Tibetan Nuns Project
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The Tibetan Nuns Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and supporting female Buddhist monastics in India from all Tibetan Buddhist lineages. It supports nuns interested in study and higher ordination.
Gompas (Buddhist convents) have historically been well established in Tibet, certainly from the twelfth century and with traditions reaching back as far as the eighth century. Before the Chinese invasion in 1949, there were at least 818 nunneries and nearly 28,000 nuns living in Tibet. Traditional education in the nunneries included reading, writing, and lessons in ancient scriptures and prayers taught by the senior nuns or lamas from monasteries. Traditional activities for the nuns included performance of rituals requested by the lay community and crafts such as embroidery and sewing. Administrative and maintenance tasks were rotated so that all nuns gained experience in running the nunnery.
In recent years, due to the repressive conditions in Tibet, an influx of nuns have arrived to join the refugee communities in India and Nepal. Ranging in age from pre-teen to mid-eighties, these nuns come from all parts of Tibet and from many different backgrounds. Upon arrival in India, many nuns are suffering severely from the stresses of their long, arduous and often dangerous journeys of escape. Some have faced torture and imprisonment at the hands of the Chinese authorities in Tibet and are enduring immense physical and emotional pain. In most cases, the nuns arrive without money or possessions.
In the mid 80s, under the auspices of the Department of Religion and Culture of the 14th Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Women's Association, the Tibetan Nuns Project (TNP) was established to assist the refugee nuns from Tibet as well as to improve the overall status and level of ordained Tibetan women. The main objectives of the project are to provide basic care for these women, and educate them in traditional values and philosophy, as well as the essential skills and knowledge needed to function in the modern world. The Tibetan Nuns Project also works to establish a role for ordained women as teachers and leaders comparable to that of monks.
The Tibetan Nuns Project works to:
- Contribute to the preservation of Tibetan cultural and religious traditions.
- Improve the health and living conditions of Tibetan nuns in exile.
- Provide traditional as well as modern education for Tibetan women.
- Provide highly educated female teachers to the Tibetan Buddhist community and the world at large.
- Establish self-sufficient convents.
Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute, built and fully supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project, was the first institute dedicated specifically to higher education for Tibetan Buddhist nuns. It is open to nuns from all traditions. Upon graduation from a nineteen-year program, the nuns will be thoroughly trained in their Buddhist tradition and will be eligible to receive a Geshe degree, equivalent to a Ph.D.
Shugsep, a Nyingma institution, was also built and fully supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project, and traces its lineage back to some of the greatest female teachers in Tibetan Buddhism. Upon completion of a nine-year academic program, nuns receive a lopon degree (equivalent to a M.A.) and may then do research towards obtaining a khenpo degree (equivalent to a Ph.D.). These nuns will then be able to give the full Nyingma teachings to other monastics.
Sherap Choling in the Spiti Valley has 45 resident nuns who have begun a rigorous course of study, the first of its kind for women of that region.
Sakya Nuns Institute in Mundawala near Dehradun will offer the full course of studies followed by the monks of Sakya College.
The Project is primarily funded by generous donations from individuals and organizations. Institutional funding has come from the Heinrich Böll Foundation of Germany, the Norwegian Tibet Committee Women's Group and the Norwegian organizations Fokus and Norad, the Swedish foundation Soir-IM, the American Himalayan Foundation, Rigpa Foundation of London, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Hershey Family Foundation, and the Betsy Gordon Foundation.
The sponsorship program is funded by individuals world-wide through monthly or yearly contributions. The sponsorships provide food, shelter, medical care, and education to the nuns. Sponsors receive a photo and biography and contact information for the nun(s) that they sponsor.
- List of organizations of Tibetans in exile
- Tibetan Women's Association
- Elizabeth Napper
- "Tibetan nuns thrive in exile". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. August 29, 2005. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
- Tibetan Nuns Project | About Us from the organization's website
- "North Caldwell native treks to northern India to see Dalai Lama". The [Caldwell] Progress. August 27, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-30.