Tag Archives: Tibetan Buddhist nuns

Update on Life at Sherab Choeling Nunnery in 2021

Despite the pandemic, the nuns at Sherab Choeling Nunnery have all been well and the academic year has gone smoothly. They recently send these photos and an update on life there. Thank you to everyone who sponsors a nun at Sherab Choeling! We hope you enjoy this post about daily life at this remote nunnery.

snow on the mountains above Sherab Choeling Nunnery in Spiti

Fresh snow on the mountains above Sherab Choeling Nunnery in Spiti. The nuns took this photo on October 21st, 2021 and it also shows the newly paved road leading up to the nunnery. The road enhancement was done by government.

Sherab Choeling Nunnery in the Spiti Valley of northern India is one of the seven Tibetan Buddhist nunneries supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project. It is a non-sectarian nunnery that recognizes the beauty and value in all Buddhist traditions.

daily life at Sherab Choeling Nunnery

The nuns’ daily routine is to have prayer sessions in the morning, followed by regular classes and internal debate sessions. Nunnery kitchen and cleaning duties are shuffled amongst the nuns.

Currently 62 nuns live there. The youngest nun at the nunnery is around 13 while the eldest nuns are in their 60s.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns practice debating

The nuns practice debating in the sun-filled corridor of the nunnery. Learning traditional monastic debate is an essential component of working towards higher academic degrees, such as the Geshema degree, equivalent to a PhD in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy.

The nunnery is very secluded and lies in the village of Morang at 4,000 meters altitude. It was built in 1995 by 20 nuns and their teacher to address the problem of the inadequate education of women in the region.

mealtime at Sherab Choeling Nunnery, update from Sherab Choeling
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.

Tibetan nun cooks simple food

One of the nuns on kitchen duty cooks flatbreads on the stove that also serves to help heat the room. The nuns have a simple vegetarian diet.

Many young girls seek admission to Sherab Choeling, but due to lack of facilities and sponsors, it is not possible for all to gain entrance. The Tibetan Nuns Project helps by raising awareness, finding sponsors for the nuns, and helping them to fundraise for the further development of the institute.

The nuns at follow a 17-year study program. The curriculum is designed to educate the nuns in Buddhist philosophy, meditation, Tibetan language and literature, plus 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.

Tibetan Buddhist nun cooking

A Tibetan Buddhist nuns makes what looks like tea and tsampa (roasted barley flour) using an improvised whisk made of thin sticks.

The senior most nuns are in Uma class. The nunnery’s two philosophy teachers have been very encouraging to the nuns and and have been telling them to prepare themselves mentally to achieve the Geshema degree.

update from Sherab Choeling Nunnery

The nuns have a simple vegetarian diet and grow some of their own food. The nuns have three female cows which are cared for by the nuns. They now have three greenhouses and had a good crop this year of radishes and spinach. Since the greenhouses are so successful, two nuns each from Pin Nunnery and Khowang Nunnery came to Sherab Choling to learn how to grow vegetables and take care of the greenhouse.

Also this year, the nuns set up an underground water tank to irrigate their fields. In 2019 there were reports of a water crisis in the Spiti Valley from inadequate snowfall and retreating glaciers. Lakes, ponds, and streams that once helped irrigate fields are drying up.

update from Sherab Coeling Nunnery

Nuns lining up for a simple meal at Sherab Choeling Nunnery.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns in Spiti praying

Morning prayers by the light of solar lamps at Sherab Choeling Nunnery. The nuns are making the Mandala Offering Mudra, a complex sacred hand gesture that is a symbolic offering of the entire universe for the benefit of all sentient beings.

New Buddha statue at Sherab Choeling Nunnery 2021

The nuns are very grateful to Shaptung Rinpoche who sponsored the cost of making a seven-foot Lord Buddha statue for Sherab Choeling. It was from Tso Pema and the nuns were able to get it moved to the nunnery in October 2021. The statue is now in the big hall which is being painted and will be used in future as a simple community prayer hall.

first snowfall at Sherab Choeling Nunnery

First snowfall this season at Sherab Choeling Nunnery. The photo was taken by the nuns  in the early morning on October 21st, 2021.

Daily life at Sherab Choeling Nunnery in Spiti

The nuns share chores. Spiti is a cold desert mountain valley located high in the Himalayas in north-eastern part of Himachal Pradesh in northern India. The name “Spiti” means “the middle land”, that is the land between Tibet and India.

