The Tibetan Nuns Project (TNP), a US-registered charity based in Seattle and in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh, India, has announced that an ambitious initiative to expand and improve the debating courtyard for the Buddhist nuns of Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute of Buddhist Dialectics has been completed.*
According to a report from TNP, the expanded courtyard offers 60 per cent more covered area—an additional 2,500 square feet (232 square meters)—providing shade and shelter for the nuns during their daily monastic debate practice.
“The nuns are already using the courtyard for their daily debates. Monastic debate is of critical importance in traditional Tibetan Buddhist learning. Through debate, nuns test and consolidate their classroom learning. Without training and practice in debate they are unable to attain higher academic degrees such as the geshema degree,”* the TNP said in an announcement shared with BDG. “This big project was kindly funded by Tibetan Nuns Project donors. We are extremely grateful to the donors and the entire team for their hard work and dedication, which has resulted in this elegant structure, totally in keeping with the original design.”
Inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2005, Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute of Buddhist Dialectics is located in Kangra Valley near Dharamsala in northern India. The nunnery was the first institute dedicated to higher Buddhist education for Tibetan Buddhist nuns from all traditions, and is fully funded by the TNP.
Some 260 nuns are fully engaged in study, practice, and nunnery work at Dolma Ling, as well as organizing self-sufficiency projects, such as tofu-making and producing handicrafts. In 2013, 10 of the Dolma Ling nuns made history when they took part in the first-year geshema examinations.
“Over the years, the number of nuns at this large non-sectarian nunnery has increased to over 260 nuns,” said the TNP. “The existing debate courtyard was too small and at least two-thirds of the paved area was open to the elements, so many nuns were forced to debate in the open under the hot sun. When it rained, as it does throughout the summer monsoon season, the unprotected space was unusable.”
Improvement works for the courtyard began in January 2022, with expansion and construction taking place in two phases. The completed project now includes steel roofing and enclosed areas to protect the upper courtyard from rain, and with sliding windows for ventilation during hot weather. Additional stone seating has also been added. The second phase has seen the addition of an extended roof over the expanded debating area.
“Dolma Ling is unique because it offers a 17-year curriculum of traditional Buddhist philosophy and debate, as well as modern courses in Tibetan language, English, basic mathematics, science, and computer skills,” the TNP explained. “Training in Buddhist debate, the extensively practiced method for examining philosophical, moral and doctrinal issues, is an essential part of monastic education in the Tibetan tradition. Until recently, Tibetan nuns did not have the opportunity to fully study and practice Tibetan Buddhist debate, a process that uses logical enquiry to build a deeper understanding of Buddhist philosophy. The Tibetan Nuns Project has worked hard to make this opportunity available to nuns by including debate as a core part of their education, which enables them to extend their use of logic and deepen their understanding of the arguments asserted in the texts they are studying.”
The Tibetan Nuns Project provides education and humanitarian aid to refugee nuns from Tibet and Himalayan regions of India. Established under the auspices of the Tibetan Women’s Association and the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration, the TNP supports hundreds of nuns from all Tibetan Buddhist lineages and seven nunneries. Many of the nuns are refugees from Tibet, but the organization also reaches out to the Himalayan border areas of India, where women and girls have little access to education and religious training.
For information on ways to support the work of the Tibetan Nuns Project, click here
* The geshema degree is the highest academic degree in Gelugpa tradition. Like the geshe degree for male monastics, it is roughly equivalent to a PhD in Tibetan Buddhist studies. The rigorous exams take four years to complete, with one set held each year.
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