Tag Archives: sponsorship

Why we sponsor Tibetan Buddhist nuns

We receive so many inspiring and beautiful messages about why people sponsor Tibetan Buddhist nuns.

In this blog post, we want to introduce you to Nancy, Judith, Beth and others and share their stories. We hope their words will inspire more people to sponsor a Tibetan Buddhist nun. Many nuns in India still need sponsors. The cost is just $1 a day; the return is priceless.

Today, January 8 2019, we’re launching a campaign to get sponsors for 60 nuns in the 60-day countdown to International Women’s Day, March 8th. Please join us by sponsoring a nun and spreading the word about our sponsorship program. March 2019 is also significant because it is the 60th anniversary of both the Tibetan Uprising Day (March 10th) and the Tibetan Women’s Uprising (March 12).

sponsor a Tibetan Buddhist nun, Sherab Choeling Nunnery, Olivier Adam, Tibetan nuns, Tibetan Buddhism

“I support the Tibetan Nuns Project because I believe women should have the same rights as men in learning the Buddhist teachings. This program gives Tibetan nuns the opportunity to embrace their spiritual path and embark on a life as a nun who can then share their knowledge and understanding of the teachings with others.” Photo of nuns at Sherab Choeling Nunnery courtesy of Olivier Adam

Empowering and Educating Women

Ninety-one per cent of Tibetan Nuns Project supporters surveyed say that they give because they “value equality of access to education for women and believe that nuns should have the same opportunities as monks.”

Chris says, “The UN has multiple reports showing how the status of a country or culture is only as strong as the support of their women, and supporting the Tibetan Nuns Project helps not just the individual women, but the Tibetan community overall. Having female role models in any profession will encourage the children of Tibet to see the worth in all beings, not just men.”

Geshema, Geshema graduation ceremony,

TNP board member Judyth Weaver congratulates the nuns who received their Geshema degrees at a historic graduation ceremony in December 2016. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam.

Alice writes, “As a female Buddhist, I’m acutely aware that it’s women who carry the majority of lay communities, but there are so few examples for us to look up to in the sangha. It’s important to me that female sangha receive the support they need to flourish.”

Karen said, “I feel that it is very important for women to become teachers of this wisdom. Tibetan Buddhism can teach the world many things… love, compassion, patience, forgiveness, responsibility, and the list goes on. This wisdom must be extended to all who are interested in it, not just monks. I have found that women have a great ability to share and take care that comes very naturally, so women will help expand this wisdom.”

“I care about Tibetan refugee issues”

Preserving Tibet’s unique religion and culture is a big motivator for sponsors and other donors.

Beth writes, “I am deeply impressed with the spirit, faith, and strength of the people of Tibet, and I want to do anything I can to help them. Supporting a nun with her basic needs and education is a small thing that I can do.”

Maria said, “I am appalled by the atrocities that the people of Tibet have gone through! This support is the least that my family can do.”

Diverse Voices

While it is traditional for Buddhists to practice dana (generosity), the first of the ten perfections, and to support monks and nuns, a great many of our sponsors are not Buddhist. Here are some stories from our diverse global family.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns

Nancy writes, “Although I am not a Buddhist, I have learned so many valuable life lessons from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. It feels right to give something back, and I enjoy the personal connection I have with a nun. Participating in the Tibetan Nuns Project is a good antidote to feelings of helplessness or despair when faced with all the injustices in the world.”

“I am Cherokee (American Indian) and I totally understand how important it is to support people who have lost their lands and may be in danger of losing their language and ancient traditions.” Naniwea

“As a Black American (historic ethnicity – U.S. slavery descendant), I feel very connected to what is happening to the Tibetan people in their own country. As a woman of color, I am especially interested in learning more about the lives and concerns of the women of Tibet, and especially the Buddhist nuns.” Marian

Judith wrote, “I am a Christian (Episcopalian) feminist for whom Buddhism provides enrichment and much that appeals to my overworked mind in terms of clarifying what matters. I believe in freedom, education, and equality for women and for men. I am very disturbed by the ongoing destruction of Tibet and its magnificent culture and religion and believe strongly in the goals and purpose of the Tibetan Nuns Project.”

“Although not a Buddhist, I have always been drawn to the plight of the people of Tibet. The last 20 years of my life I have often been touched by the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and I consider him a hero and wonderful humanitarian. When I saw this organization and the wonderful work they were doing with the female refugees, I was quite touched and knew I had to be involved, even in a small way. I would love to visit the project some day, but for now, I love getting the lovely letters from India. I’m so proud to see how much the project has grown in the last couple years and so proud of the nuns and their educational and spiritual progress.” Julia

sponsor a Tibetan Buddhist nun.