If you are interested in seeing more photos of life at Sherab Choeling Nunnery you can see these blog posts:
Slideshows and Updates from all the Tibetan Buddhist Nunneries
Daily Life at Sherab Choeling Nunnery in Spiti Valley India
Life at a remote Tibetan Buddhist Nunnery in Spiti [with photos and audio of chanting]

Congratulations messages to Geshema graduates

During May 2016, as twenty nuns were taking their fourth and final round of the Geshema exams, the Tibetan Nuns Project put out a call for people around the world to share their messages of congratulations to the Geshema nuns.

Here are some of the many messages of congratulations that have been sent via mail, email, and social media.

“Thank you for studying and learning the dharma. In doing this you become a treasure for all beings.” Rebecca

messages to Geshema nuns

“Please convey my best wishes for successful completion for all participants. I am looking forward to hearing the results of this year’s examination. All their hard work, some learning to read and write, to reach this stage is amazing to me. The dedication, hard work & constant studying is impressive. I will keep all of them in my thoughts and prayers.” dgordon243

“Congratulations to all whose generosity makes learning and living possible for Tibetan nuns! Congratulation to the 20 nuns who have taken advanced exams! Congratulations to their teachers, too! We are so proud of each one you and your hard work. Thank you for your efforts and sacrifices to continue lifelong learning! With much love and encouragement,” Joy R., Northern California, USA

Geshema, Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan nuns, Buddhist women, Tibetan Nuns Project,

“Very happy for the nuns who are finally given this opportunity. I am sure the exams will be a success and a new and happy path for them and the ones who follow. I am with you, girls! Love and support from Maria (Portugal).” MariaLuís

geshema, Buddhist nuns, Tibetan nuns, Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan Nuns Project, Buddhist women, nuns education

Two of the many messages of congratulations to the Geshema nuns that we have received from supporters worldwide.

“One of the nuns I sponsor from Geden Choeling is sitting her final exams and my prayers are with her as always. She is so special, as are all the nuns. I know she will do well and I will be bursting with pride to call her Geshema when I see her in September.” Karen D. Continue reading

Tibetan Butter Sculpture

The art of making sculptures out of butter has been practiced for over 400 years by monks in the monasteries in Tibet. This highly revered artistic tradition is now being preserved by monks and nuns in living in India as refugees.

Tibetan nuns making butter sculptures for Losar

Tibetan nuns decorate a traditional offering box for Tibetan New Year or Losar with colorful butter sculptures.

Butter sculptures can be huge and impressive or tiny and intricate. They are used as offerings or as part of elaborate rituals and celebrations, particularly during Losar, Tibetan New Year.

Tibetan butter sculpture

A nun at Dolma Ling Nunnery in India makes an elaborate colored flower out of butter.

It is the practice in Buddhism to offer flowers as a tribute to Buddha statues on altars. However, in winter when no fresh flowers can be found, flowers sculpted from butter are made as an offering.

butter sculptures, Tibetan New Year, Losar, chemar bo

Elaborate and colorful butter sculptures of flowers and Buddhist sacred symbols decorate an offering table for Losar or Tibetan New Year. These sculptures were made by the nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery in northern India. In the lower left, you can see a sheep or ram made of butter.

Butter has always been highly valued in Tibetan culture. Its availability and its malleable quality in the cold climate of the Tibetan plateau and the Himalayas made it an ideal material for sculpting.

Tibetan butter sculpture sheep or ram

A Tibetan Buddhist nun creates a sheep out of butter as she learns the ancient art of making Tibetan butter sculptures.

Making butter sculptures requires painstaking skill, learned from an excellent teacher and through years of practice. Like the famous Tibetan sand mandalas, butter sculptures are a unique Tibetan sacred art that is handed down from teacher to student.

The increasing shortage of well-trained and skilled butter sculptors in Tibet means that it is crucial that in India the nuns learn this religious art as part of their course of studies in order to keep it from dying out.

Tibetan nuns at Dolma Ling learning how to make butter sculpture

Tibetan nuns at Dolma Ling learning how to make butter sculpture

At Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute in India, nuns have been learning how to make butter sculptures from their excellent teacher Gen. Karma-la. He carefully takes them through all the steps and the significance of each butter sculpture technique. He says the nuns make excellent students, with their keen sense of color and design, their nimble fingers, and their endless patience.

