Tibetan Nuns Debate For Dalai Lama

The following article is from the Winter, 1996 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

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by Thubten Chodron

I began hearing rumors the morning of Sunday, October 8th that nuns were going to debate in the courtyard in front of the main temple in Dharamsala and that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was to be there to observe. There were many nuns in McLeod Ganj at the time; the major nunneries in India and Nepal were having their first ever inter-nunnery debate. The fact that the best nun debaters had gathered for the month-long debate session demonstrated the degree of improvement in the education of Tibetan nuns that has occurred in the last decade.

At 4PM nuns, monks, and laypeople gathered in the courtyard. The nuns were already debating on one side, and their voices and clapping hands, a mark of debate as done in Tibetan Buddhism, filled the place. Suddenly there was a hush and the nuns who had been debating went onto the stage in the pavilion where His Holiness' seat was. His Holiness soon came out, the nuns prostrated and were seated. In all the many years I have been in Dharamsala, this was the first time I had seen nunsand so many of them at thatseated on the stage when His Holiness was present. We chanted the Praises to tire 21 Taras, and the debate began. Four nuns, the respondents, sat in front of His Holiness, and over the next two hours 12 to 15 nuns stood up to debate with them. Some nuns spoke softly, others spoke loud and clear. They must all have been nervousI certainly would have beenbut they quickly got into the rhythm. A couple of them were so animated, with the foot stamping and hand clapping typical of debates, that everyone had to laugh. Throughout the entire two hours, His Holiness listened attentively as he considered the Buddhist philosophical topics the nuns were discussing. The principal teachers and lamas were also present on the stage; they too were listening carefully. When dusk arrived, the debate had to close.

Afterwards the nuns were very excited. This debate session was a first for the nuns, and it had gone very well. They gained confidence in themselves and earned the respect of the community. Two days later, His Holiness gave an audience to the nuns in which he affirmed that he was very pleased with them. ä_æ

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