Tag Archives: Geshema exams

First batch of Geshema candidates sit their final round of exams

This month twenty Tibetan Buddhist nuns are making history as they take their fourth and final round of examinations for the Geshema degree. Those who pass will receive their degrees in December 2016 from His Holiness the Dalai Lama at a special ceremony in India.

The Geshe degree (Geshema for women) is equivalent to a Doctorate in Buddhist Philosophy and is the highest level of training in the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Tibetan nun, Buddhism, Geshema, Gesha, Tibetan Nuns Project, Geden Choeling, Dharamsala, Tibetan Buddhism

A Geshema candidate on day 1 of the Geshema examinations being held this year at Geden Choeling Nunnery in Dharamsala, India. Photo courtesy of Venerable Delek Yangdron.

Once only open to men, the opportunity to get the Geshe degree was opened to women in 2012. The Geshema examinations represent a huge milestone for Tibetan Buddhist nuns and this batch of 20 nuns will be the first Tibetan women with this highest degree in the history of Tibet.

This year’s Geshema examinations are being held at Geden Choeling Nunnery in Dharamsala, India from May 1 to 12th 2016.  Continue reading

A long journey to an amazing result: one nun’s story

Born into a simple family in eastern Tibet, Lobsang Dolkar, became a nun in her teens. With no opportunity to study, she spent her days in household chores and tending livestock. Being a nun meant reciting mantras and doing prostrations.

Lobsang Dolkar, Tibetan Nuns Project, Buddhist nun, Tibetan nun, Dolma Ling nun

Venerable Lobsang Dolkar, one of the first Dolma Ling nuns

When her brother married, she became free to make a pilgrimage to Lhasa where she made friends with another nun. They decided to go to India to attend
the 1990 Kalachakra being given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Caught twice crossing into Nepal and handed back to the Chinese, their third attempt was successful.

Lobsang Dolker had not planned to stay in India, but her friend convinced her it was no use returning to Tibet and they should instead enroll in the newly founded nunnery, Dolma Ling.

She is among the first batch of nuns who entered the study program and at the same time helped with its construction. It was a joyous moment in 1994 when they moved into newly constructed rooms and had a home in India. Sadly she did not see her parents again; they passed away two years ago.

When she began her studies, it was hard for her to grasp what was being taught since she had had no previous education. But she never gave up. She feels that the opportunity to earn the Geshema Degree is very special and is grateful to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his continuous support of  nuns’ education. Access to this degree encourages nuns to persevere.

Lobsang says that, in the beginning, she was scared to sit the Geshema exams, but she never thought of backing out because she did not want younger nuns to accept failure without trying hard for their degree. In May she successfully passed Year 2 of the four-year exams. All being well, she will be a Geshema in 2017.

Looking back on how far she has come, Lobsang appreciates the importance
of education and is grateful to all the teachers and staff for their dedication to the nuns.

We are looking for more sponsors. You can sponsor a nun for less that $1 a day and help provide food, education, shelter and health care. 100% of your sponsorship gifts go to India. Learn more at https://tnp.org/youcanhelp/sponsor/

Breaking News: Third Round Geshema Exam Results Are In

The much-anticipated Geshema Exam results have just arrived. The results have been sent to the respective nunneries and have been announced to all the nuns.

The third round of Geshema Examinations took place from May 1-12, 2015 at Jangchub Choeling Nunnery in Mundgod in southern India. 37 Tibetan nuns took part in this round of examinations split as: 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

Postcard from Dharamsala – Geshema exams, Sagadawa and more

logo of Postcard from Dharamsala

Here’s the latest news from Dharamsala:

Tibetan Buddhist nuns sitting round 2 of Geshema examsThe second round of the Geshema Examinations was held at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute from May 1-16, 2014. 23 nuns sat the 2nd year exam, while 6 sat the 1st year exam. The results were released on July 6, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Birthday. We are very happy to announce that most of the nuns did very well in their exams; only three nuns failed, one from the 2nd year group and two from 1st year group.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns praying Sagadawa 2014Sagadawa, which is considered a holy month, fell this year from June 13 – July 12. Three events in the life of Lord Buddha took place within this holy month, his birth, enlightenment, and demise. If we practice good deeds during this time period, we consider we will earn more merit than usual, so everybody puts their effort into doing some wholesome activities. In the nunneries, they do special Nyungne (fasting retreat) and in some they read the full 108 volumes of the Kangyur (teachings of Lord Buddha) over a number of days. Most observe the specific practice for ordained people of not eating dinner during that month. Continue reading

Breaking news: Geshema exam results are in

Geshema exam papers Tibetan Buddhist nuns 2014

Geshema Exams Part Two

Exam results are in for 29 Tibetan Buddhist nuns who made history this year as they work towards their Geshema degree.