The Need for a Butter Sculpture Workshop

Creating butter sculptures in the hot climate of India is, as you can imagine, problematic. The workshop room must be cool and have access to cold water in which to lay the butter and cool the nuns’ fingers.

Until now, the nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery have been using a makeshift space at the nunnery that gets very hot. They are only able to make sculptures during the very coldest months. Now a suitable space has been located in the nunnery that, with renovations, will be ideal.

materials for Tibetan butter sculpture

Rounds of butter, dyes, and other tools for making butter sculpture are laid out in preparation for making butter sculptures for Tibetan New Year at Dolma Ling Nunnery.

The Tibetan Nuns Project is raising funds to help create a butter sculpture workshop at Dolma Ling Nunnery. The total cost of the project is US $2,500, but at the time of posting this blog $500 dollars had been raised, so only $2,000 is needed to fully fund the workshop.

To support the creation of the butter sculpture workshop you can:

  1. Make a gift online at https://tnp.org/butter-sculpture-workshop/
  2. Call our office at 1-206-652-8901
  3. Mail a check to:
    The Tibetan Nuns Project
    815 Seattle Boulevard South #216
    Seattle, WA 98134 USA

Thank you for your help in preserving this ancient art that, with the occupation of Tibet, is so under threat.

Giving the gift of prayer – pujas by Tibetan Buddhist nuns

Did you know that you can visit the Tibetan Nuns Project website to request special prayers, also known as pujas, to be said by the nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery in India on your behalf?

The nuns regularly perform a variety of pujas and also offer butter lamps for the benefit of others. People around the world can sponsor or request pujas in honor of a friend, family member, or even an animal who may be suffering from obstacles, ill health, or who has passed away.

Buddhist nuns saying prayers

This photo shows nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute in northern India saying sponsored prayers in 2013. Photo courtesy of Brian Harris

There are many different types of prayers or pujas to choose from, ranging from offering 100 butter lamps to the elaborate “Twenty-one Praises of Tara” which includes 100,000 recitations of the “Twenty-one Praises to Tara” prayer, renowned for removing obstacles and fulfilling wishes.

Tibetan nuns, pujas, Tibetan Nuns Project

Tibetan nuns preparing ritual offerings for a special puja.

Continue reading

Behind the scenes at Tibetan Buddhist nunneries

Here’s a chance for you to take a trip behind the scenes at some of the Tibetan Buddhist nunneries in India that are supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project.

Whether the nunnery is large or small, there are many tasks or chores that the nuns must do to ensure that they are as self-sufficient as possible and to make sure that the nunneries function smoothly and are well maintained.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns chores

Collage of some of the many tasks of the nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery in India, in addition to their studies and prayers.

In terms of regular tasks, one could view a nunnery as something like a cross between a very large household and a university or college. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of chores that need to be done each day, week, month, and year in order to keep everything running like a well-oiled machine. 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/

Tibetan Buddhist nuns go shopping with the new truck (with video)

This summer the nuns at Dolma Ling requested help to purchase a new truck that would allow them to manage their many transportation tasks.

Thanks to a special anonymous donor and to Alicia, Margaret, Karen, Swetlana, and Robert, we were able to purchase the small, multi-purpose truck. This blog post shows the nuns, through video and photos taken by the nuns themselves, on some of their many recent expeditions.

Buddhist nuns, Dolma Ling Nunnery, Tibetan nuns, shopping, Dolma Ling truck, Tibetan Nuns Project

The nuns leave for shopping

With 240 nuns at the nunnery, the nuns must travel often to buy vegetables and other food, as well as supplies for the their small shop, the nunnery’s tailoring section, for the tofu-making facility, and for the paper-recycling section. Continue reading

Our visit to Dorjee Zong Nunnery by Rinchen Khando Choegyal

This is a special report from Rinchen Khando Choegyal, Founder and Director of the Tibetan Nuns Project and Tsering Diki, Project Co-Ordinator. The beautiful photos are all by media nun, Delek Yangdron, who accompanied us on the trip.

Dorjee Zong Nunnery low resIn August 2015, we travelled for three days over rough, bumpy roads from Leh in Ladakh to Zanskar, a remote area in northern India. Located in this majestic, arid landscape is Dorjee Zong Nunnery, home to 19 nuns.

