need Textbooks

The new academic year begins shortly after February 10th and the Tibetan Buddhist nuns urgently need new math, science, and English textbooks. Can you help?

textbooks for nuns, Tibetan Buddhist nuns,

So far three nunneries, home to 650 nuns have sent their wish lists of textbooks. The total cost for the 1,005 textbooks comes to $5,563 or about $5 per book. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam.

Three nunneries have already sent their lists of books they’d like to purchase from Collins India. We’re waiting to get the textbook requirements from the remaining four nunneries we support and also the list of storybooks needed for Shugsep Nunnery.

So far, the nunneries have asked for 1,005 textbooks in English for their 550 nuns. The cost of these orders is $5,563. The average cost of one textbook is between $5 and $6, so even if you can help purchase one textbook, that would be wonderful.

Tibetan Buddhist nun reading an English textbook.

Teaching and learning is a complex process. Studies show that illustrated textbooks help students learn more effectively. The nuns need textbooks for math, science, and English. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam.

At Shugsep Nunnery and Institute, home to about 100 nuns, the nuns would love math, science, and English grammar and composition books. The English teacher would like to improve the stock of English textbooks so the students can complete coursework up to Grade 8. The nunnery’s last big purchase of books was years ago and the books have been so well-loved that they are now falling apart. Shugsep Nunnery needs 369 textbooks. Cost: $2,019.

At Geden Choeling, the oldest nunnery in Dharamsala, the 200 nuns and their teachers are excited at the prospect of having good sets of books. Geden Choeling’s abbot is keen for the nuns to learn math, but the nunnery doesn’t have any math textbooks. They have asked for help to purchase textbooks so the teacher can use them for ideas and exercises in their classes. Geden Choeling would like 362 textbooks Cost: US $1,864. 

At Dolma Ling, home to 250 nuns, the teachers have asked for the higher grade books which were not previously available and for grammar and composition books. Dolma Ling has so far requested 274 textbooks. Cost: $1,680.

To help buy textbooks for nuns you can:

    1. Make a gift online here.
    2. Call our office in Seattle, US at 1-206-652-8901
    3. Mail a check to: The Tibetan Nuns Project (note for textbooks) 815 Seattle Boulevard South #418, Seattle, WA 98134 USA

The Power of Textbooks

A single book can transform hundreds of lives.

Textbooks provide organized units of work with each lesson carefully spelled out. Because they are illustrated, students can picture and visualize concepts.

Books for Tibetan Buddhist nuns

There’s a growing body of research showing that high-quality textbooks are important for students’ comprehension and success. Please help provide math, science, and English textbooks for the nuns. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam.

A textbook gives all the plans and lessons needed to cover a topic in some detail. They save time and energy when searching for information and provide a reliable point of reference. The textbooks will be ordered from Collins India.

Although we now have a science-learning program in the nunneries for one month per year, if the teachers had each level of science and general knowledge textbooks in their classrooms it enliven their classes and help to explain science topics.

Textbooks needed for Tibetan Buddhist nuns in India

Traditionally Tibetan Buddhist nuns have not had equal access to education. The textbooks will help educate and empower the nuns to become teachers and leaders.

The Tibetan Nuns Project is also raising funds for teachers’ salaries for the 2024 academic year.

Tibetan Nuns Celebrate the Dalai Lama’s 88th Birthday

On July 6th, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 88th birthday was celebrated by Tibetans worldwide with prayers for his good health and long life.

At Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute, home to about 250 Tibetan Buddhist nuns, His Holiness’s birthday is always a day of big celebrations. This year the nuns marked the occasion with prayers, offerings, games, and cake. The Dolma Ling Media Nuns captured the fun with this series of photos and a short video.

Dalai Lama's birthday, Dalai Lama, 88th birthday Dalai Lama,

Nuns offering white prayer scarves or kataks to the portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Photo by the Dolma Ling Media Nuns

The day started early with the nuns, teachers and all the staff seated in the Dolma Ling prayer hall for prayers, tsok, and offerings of Tibetan prayer scarves to His Holiness the Dalai Lama whose portrait sits at the front.

tsampa offering, throwing tsampa, His Holiness the Dalai Lama's birthday, Dolma Ling Nunnery

A circle of nuns from Dolma Ling Nunnery prepare to throw tsampa, roasted barley flour, in the air as an offering for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birthday. Photo by the Dolma Ling Media Nuns

On July 6th, His Holiness the Dalai Lama attended birthday celebrations at the main temple in Dharamsala. He said, “Today, you are celebrating my 88th birthday, but when I look in the mirror, I feel I look as if I’m still in my 50s. My face doesn’t look old, it isn’t wrinkled with age. What’s more I still have all my teeth so there’s nothing I can’t eat or chew.