You can sponsor a nun for US$360 a year and pay monthly, quarterly, or annually. Photo of nuns lining up for food courtesy of Olivier Adam.

Click here to learn about sponsoring a nun.

Food for Thought: What Buddhist Nuns Eat

It’s just past 3 a.m. and the nuns on kitchen duty at Dolma Ling Nunnery in northern India are already hard at work boiling water and heating up griddles to prepare breakfast for about 280 nuns and staff.

In the shelter of the cowshed, the nunnery’s small herd of dairy cows are still asleep. The nuns will milk them around 6:30 a.m. and carry their sweet, fresh milk in pails to the kitchen, where it will be used to make both traditional Tibetan butter tea and Indian-style sweet tea.

In this blog post we’d like to take you behind the scenes at some of the seven nunneries in northern India supported through the Tibetan Nuns Project. We offer profound thanks to our sponsors of nuns whose generosity feeds over 700 nuns every day.

Chopping vegetables for about 280 people is a big job at Dolma Ling. The nuns take turns on kitchen duty. This photo and the above kitchen photo are courtesy of Brian Harris.

For 2,500 years, since the time of the Buddha, nuns and monks have relied on the generous support of the lay community for their daily food. The practice of generosity (dana) is the first of the perfections or paramitas in both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism. Offering food to monastics is a meritorious act. As Milarepa, the great Tibetan yogi and poet, said, “The practitioner and benefactor offering food create the cause to achieve enlightenment together.”

It’s long before dawn when the nuns assemble in the kitchen to start preparing breakfast. Meals are prepared collectively in the nunnery kitchens. Photo courtesy of Brian Harris.

In countries like Thailand, where Theravada Buddhism is practiced, monks and nuns go on daily alms rounds, carrying their alms bowls and accepting offerings of food from the local community. Continue reading

Life at a remote Tibetan Buddhist Nunnery in Spiti [with photos and audio of chanting]

This is a special post on Sherab Choeling Nunnery and Institute, one of the 7 nunneries in northern India supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project. It features photos and an audio recording of the nuns chanting by French photographer, Olivier Adam, who visited the nunnery in the summer of 2015.

This remote nunnery was built in 1995 by 20 nuns and their teacher in the Spiti Valley, an arid mountain valley located high in the Himalaya mountains in the north-eastern part of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
Sherab Choeling Nunnery, Spiti, Tibetan Nuns Project, Olivier Adam, Tibetan nuns, Buddhist nuns

The nunnery was built to address the problem of inadequate education for women and girls in the region. The vision is to educate Himalayan Buddhist nuns who would otherwise have no opportunity to receive any formal schooling or spiritual education. It is a non-sectarian nunnery that recognizes the beauty and value in all Buddhist traditions.

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Typically, women and girls who live in remote areas like Spiti and who are interested in studying or practicing their religion have very few options. The Tibetan Nuns Project was approached by the nunnery in 2006 to help them develop their institution and we accepted them into our sponsorship program.

Sherab Choeling Nunnery

The nunnery is very secluded and lies in the village of Morang (between Manali and Tabor) at 4,000-feet altitude. 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.spiti_2015_0854 copy

Although the area of Lahaul-Spiti is part of India, ethnically, the people are descended from Tibetans and the majority are devout Buddhists. They have preserved an ancient Tibetan culture, speaking an old dialect of the Tibetan language, as written in Tibetan scriptures.Sherab Choeling Nunnery

Sherab Choeling Nunnery and Institute was the first religious educational project for Spiti women. Traditionally women in this region have suffered from many social and educational disadvantages. Many have been deprived of any kind of education, and this institute is the first in Spiti to provide women with the opportunity to overcome these disadvantages.
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The nuns at Sherab Choeling follow a 17-year study program. The curriculum is designed to educate the nuns in Buddhist philosophy, meditation, Tibetan language and literature, in addition to a basic education in English, Hindi and math. The broad education is intended to provide the nuns with necessary skills to educate future generations of nuns and the communities from which they come.spiti_2015_0776 spiti_2015_4112

There are currently 55 nuns at Sherab Choeling Nunnery, the youngest being only 5 years old.  At the time of posting this blog, there are 17 new nuns at the nunnery who are eagerly awaiting sponsorship so that they can pursue their studies. To sponsor a nun, visit https://tnp.org/youcanhelp/sponsor/
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Summer is the most important and busy season at the nunnery. The nuns must work hard in the fields and store firewood for the winter in addition to concentrating on their studies. This summer the nuns are experimenting with growing cabbage outdoors on a small plot of land. Tomatoes, cabbage, and spinach grow well in the greenhouse that is well maintained by the nuns.
spiti_2015_3247 copyThe nuns have difficult living conditions. They often face long harsh winters and heavy snowfalls. During winter the region is cut off from neighboring villages so the nuns must stock up their daily supplies well before the onset of cold weather. During the coldest months, the nuns hold their classes, prayers and meetings in the kitchen because it is warmer and helps to save wood.spiti_2015_2159