It was good to see the nuns and the nunnery once again. Since 2010 the Tibetan Nuns Project has been helping this small nunnery with sponsorship and a teacher’s salary, and it was wonderful to see the assistance we have been providing used to the fullest extent. The nuns are very happy to be receiving support and care from us and their sponsors.
Buddhist nuns, ladakh, Rinchen Khando Choegyal, Tibetan Nuns Project, nuns, sponsor a nun, Dorjee Zong, Buddhist nunnery

During our short visit, the Director gave a warm and personal talk to all of the nuns and we could see how inspired they were and how cared for they felt. This was encouraging and inspiring for those of us who are trying to work for them.nuns, Buddhist nuns, Dorje Zong Nunnery, Tibetan Nuns Project, sponsor a nun
There are 12 young nuns and 7 elder nuns. The younger nuns looked very bright and happy to be where they are, and we felt energized to help them even more. Our focus will be mainly on education, health care, and overall development, including setting up infrastructure for an education system and facilitating a good educational programme. Continue reading

2016 Tibetan Nuns Project Calendar

September is always an exciting time of year at the Tibetan Nuns Project because it’s the month when our annual wall calendar comes from the printer.

Tibetan calendar, 2016 calendar, Tibetan Nuns Project, 2016 holidays, Tibetan lunar calendar, 2016We’ve been selling our beautiful charity calendar since 1996 to raise funds to support hundreds of Tibetan Buddhist nuns living in India. All proceeds from the sale of the 2016 calendar will help provide food, shelter, health care and education to over 700 nuns living at seven nunneries supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project.

The 2016 calendar is filled with stunning images of Tibetan life and culture. It also includes:

  • inspirational quotes
  • the Tibetan lunar calendar
  • Tibetan Buddhist ritual dates
  • phases of the moon
  • major US and Canadian holidays

Tibetan Nuns Project, 2016 Calendar, 2016 dates, 2016 holidays, Tibetan lunar calendar, Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhist calendarAll the photos were taken by the nuns and staff in India. Dimension 6.5″ x 7″. Price $12.00

The calendar is available for purchase through our online store or by check from our Seattle office at:

Tibetan Nuns Project
815 Seattle Boulevard South #216
Seattle, WA 98134
Phone: (206) 652-8901
info@tnp.org

Please help us sell all 2,500 calendars by purchasing them as gifts for friends, family and teachers. We would be very grateful if you could also spread the word to your networks.

These calendars give back each and every day and bring happiness to you and the nuns.

Progress on our 2015 Wish List for the nuns

This spring we reached out to our supporters around the world with our Wish List of special projects that need funding in 2015.

We’ve had a wonderful response so far and we wanted to update you on our progress with the various projects and programs to help the nuns.

truck for Shugsep NunneryNew Truck for Shugsep Nunnery

Thanks to Andrea in Albuquerque, Lorena in Roanoke and about 20 other donors, we have raised all the funds needed to replace the nunnery’s old pick-up truck which had broken down. It was so old that there were no longer parts readily available and the brakes did not work. Shugsep Nunnery will now have a new, 4-seat pick-up truck with plenty of space to transport groceries and vegetables from the market, as well as other heavy materials. It will also be used to take nuns to hospital in case of medical emergencies.
FULLY FUNDED!

Tibetan Buddhist nuns cooking at Dolma Ling NunneryKitchen Extension for Dolma Ling Nunnery

Thanks to our generous supporters, especially Kent and Marsha in Charlottesville, the Saint Paul Foundation and Lisa in California, work is well underway for the new kitchen extension for Dolma Ling Nunnery. The number of nuns and staff that must be fed daily at the nunnery has more than tripled since the kitchen was first built in 1993. The extension will increase the size of the kitchen by 750 square feet and will also allow the nuns to move the solar panels and water tanks to its flat roof, thereby solving leaks and maintenance issues. We look forward to sharing more news and photos of the kitchen extension soon.
FULLY FUNDED!