“I was born in Tibet and I bear this name Dalai Lama, but in addition to working for the cause of Tibet, I’ve been working for the welfare of all sentient beings. I’ve done whatever I could without losing hope or allowing my determination to flag.”

Tibetan Buddhist nuns, birthday cake for Dalai Lama,

Part of this year’s festivities included a birthday cake in honor of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Photo by the Dolma Ling Media Nuns

His Holiness the Dalai Lama also said, “I believe there is knowledge within Tibetan culture and religion that can benefit the world at large. However, I also respect all other religious traditions because they encourage their followers to cultivate love and compassion.”

“According to indications in my own dreams and other predictions, I expect to live to be more than 100 years old. I’ve served others until now and I’m determined to continue to do so. Please pray for my long life on that basis.”

Happy birthday messages from Tibetan nuns to the Dalai Lama

The bulletin board at Dolma Ling Nunnery displays birthday wishes and poems from the nuns to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Everyone enjoyed playing games such as a relay race and the bursting of a balloon tied to another person’s ankle. The nuns even played a game of basketball in the courtyard.

Tibetan Nuns Celebrate the Dalai Lama's 88th Birthday

There was lots of laughter as the nuns tried to grab pears with their mouths. Photo by the Dolma Ling Media Nuns

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the Patron of the Tibetan Nuns Project. He has always been very supportive of nuns’ education and opening up opportunities for higher degrees. The first conferment of Geshema degrees to Tibetan Buddhist nuns in 2016 fulfilled a longstanding aspiration of His Holiness.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns celebrate Dalai Lama's birthday, Dolma Ling Nunnery

The courtyard of Dolma Ling Nunnery was filled with laughter as nuns watched the games and festivities marking His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 88th birthday on July 6th. Photo by the Dolma Ling Media Nuns

Shortly after his birthday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama travelled to Ladakh where he will give teachings from July 21-23 on Gyalsey Thokme Sangpo’s 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva. 

Dalai Lama birthday, Dolma Ling Nunnery

The nuns played a variety of games to celebrate the occasion, including this water bucket challenge. Photo by the Dolma Ling Media Nuns

The Dolma Ling Media Nuns also created this little video. Can’t see it? Click here.

At this time of year, Dolma Ling Nunnery holds an annual flower competition. The old debate courtyard at the nunnery fills with beautiful potted flowers placed in front of portraits of His Holiness. Scoring for the competition is done by the teachers.

annual flower contest at Dolma Ling Nunnery

The annual flower contest at Dolma Ling Nunnery. Photo by the Dolma Ling Media Nuns.

flower contest at Dolma Ling Nunnery 2023

The nuns make posters, cards and banners, and grow flowers in celebration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama birthday. During the annual flower contest, the old debate courtyard is full of beautiful potted plants.

Thank you so much for supporting the nuns through the Tibetan Nuns Project!

Stories by Tibetan Buddhist Nuns

In this blog post, we want to share some special stories written and illustrated by Tibetan Buddhist nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute.

In the past, Tibetan Buddhist nuns have had few opportunities for education. Most of the nuns who escaped on foot over the Himalayas from Tibet were illiterate on their arrival in India. Until recently, women were not allowed to study for higher degrees such as the Geshema degree, roughly equivalent to a PhD.

Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute science fair 2019

Tenzin Norgyal, the English teacher organized a nuns’ science fair fin 2019. Now he has created a special book project for his students.

Much progress has been made and the Tibetan Nuns Project is deeply grateful to all our supporters.

Four Illustrated Stories by the Nuns

Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute is dedicated to higher Buddhist education for Tibetan Buddhist nuns from all traditions.

Recently the English teacher at Dolma Ling, Mr. Tenzin Norgyal, assigned a special book project for his class. He understands the importance of creativity and inter-disciplinary learning.

stories by Tibetan Buddhist nuns

Tibetan nuns at Dolma Ling hold a book fair to share stories that they have created.

Here are some of the sweet stories written and illustrated by the nuns.

Click here to view.

