On May 17, 2023 Geshemas had a special audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The Geshemas from Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute, Geden Choeling Nunnery, and Jangchup Choeling Nunnery met His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his residence in Dharamsala.
Here is the video courtesy of Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
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His Holiness spoke in Tibetan. Here’s a translation from courtesy of Dechen Tsering, a Tibetan Nuns Project board member.
“Now you all must keep studying the Buddhist script well. In order to achieve Gelongma (female Gelong) one must usually have the linage of Gelongma. Nevertheless, Buddha has granted access to his teachings to all – it is not limited to just male monks – so take the opportunity to study the scriptures well and achieve Geshema. Study the scriptures hard and benefit the world [with your knowledge and insight]. There are many people in parts of the world who previously had no idea of Buddhism who are now showing a lot of interest in the Buddha’s teachings. Therefore, by becoming Geshemas, it would be most beneficial if you now become teachers. So, do your best! Stay with peace of mind.”
“Remember that we Tibetans originally descend from the linage of the Avalokiteshvara so visualize that on the top of your head sits the Avalokiteshvara and move through the world to be kind-hearted and think only of benefiting others – never hurting others. If you do that then the blessings of Avalokiteshvara will follow you for lifetime after lifetime. I’m like the messenger of Avalokiteshvara. So, we from the people of the land of snow mountains (Tibet) are dedicated followers of Avalokiteshvara and have a special relationship with Avalokiteshvara. So, develop the Buddha’s compassion heart and do your best to benefit others and make some contribution for the benefit of others. These days there are many people showing interest in Buddhism – so if you do your best to help them. It will be very beneficial. So do your best!”
Also attending the event were Nangsa Chodon, Director of the Tibetan Nuns Project in India and Tsering Diki, Assistant Director.
The Tibetan Nuns Project is deeply grateful to our supporters for helping to educate and empower nuns of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition as teachers and leaders.
About the Geshema Degree
The Geshema degree is the highest level of training in the Gelugpa tradition and is equivalent to a PhD in Tibetan Buddhism.
The degree was only formally opened to women in 2012. The Geshema degree is the same as a Geshe degree but is called a Geshema degree because it is awarded to women.
Fifty-three nuns hold the Geshema degree as of November 2022. The Geshemas are paving the way for other nuns to follow in their footsteps. This degree makes them eligible to assume various leadership roles in their monastic and lay communities reserved for degree holders and hence previously not open to women.
Some Facts About the Geshema Degree
- The Geshema degree is comparable to a doctorate in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy.
It is the highest level of training in the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.
- The Geshema degree is the same as the Geshe degree for monks. The ending “ma” marks it as referring to a woman.
- Until recently, this highest degree could only be earned by monks.
- The historic decision to confer the Geshema degree to Tibetan Buddhist nuns was announced in 2012 by the Department of Religion and Culture of the Tibetan Administration, following a meeting of representatives from six major nunneries, Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, and the Tibetan Nuns Project.
- Candidates for the Geshema degree are examined on the entirety of their 17-year course of study of the Five Great Canonical Texts.
- To qualify to begin the Geshema process, nuns must score 75% or above in their studies to be eligible to sit for the Geshema exams.
- On December 22, 2016, His Holiness the Dalai Lama awarded 20 Tibetan Buddhist nuns with Geshema degrees at a special graduation ceremony held at Drepung Monastery in Mundgod, South India.
- In 2011, a German nun, Kelsang Wangmo, who spent 21 years training in India, became the first woman to receive the Geshe degree. This was before the Geshema degree process was approved in 2012.