This past winter the Spiti Valley experienced an extremely heavy snowfall and all the local villages were cut off. Unable to get supplies, the nuns ran out of cooking gas and for over two months had to rely solely on firewood to cook. In order to fetch water from the nearby village, the nuns had to clear a path that was waist-deep in snow. Thankfully they had enough stores of vegetables and tsampa (roasted barley flour) to last them through the winter months.

The nuns are very positive about their future and someday want to be able to serve as teachers back in their villages. Here is an audio recording of the nuns reciting the Lama Chopa or Guru Puja.

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The joys of sponsorship

Sponsorship is the heart of our programs at the Tibetan Nuns Project. Our supporters around the world help over 800 Tibetan Buddhist nuns at seven nunneries in northern India. The relationship between a sponsor and nun goes far beyond giving and receiving but can be deeply meaningful on both sides.

Sakya nun holding card from her sponsor 2015

The joys of sponsorship. A nun at Sakya College for Nuns holding a card from her sponsor

We recently received a batch of photos from Sakya College for Nuns near Dehradun in the foothills of the Himalayas where over 50 nuns live and study. One of the nuns there, Venerable Kunga had received a gift of sleeping bags from her sponsor, Sister Paula, a Catholic nun in the US. Venerable Kunga distributed the sleeping bags among her classmates, teachers and two nun friends studying in the same institute.

nuns getting sleeping bags

A generous sponsor in the USA, Sister Paula, sent sleeping bags for the nuns at Sakya College for Nuns in India.

The way the sponsorship system works is as follows: once you sign up to be a sponsor, you will be connected with an individual nun. You will receive her photograph and her story or biography and she will write to you at least two times a year. You have the opportunity, if you wish, to write to her.

Tibetan Buddhist nun receiving gift of sleeping bagWe have maintained our annual sponsorship cost at $360 a year since 1998, however some sponsors choose to give more knowing that there has been considerable inflation in India over the past 15 years. One hundred percent of sponsorship money goes directly to India.

Sakya nuns holding gifts from sponsors

Sakya nuns with gifts from sponsors

The distribution system is equitable so that there is not a disparity between nuns who have sponsors and nuns who do not yet have sponsors. We do this by giving the money to the nunneries of sponsored nuns, rather than individuals themselves,  and within each nunnery the funds are used collectively to cover the basic expenses of food, housing, clothing, medical care and education.

Buddhist nun holding note of thanks

Returning the love. Venerable Kunga holds a special note for her sponsor, Sister Paula, a Catholic nun in the US.

Each nun receives 200 rupees per month for incidental expenses. In the case of nuns who do not reside in a nunnery (nuns in retreat), funds are issued to them on a monthly basis to cover food, rent and incidentals. When these nuns have additional needs, such as medical care or clothing, they may apply to the Project for assistance.

Sakya nun with a gift from her sponsor

Sakya nun with a gift from her sponsor

Many sponsors also choose to send small gifts or pocket money to their nuns as direct donations. Contact us for details on how to do this.  The Tibetan Nuns Project has also set up a “Wish List” through Amazon of items that are useful to the nuns such as clothing, shoes, socks and so on.

There is joy in both giving and receiving. Many of our sponsors have told us how much they love being a sponsor and how meaningful the relationship is to them.

Bonnie said, “When I saw the ad in Tricycle for sponsoring a Buddhist nun, I knew this could be one way to give back something for all that I was given to be born and raised in the US. A most powerful reward is to get a hand-written letter from one of ‘my’ nuns, which always move me to tears.”

Jan wrote, “I can make an important change in the life of a particular woman on the other side of the world whom I don’t really know and will not likely meet by helping her live as a nun. This makes all of sentient life more real to me, and every month when I write a sponsorship check, I have a moment of freedom from my own self-preoccupation and a moment of deep gladness that I can be of use to someone else.”

Here’s a note from Felicia: “I started years ago with one nun (same age as my son) and have stayed with her the entire time in terms of being a sponsor (co-sponsor now I think). I really like that I can support a project like this and also know there is a real person there who writes and I write to. She has been a blessing in my life, to say the least, which was a side benefit to being a sponsor in the first place.”

Sakya nuns with gifts of sleeping bags

Sakya nuns with gifts of sleeping bags thanks to Sister Paula