This first story teaches the importance of being happy with what you have.

themoralStory_Page_01
themoralStory_Page_02
themoralStory_Page_03
themoralStory_Page_04
themoralStory_Page_05
themoralStory_Page_06
themoralStory_Page_07
themoralStory_Page_08
themoralStory_Page_09
themoralStory_Page_10
themoralStory_Page_11
themoralStory_Page_12
themoralStory_Page_13
previous arrow
next arrow
Shadow

In “My Chapter” Kalsang tells the moving story of her escape from Tibet and joining Dolma Ling Nunnery.

mychapter_Page_01
mychapter_Page_02
mychapter_Page_03
mychapter_Page_04
mychapter_Page_05
mychapter_Page_06
mychapter_Page_07
mychapter_Page_08
mychapter_Page_09
mychapter_Page_10
mychapter_Page_11
mychapter_Page_12
mychapter_Page_13
mychapter_Page_14
mychapter_Page_15
mychapter_Page_16
mychapter_Page_17
mychapter_Page_18
mychapter_Page_19
mychapter_Page_20
mychapter_Page_21
previous arrow
next arrow
Shadow

This third story talks about combining wisdom and effort in our brief lives.

HoneyBee_Page_1copy
HoneyBee_Page_2copy
HoneyBee_Page_3copy
HoneyBee_Page_4copy
HoneyBee_Page_5copy
HoneyBee_Page_6copy
HoneyBee_Page_7copy
HoneyBee_Page_8copy
previous arrow
next arrow
Shadow

Finally, the story of Yak Gapa illustrates the need to help each other.

yakgapa_Page_01
yakgapa_Page_02
yakgapa_Page_03
yakgapa_Page_06
yakgapa_Page_07
yakgapa_Page_08
yakgapa_Page_09
yakgapa_Page_10
yakgapa_Page_11
yakgapa_Page_12
yakgapa_Page_13
yakgapa_Page_14
previous arrow
next arrow
Shadow

The Tibetan Nuns Project believes that education is the key to empowerment. We work to give nuns the resources to carve out independent, creative identities for themselves.

Tibet’s unique religion and culture are under great threat. The nuns from Tibet who were once denied equal access to education and the opportunity to practice their religion freely are the teachers and leaders of the future.

Thank you for helping the nuns on their path!

The Flowers of Dolma Ling

In the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, the 250 Tibetan Buddhist nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute grow many flowers to beautify the nunnery.

Flowers grown by nuns, flowers at Dolma Ling

A selection of the many types of flowers that the nuns grow.

Dolma Ling is a unique center of higher learning for Tibetan Buddhist nuns in India. The nuns helped build the nunnery, laboring to carry bricks and mortar, dig the foundations, and landscape the lush flower gardens that are a refuge for birds and insects. The Tibetan for Tara is “Dolma”, and thus “Dolma Ling” means “Place of Tara”.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns with flowers, Dolma Ling flower competition

Each year, the nuns at Dolma Ling hold a flower competition to celebrate His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birthday on July 6th.

The nunnery is set in a serene area of Himachal Pradesh. It is surrounded by green terraced wheat and rice fields, with beautiful views up towards the snow peaks of the nearby Dhauladhar mountain range. The town of Dharamsala, home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration, is about a 20-minute drive away.

flower contest, Dolma Ling flowers

Judging the annual flower contest at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute

Video Tour of the Flowers of Dolma Ling

For Buddhists, it is traditional to offer flowers to the Buddha. Flowers are significant as offerings because their freshness, fragrance, and beauty are impermanent. They are a reminder of the Buddha’s teachings that all things are impermanent.

flowers of Dolma Ling, Tibetan nuns carrying flowers

Dolma Ling nuns carry flowers to beautify the debate courtyard for the Tibetan Nuns Project 30th anniversary celebration in 2017.

We want to take you on a tour of the flowers of Dolma Ling with this video by Brian Harris. Can’t see the video? Click here.

Tibetan Monastic Robes

Monastic robes date back to the time of the Buddha over 2,600 years ago. The robes are a mark of identity, clearly distinguishing members of a monastic community from lay people. The disciplinary texts for monks and nuns contain many guidelines on robes.

Originally, the robe was just one rectangular piece of cloth carefully wrapped. Over time, each Buddhist tradition has developed its own set of rules and robes and settled on a color.

Tibetan monastic robes, monastic robes,

A young Tibetan Buddhist nun learns how to wear monastic robes. Photo by Olivier Adam

The Different Colors of Monastic Robes

The original rules about monastic robes are recorded in the Vinaya Pitaka of the Pali Canon and these include rules about color. The Pali Canon says the robes of fully ordained monks, may be dyed “tinting them red using the bark of the bāla tree, or using saffron, madder, vermillion, āmalakī, ocher, orpiment, realgar, or bandujīva flowers.” It is also said that the robes should be made using a dye that was readily available, not something expensive or special.

