Tag Archives: Kangyur

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.

Saga Dawa

Saga Dawa is a very important month in the Tibetan Buddhist calendar. This year, Saga Dawa, the fourth month of the Tibetan lunar calendar, started on May 19th 2015 and will run until June 16th. The 15th day of the lunar month, the full moon day, is called Saga Dawa Düchen and this year it falls on June 2nd. Düchen means “great occasion” and this day is the single most holy day of Tibetan Buddhism.

Like the Theravadin observance of Vesak, Saga Dawa Düchen commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death parinirvana of Buddha Shakyamuni. Buddhist communities all over the world consider this a very sacred time of the year. People make extra efforts to practice more generosity, virtue, compassion, better temperament and conduct, in order to accumulate greater merit.

Saga Dawa is known as the month of merits. Tibetan Buddhists believe that during this month, the merits of ones actions are multiplied, and that on the 15th day of the month the merits of ones actions are hugely increased.

The nuns at the seven nunneries supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project all mark Saga Dawa in special ways and we will be sharing photos and news of the 2015 celebrations via this blog and our Facebook page as soon as possible after June 2nd.

Buddhist nun reading sacred texts

A nun at Dolma Ling Nunnery reads part of the Tibetan Buddhist canon during Saga Dawa in 2013.

Practices undertaken during this month include:

  • praying and reciting of mantras
  • lighting of 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

It is considered a time of the year when our one positive act of kindness is multiplied a million times over to accumulate good merit.

In the meantime, here’s a description of some of the usual practices by Tibetan Buddhist in general and by the nuns in particular. For instance, every year, during the month of Saga Dawa, over a period of several days, the 240 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 this month 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. Butter lamps will also be lit during the full moon and everyone will try to practice positive deeds during the full month.

Buddhist nuns reading Buddha's words

Nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery reading the words of the Buddha to celebrate Saga Dawa in 2013.

On this day many individuals from the monastic and lay communities also take Thikchen Tsochung. His Holiness at the main temple gives the vow if he is in town during the year or it is given by a Khenpo or Geshe. The vows are to follow the eight Mahayana precepts for 24 hours. Individuals taking this vow take just one meal that day mainly lunch that has to be taken before noon and once one has stopped the meal it is considered finished. One can drink water or light drinks but not whole milk, thick juice with pulp etc.

Buddhist nun and Tibetan texts

Reading the entire Tibetan Buddhist canon takes several days. This photo was taken on the second morning of the Saga Dawa readings in 2013 and shows the sacred texts carefully wrapped and stacked.

In Dolma Ling nunnery many nuns eat only twice a day during this month. Nuns refrain from eating any solid food after finishing their lunch. They can drink water and are served light tea (with little milk) at 6 p.m.

At Tilokpur Nunnery, the nuns participate in a number of pujas such as the Nyugney puja, Vajra puja, Avalokiteshvara mantra, Guru Rinpoche puja, Green Tara puja, Phakmo Dakini puja. The nuns also do prostrations and offer thousands of butter lamps during the month. The other nunneries like Geden Choling also do the Nyugney puja (fasting).