In the remote Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh in northern India, lies Sherab Choeling Nunnery, currently home to 42 Tibetan Buddhist nuns, many of whom are sponsored by Tibetan Nuns Project supporters.
Sherab Choeling nuns in 2006
The nunnery is very secluded and lies in the village of Morang (between Manali and Tabor) at 4,000 meters altitude. It was built in 1995 by 20 nuns and their teacher with the intent of addressing the problem of the inadequate education of women in the region. 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. In 2006, Sherab Choeling Nunnery approached the Tibetan Nuns Project to help develop their institution and we accepted them into our sponsorship program.
Earlier this year we received lots of photos of daily life at the nunnery that we wanted to share with sponsors of the nuns and with all the Tibetan Nuns Project donors worldwide.
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 nun teaching a woman in Spiti
Sherab Choeling Nunnery 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.
Sherab Choeling is a non-sectarian nunnery that recognizes the beauty and value in all Buddhist traditions. 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, 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.
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.
This year started with 14 new nuns in the nunnery including three 5-year-olds. Along with Tibetan classes, the younger nuns are also taught mathematics and Hindi up to 5th standard, after which the nuns are introduced to English language classes.
The 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.
This year, the nuns were able to do more work to complete the new prayer hall. Construction of the prayer hall began several years ago but was suspended in 2012 for lack of funds. The new prayer hall is nearly finished with plans to turn the old nunnery block into a small 3-room retreat center for the nuns.
Several years ago, people from the nearby village donated a piece of land to the nuns where the nuns can grow spinach, beans and potatoes. With help of volunteers, the nuns have been able to set up three greenhouses where they mostly grow spinach. The head nun has also donated her share of a field to the nunnery so the nuns have been able to grow peas and wheat.
The nuns take a one-month annual holiday, during which most return to their families in nearby villages.
We’d like to thank all our sponsors of nuns at Sherab Choeling for their support. We still need more sponsors. To sponsor a nun please visit https://tnp.org/youcanhelp/sponsor/