These natural dyes, created from various plants, minerals, and spices such as saffron gave the cloth used in southeast Asia a yellow-orange color. Hence the term “saffron robes”. The Theravada monks of southeast Asia still wear these spice-color robes today, in bright orange as well as shades of curry, cumin, and paprika.

The colors of Buddhist monastic robes vary depending on the tradition and on what was readily available. Also, the color of female monastics robes sometimes differs from that of male monastics, even in a shared tradition.

In Thailand, monks wear orange and saffron robes and nuns wear white robes. In Japan, monks’ and nuns’ robes are traditionally black, grey, or blue. In Korea, robes are black, brown, or gray. In Tibet and in the Tibetan diaspora, both monks and nuns wear maroon or burgundy red robes.

Tibetan monk and nun dolls showing Tibetan monastic robes

These charming monk and nun dolls are handmade by the nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute. The dolls’ robes are made from recycled nuns’ robes. Each doll has its own mini mala, a set of prayer beads. We sell them in our online store to help the Tibetan Buddhist nunneries.

Of the various Buddhist traditions, Tibetan Buddhism has perhaps one of the more complex variety of robes. Although the main color of Tibetan robes is burgundy, the historical yellow of monastic robes is still present in both nuns’ and monks’ robes.

Cloth for Monastic Robes

The cloth and sewing pattern of monastic robes has ancient symbolism. Like the wandering holy men at the time of the Buddha, the first monastics wore a robe stitched together from rags.

The Buddha instructed the first monks and nuns to make their robes of “pure” cloth, meaning cloth that no one wanted. They scavenged in rubbish heaps and cremation grounds for discarded cloth and cut away any unusable bits before stitching the pieces together to form three rectangular sections of cloth. The humble nature of the cloth itself represented detachment from the physical world in pursuit of enlightenment.

monastic robes, Tibetan robes, Tilokpur

Vinaya texts insist that robes should be clean at all times and should be dried in the open air. This, of course, is a challenge during the monsoon. Photo from Tilokpur Nunnery courtesy of Olivier Adam.

Tibetan Monastic Robes

Geography and climate have shaped the evolution of monastic robes. The Buddha is usually depicted wearing a simple robe draped over his body, often leaving his right shoulder bare. This style of robes is still found in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. Early Buddhist robes were meant for hot climates and were not warm enough for Tibet’s cold, high-altitude conditions. Hence, an upper and an outer garment are part of monastic robes in Tibetan Buddhism.

monastic robes,

Early Buddhist robes were meant for hot climates and were not warm enough for Tibet’s cold, high-altitude conditions. An elderly nun saying the Tara Puja at Geden Choeling Nunnery, Dharamsala. Photo by Olivier Adam

The Tibetan word for robes is ཆོས་གོས་ [pronounced: chos gö], meaning “religious clothing,”. A basic set of robes for a Tibetan Buddhist monastic consists of these parts:

The dhonka, a shirt with cap sleeves. This shirt was added to Tibetan monastic robes in the 14th century, at the time of Tsong Khapa. Because of the cold Tibetan climate, it was felt that the monks needed an upper robe. The dhonka is maroon or maroon and yellow with blue piping. The blue piping has historic symbolism, remembering a period in Tibetan history when Buddhism was almost wiped out. There were not enough monks remaining to bestow ordination, but with the help of two Chinese monks, who always wore some blue garments, they were able to do so. In memory of that help, the blue sleeve edging was made a part of the upper garment.

The shemdap is a maroon skirt made with patched cloth and a varying number of pleats. This is the transformation of the original  monastic robe of the Theravada tradition. Monks and nuns no longer wear discarded cloth, but wear robes made from cloth that is donated or purchased. And nowadays the lower robe of Tibetan monastics is simply sewn to look patched.

The chogyu is yellow and worn for certain ceremonies and teachings. Similar to the Theravada robe, it is made of many pieces.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama photo by Olivier Adam

Tibetan lineages wear a maroon color upper robe ordinarily, but generally wear a yellow robe during confession ceremonies and teachings. Photo of His Holiness the Dalai Lama courtesy of Olivier Adam

A maroon zen is similar to the chogyu and is for ordinary day-to-day wear.

The namjar is larger than the chogyu, with more patches, and it is yellow and often made of silk. It is for formal ceremonial occasions and is worn leaving the right arm bare.

