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Engaged Buddhism: Ven. Pomnyun Sunim and JTS Korea Support Buddhist Nunneries in Bhutan

All images courtesy of JTS

The revered Korean Dharma master and Buddhist activist Venerable Pomnyun Sunim (법륜스님) and volunteers from the Buddhist humanitarian relief organization JTS Korea have been running a collaborative project from December 2023–March 2024 to support female monastics across to the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.

Working together with the Bhutan Nuns Foundation (BNF), which operates under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdoen Wangchuck to educate and empower Buddhist nuns in Bhutan, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim and the team from JTS prepared winter supplies for distribution to national bhikshuni training institutions to help the women residing and practicing there cope with the harsh winter climate.

Ven. Pomnyun Sunim established the humanitarian relief organization Join Together Society (JTS) as an expression of the compassion of engaged Buddhism, and based on the principle that helping others is the best way to enrich one’s own life. Charged with bringing hope, empowerment, and self-reliance to underprivileged communities in developing countries, JTS is run and manned by unpaid volunteers, who ensure that all donations benefit marginalized communities. JTS carries out relief work in countries suffering from humanitarian disasters, and has engaged in humanitarian projects in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. The relief organization has also earned Special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Above: Ven. Pomnyun Sunim in Bhutan. Right: Ven. Pomnyun Sunim meets Dr. Tashi Zangmo, executive director of the Bhutan Nuns Foundation

In close cooperation with the BNF, JTS lent support to 1,585 young nuns across 36 nunneries, supplying essentials that included 590 winter jackets, 500 pairs of socks, 500 blankets, and 1,239 pairs of shoes. JTS also provided sports equipment to support the physical well-being of the young monastics.

In addition to seeing bright smiles light up the faces of the young Buddhist nuns as a result of to their assistance, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim and JTS also received numerous messages of gratitude for their efforts.

“Thank you for providing winter blankets to the nuns,” said Ani Pema from Neylung Nunnery. “I am pleased that they will help protect against the cold season. We are grateful to everyone who has helped the sisters.”

Remote, landlocked, and perched in the rarified air of the eastern Himalaya, the Kingdom of Bhutan, sandwiched between two political and economic heavy-hitters India and China, is the world’s last remaining Vajrayana Buddhist country. The ancient spiritual tradition is embedded in the very consciousness and culture of this remote land, where it has flourished with an unbroken history that dates back to its introduction from Tibet by Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, in the eighth century.

“For the past four years, we have wanted to purchase sports equipment such as table tennis sets, but were unable to due to financial constraints,” observed senior monastic Khenpo Namgyel at Karma Leksheyling Shedra in the city of Paro. “We are grateful to JTS for providing sports equipment for our young nuns.”

Ani Wangmo from Samdrup Jongkhar in Bumthang noted: “There was no one to sponsor winter and sports equipment. JTS has been a great help to the nuns living in remote areas. This sports equipment will help maintain their health and contribute to an active daily life. We are thankful to Ven. Pomnyun Sunim for his warm support.”

In a message shared with BDG, JTS said that it planned to “continue its steadfast support for the educational environment of Buddhist nuns in Bhutan.”

Ven. Pomnyun Sunim is a widely revered Korean Dharma teacher, author, and social activist. He has founded numerous organizations, initiatives, and projects across the world, among them: JTS Korea, an international humanitarian relief organization working to eradicate poverty and hunger; Jungto Society, a volunteer-based community founded on the Buddha’s teachings and dedicated to addressing modern social issues that lead to suffering; Ecobuddha, an organization focused on environmental ethics and sustainable living based on the teachings of the Buddha; and Good Friends, which promotes reconciliation and cooperation between the North and South Korea, and provides humanitarian aid to North Koreans. Ven. Pomnyun Sunim also works closely with the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB).

In October 2020, the Niwano Peace Foundation in Japan presented the 37th Niwano Peace Prize to Ven. Pomnyun Sunim in recognition of his international humanitarian work, intensive environmental and social activism, and his tireless efforts to build trust and goodwill between communities of different faiths and cultures, toward the goal of world peace.*

Buddhist Monk Ven. Pomnyun Sunim Awarded the 37th Niwano Peace Prize (BDG)

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Pomnyun
Jungto Society
JTS Korea
JTS America
The Bhutan Nuns Foundation

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