Tibetan Nuns Project:

The following article is from the Summer, 1993 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.


Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute

The Tibetan Nuns Project was initiated in Dharamsala, India, in 1987 as a centralized entity for channelling assistance to Tibetan nuns in exile. It operates under the auspices of the Tibetan Women's Association and the Department of Religion and Culture of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile.

The primary goal of the Tibetan Nuns Project has been to improve the educational level of the nuns, seeing education as the key to providing these women with the resources leading to eventual self-sufficiency and improved status within the Tibetan community. However, education is only possible when the basic necessities of food, shelter, and health care have been provided.

During the past two years approximately 200 nuns have arrived in Dharamsala from Tibet. One large group spent two years on a pilgrimage from Eastern Tibet to Lhasa. When they were denied access to the religious sites of Lhasa by the Chinese authorities, they fled to India. Many others are from the Lhasa area, where the monks and nuns have been instrumental in leading the demonstrations against the Chinese , presence. Because they have provided courageous leadership, retaliation against them has been brutal; many have been imprisoned and tortured, and even those who have not been politically active have found their nunneries closed down and their freedom to practice religion denied. Those who flee to India arrive with no resources at all, into a community whose existing support structures are already severely overtaxed by .the continuing influx of refugees.

The Tibetan Nuns Project has been able to meet the immediate needs of the newly arrived women through an international sponsorship program that is providing enough funds to supply them with food, basic health care, a preliminary educational program, and temporary shelter. However, the housing shortage in Dharamsala is critical and the housing that is available for rent is inadequate. The nuns are living in overcrowded conditions without bathing or toilet facilities and only the most rudimentary of kitchens.

The Tibetan Nuns Project has developed a plan to construct a new facility that will provide both adequate housing and the facilities to put a strong educational program in place. The plan also calls for the implementation of income-generating projects that will enable the nuns not merely to become self-sufficient but also to take on leadership roles within the Tibetan community.

Dolma Ling, as the new facility is known, will be a combined nunnery and institute for higher studies. The nunnery will concentrate primarily on providing the most recent refugees from Tibet with a basic education. The model curriculum will focus on basic education in Tibetan language, education in English that will include the basics of a modern education, and Buddhist philosophical study. As this program is tested and refined, it will be made available to other nunneries in the refugee community who are also struggling to improve their educational level.

The institute for higher studies will be the first-ever non-sectarian educational facility for Tibetan Buddhist nuns. This institute will be open to women from all nunneries and will offer advanced training in traditional Buddhist topics as well as in leadership, teaching, community service and traditional arts.

Given the desperate need for funding, Kalon Rinchen Khandro Choegyal, President of the Tibetan Women's Association, will be taking a personal leave from her post in the Cabinet (Kashag) of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile to come to North America on a fun-draising tour. Together with Dr. Elizabeth Napper, she will speak in the following cities during the month of September: Seattle (Sept. 1-2), Vancouver (3-4), Calgary/Edmonton (5-8), New York/ Washington (12-16), Charlottesville, VA (17-18), Mexico City (19-23), Los Angeles (23-24), Santa Barbara (25-26), and San Francisco (Sept.28-Oct.l).

For more information, please contact The Tibetan Nuns Project, P.O. Box 374, San Geronimo, CA 94963.

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