A dagam is a heavy woollen cape that monastics wrap around themselves when sitting for long periods of time doing meditation or ritual during cold weather.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns, Buddhist nuns, Tibetan nuns making prayer flags

The tailoring program at Dolma Ling Nunnery had a modest start with a plan to make nuns robes so that the nuns wouldn’t have to go to the market and pay for the service. Now the tailoring program has expanded greatly and is quite successful. In addition to making robes, the nuns make item for sale in our online store including prayer flags, nun and monk dolls, bags, and Tibetan door curtains.

Four New Projects for Tibetan Nuns

To support Tibetan Buddhist nuns, here are our major projects for 2022. Please help us make them a reality.

Urgent Water Project

An urgent water project is needed for the nuns and teachers at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute. Right now, they don’t have enough water and what little they have is often polluted.

The cost to the nuns is $29,680 and includes the catchment, storage, chlorination, and piping of the water for 400 residents of Dolma Ling. The new water system will serve the entire campus, including the nuns’ housing blocks, the teachers’ housing, the medical clinic, and the guesthouse.

Dolma Ling, water reservoir, water supply for Dolma Ling, clean water for Dolma Ling

Nuns cleaning the water reservoir at Dolma Ling. Please help the nuns have a safe, reliable supply of water!

The new water system will be half funded by the local government and will also benefit 800 residents of the village below the nunnery.

The nuns had been asking for a reliable, safe supply of water for years. The current situation is very difficult to manage and it also strains the relationship of the nunnery with the local people.

Learn more or donate here.

Vehicle for Remote Sherab Choeling Nunnery

The 62 nuns at Sherab Choeling Nunnery need a vehicle to transport people and supplies. The vehicle will also transport nuns for medical care.

vehicle for remote nunnery, Sherab Choeling Nunnery

The nuns at Sherab Choeling, a remote nunnery high in the Himalayas, need a vehicle. Photo by Olivier Adam.

Their existing vehicle is very old and it is hard to get parts for repairs. Sherab Choeling is a remote nunnery in the Spiti Valley, high in the Indian Himalayas. The area’s roads are infamous for their landslides, rocks, and bad conditions.

The total cost of the 10-seat, multi-purpose vehicle is $29,500. This includes taxes, registration, insurance, and warranty for repairs.

Learn more or donate here.

Debate Courtyard Extension at Dolma Ling

Every day the nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute practice monastic debate. The nuns have asked for help to expand the covered area of the debate courtyard.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns debating at Dolma Ling, Tibetan monastic debate, debate courtyard extension

Until recently, Tibetan nuns did not have the opportunity to learn and practice Tibetan Buddhist debate. Now they have opportunity, but lack the protected space.

The debate courtyard lacks enough covered and protected space to accommodate all the nuns. To practice debate, pairs of nuns must spread out. Due to a lack of space, many of the nuns must practice on the lawn under the hot sun and open to the elements.

debate courtyard at Dolma Ling

Monsoon clouds loom over the debate courtyard at Dolma Ling. The nuns need your help to increase the protected covered space. Photo courtesy of Mati Bernabei.

Summers are becoming hotter and the monsoon rains stronger. When it rains, the nuns must move to the main hall and the corridors for their daily debate sessions, but these areas are very crowded and restricted.

Monastic debate helps nuns improve their logical thinking and expand their understanding of the texts. Improving the debate facilities at Dolma Ling is also important for the annual month-long debate training session when nuns from multiple nunneries come together to compete in debate.

Learn more or donate here.

10-Seat Vehicle for Shugsep Nunnery and Institute

The nuns at Shugsep Nunnery and Institute need a 10-seat vehicle for all their tasks transporting nuns and supplies. The vehicle will also be used to take nuns for medical care.

vehicle for Shugsep Nunnery

The current vehicle at Shugsep Nunnery is old and falling apart. The model was discontinued five years ago so parts are hard to find and expensive.

The nuns currently use a 13-year-old Chevrolet Tavera that is falling apart. The model was discontinued in 2017 and there are growing problems with repairs and maintenance. The nuns have done their best to keep their old vehicle running, but parts are very hard to find and extremely expensive.

The total cost of the new multi-purpose vehicle is $29,500. This includes taxes, registration, insurance, and warranty for repairs.

Learn more or donate here.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns holding thank you signs

Thank you for helping Tibetan Buddhist nuns with these important projects.

Reading the Words of the Buddha

Each year, during the holy month of Saga Dawa, the nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute read the entire Tibetan Buddhist canon or Kangyur, the 108 volumes of the spoken words of the Buddha.