  • 22 of the 23 nuns who sat Part 2 passed.
  • 4 of the 6 nuns who sat Part 1 passed.
  • Those who did not pass have the opportunity to re-sit next year.

About the Geshema Degree

The Geshema degree is comparable to a doctorate in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy.

Geshes, and soon also Geshemas, are the most educated monastics, carrying much of the responsibility for preserving the Tibetan religion and culture. The Geshema exams take place over 4 years and are the culmination of a rigorous 17-year course of study.

This is historic because the degree was previously only open to men.

The nuns’ achievements are all the more remarkable because some of the women sitting the doctoral exams were totally illiterate when they escaped from Tibet.

Background

The opening up of this opportunity for nuns would not have been possible without the support of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Department of Religion and Culture of the Tibetan government in exile, and high lamas and teachers.

In many ways, their immense leap in capacity has been made possible through the programs that you have helped support through the Tibetan Nuns Project.

Your support has also helped us work tirelessly for the opportunity for ordained Buddhist women to get the Geshema degree.

Once they obtain their Geshema degrees, besides being in possession of a treasure of knowledge, the nuns will be eligible to assume various leadership roles in the monastic and lay communities, bringing them one step closer to standing as equals.

Once they obtain their Geshema degrees, besides being in possession of a treasure of knowledge, the nuns will be eligible to assume various leadership roles in the monastic and lay communities, bringing them one step closer to standing as equals.

2013 Milestone: Geshema Exams for the Tibetan Nuns

May 2013 marked the beginning of the first ever Geshema examinations. After years of rigorous study, 27 nuns from 5 nunneries – 6 from Jangchub Choeling, 7 from Jamyang Choeling, 2 from Geden Choeling, 2 from Khacho Gakyiling (Kopan) and 10 from Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute – gathered at Jamyang Choeling near Dharamsala, India, to complete the first round of a four-year examination process.

The nuns were tested on a variety of areas of study, including the Perfection of Wisdom, the Middle Way, and other subjects such as Tibetan grammar and science through both written examination and demonstration of their debating skills.

Tibetan nuns debate Geshema exams May 2013


In July, just in time for the celebrations of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birthday, the examination results for the first round of examinations were released with the very good news that 25 of the 27 candidates successfully passed the first round. If these nuns can continue to successfully demonstrate their knowledge over the next three years, they will be awarded the prestigious Geshema degree.

The Geshema degree will be the highest degree in Buddhist philosophy for nuns. A basic requirement for the nuns to take the exams is to have completed the full 17-year course of study with average marks of 75% or higher.

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The opportunity to take the examinations to earn this degree has been made available especially by the continuous support of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the dedication of the nuns, and the Department of Religion and Culture of the Kasur Rinchen Khando la meeting with the nuns Central Tibetan Administration. The Tibetan Nuns Project and its supporters have also played a significant role in making this landmark achievement possible, working over the past 25 years to increase the educational level of the nuns.

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Rinchen Khando Choegyal, the founder of the Tibetan Nuns Project, addresses the nuns at the Geshema exams.

The higher-level educational opportunities that nuns have today were not always available, creating a gap between the education of monks and nuns. The Tibetan Nuns Project has worked to close this gap and prepare the nuns to demonstrate their skills and learning. The debating practice that nuns undertake daily, as well as at the annual Jang Gönchoe inter-nunnery debate, have been highly beneficial to the nuns, expanding their understanding of the Buddhist philosophical texts and allowing them to develop the debating skills that are tested during the Geshema exams.

Congratulations to all the nuns who have successfully completed the first round of exams!

low res Yangdron_Delek_2013_05_GeshemeExam_20 copyEstablished in 1987, the Tibetan Nuns Project provides education and support to more than 700 nuns in northern India.

 

 

A Message from the Directors of the Tibetan Nuns Project

5 Tibetan Buddhist nuns hold a thank you sign in Tibetan and EnglishThank you for being a supporter of the Tibetan Nuns Project.

You are part of a community of compassionate people who care deeply about providing equal access to education for ordained Buddhist women, about the Dharma, and about preserving Tibet’s unique culture.

