Women's Freedom and Spiritual Liberation

The following article is from the Spring, 1999 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

The Nuns of Khachoe Ghakyil 1999 North American tour

by Julia Milton

Beginning in April 1999, ten Tibetan Buddhist nuns from a nunnery in Kathmandu, Nepal, will take part in a series of public performances of sacred art, dance and music in Oakland, California. The ten nuns, who are from Khachoe Ghakyil Nunnery (KGN), will then spend the next nine months traveling throughout the United States and Canada to present Women's Freedom and Spiritual Liberation. This ground-breaking tour of sacred Buddhist performance by ordained women is an historical first: never before has a troupe of Tibetan nuns gone on tour in the West to stage performances of sacred music, dance, theater, debate and sand mandala creation, and to introduce audiences to the central role women have played in the spiritual life of Tibet.

The performance

The ten performing nuns were chosen specifically for their talents in the ritual arts.

The nuns' performances will include:

I. several performances of sacred dance, such as the Dance of the Dakinis in which the guru is entreated to remain, and the world premiere of an original sacred dance dramatizing the life of Milarepa;

II. the creation of the sand mandalas of Medicine Buddha

III. a melodic demonstration of the Acutting practice of Chod;

IV. the practice of formalized monastic debate, used within Gelukpa monasteries (and, increasingly, nunneries) to help sharpen the mind and to clarify one's understanding of Buddhist teachings;

V. performances of ritual sadhanas, public talks and panel discussions, and many other events.

Life at Khachoe Ghakyil Nunnery

Known also as the Kopan Nunnery, Khachoe Ghakyil began in 1979 with one mm, and has since grown to a lively community of nearly 200 ordained women. KGN, one of a new generation of nunneries established in exile, was founded under the direction of the late. Lama Yeshe, spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT). Although making ends meet has always been a struggle for the KGN nuns, they have had the benefit of a range of training hitherto reserved for their brother monks. They share their study curriculum with the monks of affiliated Kopan Monastery; the program includes classical Buddhist monastic education in philosophy and debate, training in the ritual arts of music, dance, thangka-painting and sand mandala construction, and academic study in such topics as English and mathematics

This not-for-profit tour is dedicated to cultivating an awareness of Tibet's unique cultural heritage, with a special emphasis on sharing the extraordinary accomplishments of this youngest generation of Tibetan Buddhist nuns. However, it is also intended to raise funds for the struggling nunnery back in Kathmandu (currently housing 200 female monastics from ages 13 to 40), so that additional facilities can be built for the many applicants waiting to join the nunnery. To help the community flourish, the nuns are eager to find a way to sustain their growing ranks with food, medicine and shelter, and to permit their educational opportunities to continue to expand. At present, there is no independent funding for the nunnery, and the financial future of the nunnery has been consistently precarious.

For more information on the tour and the nuns of Khachoe Ghakyil, please visit the tour webpage at <http://members.tripod.com/~Lhamo/Nuns/index.htm>. If you are interested in helping the nuns or would like to host them in your town, please contact tour organizer Ven. Thubten Dekyong by e-mail at <Dekyong@compuserve.com>. ä_æ

Back to all Snow Lion Articles