Because the month of Saga Dawa includes some of the holiest days in the Buddhist calendar, the nuns believe they can accumulate more merit by doing such practices at this time. Completing this full reading of the words of the Buddha takes several days as each nun reads from a different portion of the text.

words of the Buddha, Kangyur, Tenzin Sangmo

Each year over 230 nuns who live at Dolma Ling Nunnery in India read the entire Kangyur, the 108 volumes of the spoken words of the Buddha, during the month of Saga Dawa. Photo courtesy of Tenzin Sangmo.

The Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama or Buddha Shakyamuni, was a spiritual teacher, religious leader, philosopher, and meditator born in ancient India about 2,500 years ago. Revered as the founder of Buddhism and worshipped as the Enlightened One, he taught the liberation from suffering. The title “Buddha” literally means “awakened” and was given to Siddhartha Gautama after he discovered the path to nirvana, the cessation of suffering,

The Kangyur

The word kangyur (in Tibetan བཀའ་འགྱུར་) means the “translated words” of the Buddha. The Kangyur and is a collection of the Tibetan translations of the Indian texts that are considered to be the words of the Buddha.

The Kangyur has sections on Vinaya (monastic discipline), the Perfection of Wisdom sutras, other sutras, and tantras.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns at Dolma Ling reading the words of the Buddha

This photo was taken before the pandemic in 2020 when the Tibetan Buddhist nuns at Dolma Ling were able to sit together in the temple and read the words of the Buddha. Photo courtesy of the Dolma Ling Media Nuns

Marking the Holy Month of Saga Dawa

Saga Dawa is the holiest month in the Tibetan Buddhist calendar. It is the fourth month in the Tibetan lunar calendar and this year it starts on May 12th and runs until June 10th 2021.

The 15th day of the lunar month, the full moon day is called Saga Dawa Düchen. Düchen means “great occasion” and this day is the single most holy day of the year for Buddhists. Saga Dawa Düchen commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death (parinirvana) of Buddha Shakyamuni.

This year, Saga Dawa Düchen falls on May 26, 2021. On Saga Dawa Düchen the merits of one’s actions are hugely increased. In other Buddhist traditions, it is known as Vesak or is sometimes called Buddha Day.

Complete Kangyur words of the Buddha read at Saga Dawa

The Kangyur, the words of the Buddha. Photo by the Dolma Ling Media Nuns.

During this holy month, the nuns believe they can accumulate more merit by doing such practices as reading the spoken words of the Buddha, the Kangyur, at this time. The nuns also light butter lamps during the full moon and everyone tries to practice positive deeds during the entire month.  Some also take special vows such as eating only one meal a deal and doing large numbers of prostrations.

Saga Dawa is known as the month of merits. People make extra efforts to practice more generosity, virtue, compassion, and kindness in order to accumulate greater merit. The Tibetan Buddhist nuns at the seven nunneries supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project celebrate Saga Dawa in special ways.

Practices undertaken during this month include:

  • Praying and reciting mantras
  • Lighting butter lamps
  • Making pilgrimages to holy places
  • Refraining from eating meat
  • Saving animals from slaughter and releasing them
  • Making prostrations and circumambulations
  • Giving money to beggars

Reading the Words of the Buddha During the Pandemic

In 2020, due to the pandemic, the nuns at Dolma Ling had to practice physical distancing while reading the words of the Buddha. The nuns had to spread out throughout the Dolma Ling nunnery grounds. They sat in the temple, on balconies, and in the debate courtyard to collectively read the Kangyur over multiple days.

Saga Dawa Tibetan Buddhist nuns reading Kangyur 2020

Tibetan Buddhist nuns at Dolma Ling maintain physical distance while reading the Kangyur, the 108 volumes of the spoken words of the Buddha. Photos courtesy of the Nuns’ Media Team.

Inside the Kitchen at Dolma Ling Nunnery

The kitchen is a central part of life at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute, home to about 250 nuns and 30 staff. It is run by one nun who is permanently stationed there, supported by a rotation of 8 other nuns. The nuns are willing but not always experienced!

Dolma Ling Nunnery, Brian Harris, inside a Tibetan Buddhist nunnery kitchen

Inside the kitchen at Dolma Ling Nunnery. The Tibetan Nuns Project is fundraising for a rice cooker, a dough-making machine, a fridge, and two new gas burners. See below for more details. Photo by Brian Harris.

Breakfast Means an Early Start!

Each morning, the nuns on kitchen duty wake up around 3:30 am (2:30 am in the summertime) to prepare round flatbreads called Amdo Balep for breakfast. The evening before, the nuns prepare the dough and leave it to rise overnight so it is ready to shape and bake on the large gas griddle. To feed all the nuns and staff, the nuns must make and bake 350 pieces of bread. The 6-inch diameter flatbreads are served in the dining hall at 7:00 am following the nuns’ morning prayers.

making parathas, inside the kitchen at Dolma Ling Nunnery

On special occasions, the Tibetan Buddhist nuns on kitchen duty make paratha, a fried flatbread, for breakfast. Photo by Brian Harris.

