The Tibetan Nuns Project (TNP), a US-registered charity based in Seattle and in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh, India, has shared a progress report on its efforts to transform the 700-year-old Tibetan Buddhist nunnery of Dorjee Zong in the Zanskar region of Ladakh, northern India, for the benefit of the resident nuns.*
“In August 2022, a team from the Tibetan Nuns Project office near Dharamsala traveled for several days over hazardous roads from Leh to Zanskar,” the TNP said in a recent update shared with BDG. “The team wanted to check on the nuns’ welfare and the progress of various projects at the nunnery, including the major construction project started in 2019.”
The TNP reported that construction work on a two-story hostel building has been completed, despite delays experienced due to pandemic-related restrictions, and by conditions during the harsh winter months.
“The ground floor is now being used as students’ quarters, sufficient for the current number of students,” the TNP said. “The top floor is being used as the school office, dining hall, staff quarters, and meeting room. Once other facilities are complete, the entire building will be used to accommodate future students.”
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 teaching and nurturing accomplished meditating nuns—some of whom have attained profound realization, among them Khandroma Yeshi Lhamo, also known as Jomo Shelama.
The high-altitude monastic center is now home to 20 nuns, including seven elder nuns, the eldest of whom are 90 years old. The youngest nuns receive primary education up to Grade 5 onsite. Around nine of the nuns who have completed 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 monastic and lay girls a chance for education that they would not otherwise have. The nunnery was accepted into the Tibetan Nuns Project’s sponsorship program in 2009.
“The seven elder nuns live at the ancient nunnery on the hilltop. They spend most of their time reciting mantras and circumambulating the sacred site. They also take care of their field and greenhouse to stock up supplies for the harsh winters,” the TNP explained. “The younger nuns live and study in the lower and newer part of the nunnery.”
The TNP also shared that progress has been made on the construction of a three-story kitchen and prayer hall building. The lower level of the new building houses a large dining hall, while the hall on the first floor will be used for prayers, workshops, meetings, and teachings. Adjacent to the pray hall, the TNP plans to provide a library and computer room for the students.
“The nuns have been able to get a water connection with the help of the local government,” The TNP added. “This is very beneficial for the elder nuns as well as for the school. A water storage tank is being set up at the nunnery and the nuns’ committee will see what else needs to be done.”
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 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 more information ways to support the work of the Tibetan Nuns Project and Dorjee Zong Buddhist nunnery, click here.
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