Sixth cohort of Tibetan nuns graduates with Geshema degrees in Bodh Gaya

- through Henry Oudin

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A graduation ceremony was held on Monday in Bodh Gaya, India, for the sixth cohort of geshemas. The group consisted of seven Tibetan Buddhist nuns, each earning the highest academic degree available in the Gelug tradition, considered equivalent to a doctorate. Kunga Gyaltsen, Additional Secretary for Religion and Cultural Affairs of the Central Tibetan Association (CTA), was present.

At the ceremony, Nangsa Choedon, director of the Tibetan Nuns Project, spoke about the work to ensure a strong future for Tibetan nuns. Ngawang Tenzin, the director of the Dolma Ling convent near Dharamsala, explained Geshema degree. After that, the certificates were distributed.

Le Geshema diploma, an equivalent of the male diploma Geshe degree, was only opened to women in 2012. As the Geshe degree, it takes years of study to complete.


The Tibetan Nuns Project stated in its newsletter:

Before the first graduation ceremony in 2016, many people doubted the ability of women to graduate on an equal basis with men. At the end of 2022, there were 53 Geshemas in the world. There is growing recognition and influence of the Geshemas in their convents and in the exile Tibetan community.

(Tibetan Nuns Project)

Kunga Gyatsen congratulated the new gehemas on behalf of the CTA. In his speech, he encouraged them to educate their local communities on fundamental Buddhist teachings. He also urged the new gehemas work within and beyond their monastic institutions to encourage participation in projects aimed at providing monks with the knowledge of modern science.

Le Geshema exams began over the summer, with a record number of 132 nuns in attendance. This is 38 more than the 94 nuns last year, which in itself constitutes a record level of attendance. Since the class of 2016, interest in the program has grown significantly.

The Geshema degree enables these dedicated women to take on various leadership roles in their monastic and secular communities reserved for degree holders and therefore previously not open to women.

(Tibetan Nuns Project)

The Tibetan Nuns Project also presented the following facts about Geshema degree:

• The Geshema degree is comparable to a doctorate in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy.

• This is the highest level of training in the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.

• The degree of Geshema is the same as the degree of Geshe for monks. The ending “ma” indicates that it refers to a woman.

• Until recently, this highest degree could only be obtained by monks.

• The historic decision to confer the Geshema degree on Tibetan Buddhist nuns was announced in 2012 by the Department of Religion and Culture of the Tibetan Administration, following a meeting of representatives of six major nunneries, the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics and the Tibetan Nuns Project.

• Candidates for the Geshema diploma are examined over their entire 17 years of study of the Five Great Canonical Texts.

• To begin the Geshema process, nuns must score 75% or higher in their studies to be eligible to take the Geshema exams.

• On December 22, 2016, His Holiness the Dalai Lama awarded 20 Tibetan Buddhist nuns with Geshema degrees at a special graduation ceremony held at the Drepung Monastery in Mundgod, southern India. India.

• In 2011, a German nun, Kelsang Wangmo, who spent 21 years training in India, became the first woman to receive the Geshe degree. This was before Geshema's graduation process was approved in 2012.

(Tibetan Nuns Project)

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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