As well as bread, the nuns get eggs on some days and on other days they eat cooked vegetables. And, of course, tea.

Lunch

The nuns start preparing lunch after the morning tea has been served at 10:15. Some of the group of nuns on kitchen duty may already have been assigned to clean and cut vegetables downstairs in the special area below the kitchen that was built for this purpose. To have lunch ready at 12:15, the nuns must start work very soon after breakfast.

lunch at a Tibetan Buddhist nunnery, Dolma Ling

Lunchtime at Dolma Ling Nunnery. During the pandemic lockdown, the nuns ate their meals apart. Photo by the Dolma Ling Media Nuns.

Cooking rice for nearly 300 people is a challenge and dangerous. Keep reading to learn about our special campaign to buy the nuns a rice cooker, a dough-making machine, and a freezer. It takes a long time to cook the rice in a huge caldron over one of the two large gas burners in the kitchen. When the rice is half-cooked, the nuns must pour off the excess water – a very risky operation.

It takes two strong nuns to pick up the giant pot and carry it to the drain where they strain off the water through a cloth. This action must be done swiftly and carefully to avoid being scalded by the boiling hot water and also to prevent the loss of steam. The nuns then cover the rice with a cloth and leave it to stand in its own steam for up to an hour to become soft and tasty.

cooking rice, Buddhist nunnery kitchen, Dolma Ling, Tibetan Buddhist nuns

Cooking rice for hundreds of nuns is dangerous and the nuns need an electric rice cooker. You can donate below. Photo by Brian Harris

In the meantime, the nuns prepare and cook the two vegetable dishes and one dal (lentil dish) which form the standard lunch in the nunnery. Because there are only two large gas burners, it is quite a tricky exercise to cook three dishes as well as the rice in time for lunch. The kitchen nuns can’t keep everyone waiting in the dining hall! Having a separate electric rice cooker will make managing the kitchen considerably smoother.

Supper

After lunch, the nuns prepare dough and leave it to rise until it is time to prepare dinner or supper. The evening meal usually consists of tingmo (Tibetan steamed buns) served with a vegetable dish. The quality of the steamed buns depends on how well the dough is prepared. If the dough is inadequately mixed, it won’t rise properly and the buns will be chewy and indigestible. A dough-making machine will help to ensure that the nuns get lovely soft fluffy buns!

chopping papayas, Dolma Ling kitchen, Tibetan Buddhist nuns cooking

Chopping papayas. Photo by the Dolma Ling Media Nuns

Sometimes the nuns prepare thukpa, Tibetan noodle soup, for supper. Once again, having a dough-making machine would be a great help in preparing the dough for the noodles. Thukpa is normally made using a mix of eggs, flour, and water but there are some nuns who don’t eat eggs so the nuns on kitchen duty always make two batches of noodle dough.

Once the dough is mixed, the nuns run through the noodle-making machine. Having a dough-making machine would be so helpful to the nuns and they will be saved from the temptation of buying readymade noodles from outside the nunnery, thus saving the nunnery money.

After dinner, the nuns set about preparing the dough for the breakfast bread and leave it to rise overnight. It is hard work mixing and kneading so much dough by hand! Usually, the kitchen nuns don’t finish their duty until 8:00 pm. Since they start work at 2:30 or 3 am, it is a very long day!

Help the Nuns Cook Rice Safely

Cooking rice for nearly 300 people is dangerous and challenging. Currently, the nuns cook rice in a huge cauldron over a large gas burner. When the rice is half-cooked, they have to pour off the excess water – a very risky operation.

The safety of the nuns is the main reason why we are asking for your help to purchase an electric rice cooker for the Dolma Ling Nunnery kitchen. A rice cooker would also save on fuel costs.

Having an electric rice cooker will mean that the rice cooks more evenly and that it keeps more of its nutritional qualities and will be better for the nuns’ health. Rice cooked in a giant caldron does not cook evenly and has to be frequently stirred.

Tibetan Buddhist nun sorting rice

The nuns have asked for help to buy a rice cooker with a capacity to cook up to 77 pounds of rice. Photo by Brian Harris

The nuns would like a rice cooker with a capacity of up to 35 kilograms (77 pounds) of rice which is about the biggest they can find in their area. Normally, the Dolma Ling nuns cook 20 to 25 kilos (44 to 55 pounds) of rice for one meal, but it will be good to have a slightly bigger capacity for special occasions. By buying from a reputable local kitchen equipment supplier who is prepared to give the nuns a good warranty and service, the nuns feel that this will be a huge benefit to the nunnery and will be a much safer and more efficient way of cooking rice.

