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Tibetan Nuns Project: First Group of Khenmos Enthroned at Sakya College for Nuns

From left: Khenmo Kunga Woetso, Khenmo Kunga Paldon, Khenchen Sonam Gyatso, Khenpo Ishey Tsering, Khenmo Ngawang Yangga. Image courtesy of the Tibetan Nuns Project

The Tibetan Nuns Project, a US-registered charity based in Seattle and in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh, India, has announced that the first group of Tibetan Buddhist nuns were enthroned as khenmos at Sakya College for Nuns on 14 June—Saga Dawa Duchen. The most sacred day in the Tibetan lunar calendar, Saga Dawa Duchen is the full moon day of the fourth lunar month, Saga Dawa, and commemorates the birth, awakening, and mahaparinirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha.

“The three khenmos who were ceremonially enthroned on 14 June are: Khenmo Kunga Paldon, Khenmo Kunga Woetso, and Khenmo Ngawang Yangga,” the Tibetan Nuns Project said in an announcement shared with BDG. “The program was done in the gracious presence of His Eminence Asanga Vajra Sakya Rinpoche. The khenmos will now be able to take on the responsibility of producing qualified students and further dedicating their lives to the service of Dharma.”

The khenmo degree for female monastics (khenpo in the masculine), is roughly equivalent to a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy in the Sakya, Kagyu, and Nyingma schols of Tibetan Buddhism. The degree and title are usually awarded after 13 years of intensive post-secondary study. Comparable to the academic titles geshe (masculine) and geshema (feminine) in the Gelug and Bon schools, the khenmo degree is awarded to students who successfully demonstrate their erudition and mastery in at least five fields of study: Prajnaparamita, Madhyamaka, Pramana, Abhidharma, and Vinaya.

Image courtesy of the Tibetan Nuns Project

“The criteria nuns must meet to receive the khenmo title are as follows: one should be a nun; one should have at least studied for at least 10 years and completed the lopon degree (a spiritual degree given in Tibetan Buddhism equal to a master of arts) with distinction; one should have enough experience in teaching, and be able to teach the 18 renowned scriptures of philosophy in the Sakya tradition (Tib: གྲགས་ཆེན་བཅོ་བརྒྱད།),” the Tibetan Nuns Project said. (Tibetan Nuns Project)

Inaugurated in September 2009, Sakya College for Nuns was established under the guidance and blessings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Holiness Sakya Trichen to serve as a dedicated institute where Buddhist nuns of the Sakya school can study for up to 15 years to become fully qualified masters and teachers. Located in Manduwala, Dehradun District, in the northern India state of Uttarakhand, the college is home to about 63 nuns.

“Historically, Tibetan nuns have not had the same access to educational opportunities as monks,” the Tibetan Nuns Project noted. “These dedicated women, denied equal access to education and the opportunity in Tibet to freely and safely practice their faith, are teachers and leaders of the future. Sakya College for Nuns is one of the seven institutions in India supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project.” (Tibetan Nuns Project)

Prayer ceremony preceding the khenmo enthronement. Image courtesy of the Tibetan Nuns Project

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, it supports hundreds of nuns from all Tibetan Buddhist lineages living in nunneries and elsewhere in India. 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 had little access to education and religious training.

For information how to support the Tibetan Nuns Project, click here.

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Tibetan Nuns Project
Sakya College for Nuns (Tibetan Nuns Project)

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