The Tibetan Nuns Project, a US-registered charity based in Seattle and in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh, India, has shared news of its remarkable progress in the process of renewal and transformation at the 700-year-old Tibetan Buddhist nunnery of Dorjee Zong in the Zanskar region of Ladakh.
A renovation and reconstruction project begun in 2019 is now nearing completion, the charity announced, bringing a multitude of benefits to the resident nuns and staff of the monastery, with progress on amenities including a nunnery school with seven classrooms to accommodate 50 students; a new residential block; a new kitchen, dining hall, and storeroom; a prayer hall; an office building; and a new toilet and bathroom building.
“Until recently, the buildings at this 700-year-old nunnery were very basic. There was just one classroom and one main building that was used for everything,” the Tibetan Nuns Project said in an announcement shared with BDG. “Dorjee Zong is now going through an exciting transition and major construction project thanks to generous donors.”
Dorjee Zong was founded in the 14th century by Master Sherab Zangpo, a senior disciple of Tsongkhapa Losang Drakpa (c. 1357–1419), or Je Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. The center has a long tradition of accomplished meditating nuns, some of whom have attained high levels of realization, among them Khandroma Yeshi Lhamo, also known as Jomo Shelama.
The high-altitude monastic center is now home to about 20 nuns, the eldest of whom are in their 80s. The youngest nuns receive primary education up to Grade 5 onsite. Around nine of the nuns who have completed their Grade 5 education attend classes at the nearby government school.
Girls and women in the region have traditionally received far fewer opportunities for education than their male counterparts, and the nunnery offers them a chance for education that they would not otherwise have. The nunnery was accepted into the Tibetan Nuns Project’s sponsorship program in 2009.
“Despite the pandemic, this summer work continued on the construction of the new buildings, including the housing blocks, the kitchen, the classrooms, and so on,” the Tibetan Nuns Project stated. “In the summer of 2021, 20 workers were employed on the project. Although the construction season at this altitude is very short, there was a lot of work done including: plastering of the exterior and interior second story of the main building; carpentry work for the dining hall, kitchen, classroom, library, and prayer hall; making cupboards, chairs, tables, and little study tables for the young nuns; plumbing for the kitchen and bathrooms; and windows for the classroom, staffroom, and second story.”
Donations since 2019 have also funded the purchase of a school bus, which enables the younger nuns to make the roughly 20-kilometer round trip to the government school, where they can continue their education beyond Grade 5.
“The bus is providing a wonderful service not just for the nuns but also for young girls going to and from school,” the Tibetan Nuns Project shared. “In 2020, due to the pandemic, the Indian schools were closed for some time. Now they are open again and the nuns are going back and forth to school using the bus. Thank you to everyone who has supported the expansion project and the bus!”
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 more information ways to support the work of the Tibetan Nuns Project and Dorjee Zong Buddhist nunnery, click here.
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