Help the Nuns Buy a Dough Mixer

Each day the nuns on kitchen duty prepare traditional Tibetan bread and steamed buns for hundreds of nuns. Mixing the dough by hand is incredibly labor intensive and less hygienic than using a machine. The nuns have asked for help to buy a dough-making machine with a capacity of 25 kg (55 pounds).

kneading dough, making Tibetan bread

Kneading dough by hand is an incredibly labor-intensive process and the nuns have asked for help to purchase a dough-making machine. Photo by Brian Harris

Mixing dough by machine takes only 15 to 20 minutes, so it would be so much easier to prepare multiple batches for bread, buns, and noodles. Normally the nuns up to 20 kg (44 pounds) of flour at a time and the machine would be used for at least two meals each day.

The dough-making machine will also be used on special occasions when the nuns serve paratha, a fried flatbread, for breakfast and also for times like before Losar, Tibetan New Year, when the nuns prepare delicious crisp khapse, fried Tibetan biscuits. Every member of the nunnery gets a large bag of khapse to celebrate Tibetan New Year so preparing large quantities is a great deal of work.

making dough, Dolma Ling Nunnery, inside the kitchen at Dolma Ling Nunnery

The nuns make dough daily for Tibetan bread (Amdo Baleh) and steamed buns (tingmo) and also, on special occasions, for khapse which are fried Tibetan biscuits, and paratha, fried flatbreads. Mixing dough by hand is hard work when you have almost 300 people to feed. A dough-making machine would make the work much easier and give better results. Photo by the Dolma Ling Media Nuns.

The Nuns Need Two New Hot Water Boilers

The nuns like to have hot water to drink in their rooms while they are studying in the evening. The nunnery built a small covered facility in the first wing courtyard in which there are two hot water boilers where the nuns can fill their thermoses to take to their rooms. However, each boiler takes about four hours to heat 100 litres (26 gallons) of water and there is not enough for everyone to get even one litre of water.

water boiler Dolma Ling

The nuns need two new water boilers to have enough water for everyone. Right now some nuns get up in the middle of the night to fill their thermoses because there’s not enough supply at other times. Photo by the Dolma Ling Media Nuns.

Some nuns are getting up in the middle of the night to fill their thermoses if they miss out on the first boiling. The nuns have asked for help to buy two new boilers so they can have enough hot water for all the nuns. They also need to get the two older boilers serviced. Right now, the nuns are unable to take even one boiler out of service to get it repaired because there will be a drastic shortage of boiled water.

New Refrigerator for the Dolma Ling Kitchen

Dolma Ling’s old, large, 4-door refrigerator was bought a very long time ago. It has broken down many times and was frequently repaired. However, it has now stopped working and must urgently be replaced. During the winter when it is very cold (and because the nuns follow a vegetarian diet and do not cook meat in the nunnery), the nuns have managed without a fridge, but soon the summer heat and monsoon humidity will come meaning that vegetables and fruits will quickly rot. It is not possible to get fresh supplies daily and the nuns buy in bulk. The nunnery needs to be able to safely store perishable vegetables and fruit to avoid wastage and to save money. Milk, butter, cheese, and tofu also need to be refrigerated.

Dolma Ling kitchen

A nun sanitizes food outside the nunnery. The nuns have asked to help to buy a new fridge to replace their old one which has completely broken down. Photo by the Dolma Ling Media Nuns.

Without a new fridge, the nunnery is restricted in what it can buy and the nuns’ diet will be more monotonous. Especially during the pandemic and these times of lockdown, everyone looks forward to lunchtime. If the kitchen can provide a variety of vegetables such as tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, and spinach, all of which must be kept chilled, the nuns and staff will not only be healthier but also happier!

Please help the Tibetan Buddhist nuns at Dolma Ling with this essential kitchen equipment!

The total cost for all items is $10,700.

  1. Make a gift online at tnp.org
  2. Call our office in Seattle at 1-206-652-8901
  3. Mail a check to The Tibetan Nuns Project (for Rice Cooker and Dough Maker at Dolma Ling)
    815 Seattle Boulevard South #216, Seattle, WA 98134 USA
  4. Give a gift of securities
  5. Leave a gift in your will to the Tibetan Nuns Project

Make a Donation