Wandering Western Buddhist Nuns Aim to Plant Permanent Roots
A group of four Spanish-speaking Buddhist nuns from around the world—Columbia, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, and the United States—are seeking help this month to begin the process of establishing a permanent home in the US. The four have created the Dharmadatta Nun’s Community, or Communidad Dharmadatta, and have lived together for more than a decade without a home monastery. This month they launched a fundraiser to begin laying the legal groundwork for a future dwelling place.
They write: “We dream of a stable home for Buddhist nuns, a place for prayer, contemplation, and retreat for women from all walks of life, all races, all geographies.” (Go Fund Me)
The nuns, Lhundup Damcho, Tenzin Nangpel, Tenzin Dapel, and Karma Lodrö Lhadron first presented their plans for a uniquely Western and nun-led community in a 2009 meeting with His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje.
The Karmapa has emerged as a leading voice in the Tibetan Buddhist community as an advocate for female monastics. He has taken up the responsibility of restoring full ordination for Tibetan nuns, writing:
In order to uphold the Buddhist teachings it is necessary to have the fourfold community (fully ordained monks (gelongs), fully ordained nuns (gelongmas), and both male and female lay precept holders). As the Buddha said, the fourfold community are the four pillars of the Buddhist teachings. This is the reason why I’m taking interest in this. (Kagyu Office)
Summarizing their 2009 letter to the Karmapa on their website, the four nuns write: “We have begun living together, slowly trying out structures for community life that are both in accordance with the vinaya and suited to our backgrounds and Mahayana aspirations. We do this with the dream of building the foundations for a larger monastic community in the future.” They continue: ““For us as Westerners, this may take some experimenting, and we are committed to working together to find the right balance so that a strong, stable and harmonious community can slowly take shape. In the long term, we aspire to help create a community where nuns from many different countries can move toward enlightenment together. We wish to construct a beautiful and flourishing platform on which to benefit others in ways we ourselves cannot now even imagine.” (Dharmadatta)
The group has lived as wandering monastics since then, primarily in communities in India and Mexico. And while this has allowed for a growing international community of students and supporters, the travel has taken its toll on their health. In their current fundraiser, the nuns aim to collect money to establish a non-profit organization in the US. The costs for filing and legal fees, they estimate, will be just under US$3,000. Once the non-profit is established, the group aims to find land for a physical home together and to further develop their existing online offerings.
Those online programs, developed over their years traveling the world, include a free Dharma study program, online meditations, and regular YouTube videos answering questions and offering basic teachings on Buddhism in Spanish.
The nuns write about their future ideal dwelling place: “We imagine working with other women to reforest denuded fields and reconnect fragmented habitats, reciting prayers and mantras as we plant. We invite you to take this first step with us, and hope to welcome you one day to meditate together and help us plant tall trees!” (Go Fund Me)
As of this writing, the fundraising campaign has reached US$1,025 of its goal of US$2,750.
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