Pulsar 180cc motorcycle needed by TNPBike for India Office

This is a new item on our 2015 Wish List. Our headquarters is located at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute in the foothills of the Himalayas about 10 miles on hilly roads from the main town of Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. It’s a challenge to get from A to B and the office is facing transportation problems. We would very much appreciate donations to help us purchase a simple, low-cost Indian-made motorcycle that would enable the Tibetan Nuns Project staff to accomplish their many official tasks.
AMOUNT STILL NEEDED: US $1,420

Tibetan Buddhist nuns carrying boxesTruck for Dolma Ling

Dolma Ling Nunnery is home to over 230 nuns and the nunnery needs a small, multi-purpose pickup truck to manage their daily tasks. The nuns must travel often for supplies and hiring or renting private cars or taxis for these regular shopping errands is expensive and impractical. The nuns will use the pickup to get food and vegetables from the market, to transport supplies for their many self-sufficiency projects and for various heavy-load materials. This kind of vehicle is more useful and safer than a normal rented car. Without a proper pickup truck with ample space and weight in the back, the steep hills of the area are dangerous and difficult.
AMOUNT STILL NEEDED: US $10,500

teaching Tibetan Buddhist nunsFunds for Teachers’ Salaries

Each year the Tibetan Nuns Project seeks to  fund 15 teachers at different nunneries. The cost of one teacher’s salary ranges from $1500 to $5000 per year, depending on the location of the nunnery in India and the skills of the teacher. Our special thanks to Janice in Menlo Park for her support of teachers’ salaries.
AMOUNT STILL NEEDED: US $2,844

Donate to Teachers’ Salaries Fund

Dolma-Ling-nuns-paintingNunnery Maintenance and Renovations

Since the Tibetan Nuns Project was founded in 1987, we have established two important nunneries in India, Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute and Shugsep Nunnery and Institute, both of which will have major anniversaries this year — 10 years and 5 years respectively. Maintenance and upkeep of the nunneries is critical in the demanding climate of northern India. By keeping buildings in good condition we can help avoid costly repairs in future. Our maintenance fund will help pay for things such as painting which must be done every 3 to 5 years and roof repairs.
AMOUNT STILL NEEDED: $10,340
Donate to the Maintenance Fund

Inter-Nunnery Debate Scholarships

This September marks the 20th anniversary of the annual inter-nunnery debate, the Jang Gonchoe. Until 1995, the Jang Gonchoe was only open to monks. Now the inter-nunnery debate provides a very important learning opportunity for the nuns and helps them to prepare for higher degrees and leadership roles. 
AMOUNT STILL NEEDED: $14,190
Provide scholarships to the Jang Gonchoe

Jang Gonchoe Endowment

Last year we created a special endowment to support the annual inter-nunnery debate, the Jang Gonchoe, in perpetuity. We received an initial gift of $35,000 from a nun living in France. A gift to the Jang Gonchoe Endowment Fund will help to preserve the Tibetan culture and open up a centuries-old tradition to the nuns, enabling and empowering them to become great teachers in their own right. The benefit of this is inestimable and will be an enduring legacy for generations to come.
AMOUNT STILL NEEDED: $238,000
Donate to the Jang Gonchoe Endowment

Sponsors for Individual Nuns

Thank you to all our new and existing sponsors! Sponsorship remains the heart of our work. We still need many more sponsors. If you’re already a sponsor, perhaps you would consider increasing the amount you are giving or supporting an additional nun. If you are not yet a sponsor, would you consider becoming one today? The cost for sponsorship is US $30 a month. Another option is to gather a group of friends, family, colleagues or sangha members and sponsor a nun together. Click here for sponsorship. 

Monthly donor for Tibetan Nuns ProjectMonthly Donors

It is now possible to make recurring gifts through our website using your credit card or direct debit. Even a modest gift of $5 or $10 a month would help educate, feed, clothe and provide health care for the nuns in India.
Become a regular donor

Creating Legacies

A special way that you can help generations of future nuns is by including a gift in your will to the Tibetan Nuns Project. If enough of our committed supporters are able to make these very special gifts then the nuns and nunneries will be able to thrive and grow well into the future, even in the uncertain situation of living as refugees in a foreign land. As one donor has said, “A donation to this cause benefits beyond helping just the nuns… it benefits the Tibetan culture, it benefits refugees from Tibet, it benefits education for women, it benefits the Buddhist religion and community and all of this spreads like a ripple of compassion for others beyond that community. This is not charity; it is an investment in humanity.” To learn how you can leave a legacy of compassion please email info@tnp.org or call us at 206-652-8901.

Thank you for your kindness, compassion and dedication to the nuns!