We wanted to share with you some of our achievements this year that you’ve helped make possible:

  • 23 nuns reached an historic milestone when they sat the first part of the Geshema exam in May, like a PhD in Tibetan Buddhism;
  • 8 retreat huts at Dolma Ling Nunnery have been built and furnished. Now, for the first time, the nuns of Dolma Ling can go on retreat;
  • Over 400 nuns from 8 nunneries in India and Nepal have participated in the month-long Jang Gonchoe debate session in October, a special step in their learning;
  • Over 700 nuns living in exile have been provided with food, shelter, education and health care.

We still need your help urgently.

Within Tibet the situation is truly dire. There is no real freedom for the nuns there to practice their religion. They, like their sisters in India, wish nothing more than to live, study, practice, and teach in accordance with their spiritual beliefs. With your help we can ensure the survival of Tibet’s religion and culture and we can offer refuge to those who have escaped and help heal their trauma.

Inflation and rising food prices in India are stressing all of the nunneries. With hundreds of mouths to feed each day, you can imagine the effect of skyrocketing food and fuel prices. Sponsorship dollars were only meeting about 2/3rd of the daily needs of the nuns so we did a big sponsorship push this summer. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who signed up as a sponsor, who renewed a past sponsorship, or who generously agreed to increase their sponsorship contribution.

HERE ARE 7 WAYS YOU CAN HELP THE NUNS:

1. SPONSOR A NUN
For $1 a day you can sponsor a nun and help provide her with food, shelter, education and health care. 100% of the funds go directly to India and you will receive updates about the impact of your gifts.

2. MAKE A SINGLE DONATION
We have a number of current projects where you can direct your gifts or you can make an undesignated gift and we will direct the funds where they are needed most.

3. LEAVE A LEGACY OF COMPASSION
By including a gift in your will to the Tibetan Nuns Project, you will be leaving a legacy of compassion that will have a ripple effect for generations to come.

4. GIVE A GIFT IN HONOR OF SOMEONE
Celebrate a loved one this holiday season, thank a spiritual teacher, or honor the memory of someone with a gift. When you make a tribute gift, we can send a beautiful card to the person being honored.

5. BUY TNP PRODUCTS
We always have a range of products available through our online shop or by calling the office. Our products include the 2014 Calendar, malas, prayer flags, TNP sweatshirts, and much more. Many of the products are made by the nuns to generate income for the nunneries.

6. DEDICATE PRAYERS
Through our online shop you can request that the nuns say prayers or perform special pujas for you or for someone dear to you who may need spiritual help.

7. DO YOUR OWN THING!
Explore your own creative idea for helping the nuns. Every little bit helps. Whether it’s hosting a house party using our kit or coming up with your own idea, like New York artist Miya Ando who created a series of glowing “Prayer Flag” paintings and auctioned them off raising over $4,000 to help with the nuns Media Center and Café at Dolma Ling.

We’re going to give the last word to one of our supporters who wrote to tell us why the Tibetan Nuns Project was important to her:

“Each aspect you are addressing is important not just to these women, but to women, refugees, Buddhists and non-Buddhist religious women EVERYWHERE. This is a model for the future for any group of displaced, religiously persecuted, and in-need-of-support-to-sustain-themselves group. I applaud the efforts of your organization very highly.”
Linda Anne, Idyllwild CA

With our deepest thanks for your compassion and generosity,

 

Rinchen Khando Choegyal, Director
Elizabeth Napper, Co-Director

His Holiness the Dalai Lama Addresses Nuns After the Great Winter Debate Session

Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, India  3 November 2013
Report from the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

This morning His Holiness the Dalai Lama met briefly with nuns from eight nunneries who for the last month have been taking part in the Jang Gonchoe, the Great Winter Debate, held this year at Dolma Ling Nunnery. He began:

“You’ve all been engaged in debate based on Dharmakirti’s ‘Commentary on Epistemology’ (Pramanavarttika), What did you learn from each other?”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama addresses the nuns after debate session Nov 3 2013

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking encouragingly to nuns from several nunneries who had taken part in the just concluded annual winter debate session during their meeting at the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamsala, India on November 3, 2013. (Photo by Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL)

He said that there are reports that at one time in Tibet there was a tradition of nuns studying the classic Buddhist texts, which eventually lapsed. This has changed. He cited nuns from Kopan in Nepal last year defying the Tibetan joke about nuns being proud of having memorized the Samantabhadra prayer when they memorized not only Chandrakirti’s ‘Supplement to (Nagarjuna’s) Treatise on the Middle Way’ (Madhyamakavatara) and Maitreya’s ‘Ornament for Clear Realization’ (Abhisamayalankara), but also Haribadra’s commentary ‘Clear Meaning’ (Sputartha), which His Holiness admitted was even more than he had done. Continue reading