The 8th Arya Kshema of Karma Kagyu Monastic Women was held in Bodh Gaya

- through Henry Oudin

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Nuns gather at Tergar Monastery in Bodh Gaya. Image by Arya Kshema Facebook

Following the conclusion of the 38th Kagyu Monlam on January 25, 2024, His Eminence the 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche, Pema Donyo Nyinje (also known as Guru Vajradhara), inaugurated the 8th Arya Kshema of the nuns on January 28. Organized by Kun Kyong Charitable Trust, it will last a little over a month until February 29.

Held at Tergar Monastery in Bodh Gaya, the same location as the Kagyu Monlam, the first day of the spring gathering was attended by Tai Situpa, with a purification ceremony by Kyabje Chungpo Galton Rinpoche and Kyabje Drunpon Dechen Rinpoche at the Maha Bodhi temple. , followed by religious offerings, servings of traditional butter tea and rice, and a prayer for the liberation of all beings.

Tai Situ Rinpoche inaugurates the 8th Arya Kshema on January 28, 2024. Image by Arya Kshema Facebook

The Arya Kshema is an annual gathering of nuns or monastic women, held every winter. It was inaugurated in 2014 by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. As such, the majority of participants were from Karma Kagyu nunneries, although other Kagyu lineages and Vajrayana Buddhist schools were welcome. The Arya Kshema aims to elevate the learning experience and study of Buddhist philosophy and debate to the same level as that of monks with a curriculum based on the same textbooks used by male monks. This program was compiled personally by the Karmapa and a team of scholars and Shedra students. (Arya Kchéma)

The official website of the Arya Kshema specifies that during this program, the Karmapa (who still cannot go to Bodh Gaya for the Kagyu Monlam) will give teachings on the Fifty verses on the Guru by webcast. During this month-long program, there will also be a debate competition (which began on the second day) between competing nuns from five convents. They debate the classic topics of Tibetan Buddhist dialectics, including "collected topics, classifications of evidence, mind and consciousness" (Arya Kshema). The program will also include many other Dharma activities, including the end-of-year Mahakala puja, a Losar celebration, Tibetan New Year and bids for Tara, Tseringma and Chöd.

Nuns on the first day on January 28 at the Maha Bodhi temple. Image by Arya Kshema Facebook

This winter gathering was named by the Karmapa after the bhikkhuni/bhikshuni of the same name, the “Noble Kshema”, the most important of the female disciples of the historical Buddha. She represents the constant cause that inspires nuns to become more educated and more confident, and to build on the emerging resources that have been historically denied to them. The event website states:

Furthermore, the Arya Kshema is part of an ongoing strategy to empower nuns and encourage them to take on more responsibility both within their own nunneries and, more broadly, in accordance with Buddhist teachings. Each year, one of the participating nunneries takes responsibility for organizing the Arya Kshema, and the chöpons, chant leaders and musicians are provided by another.

(Arya Kchéma)

The nuns practice group debate. Image by Arya Kshema Facebook

It is important to note that the participating nuns are not fully ordained. bhikshunis. They are often called anisealthough it has been suggested that Vajrayana nuns are called cho-la (practitioner) or tsun-ma (reverend) due to the fact that ani can be used in the overtly affectionate context of "aunt". The Gyalwang Karmapa's initiative is currently attempting to reintroduce bhikshuni lineage (gelongma) in the Karma Kagyu tradition, although this remains a work in progress due to issues with reintegrating the full lineage within the tradition. Mulasarvastivada Vinaya (the code of monastic law followed by Tibetan schools) and the monastic policy that accompanies it.

See more

Arya Kshema Facebook
Chamgon Tai Situ Rinpoche inaugurates the 8th Arya Kshema in Bodhgaya (Arya Kshema)
Speech by Guru Vajradhara Kenting Tai Situ Rinpoche to the nuns at the inauguration of the 8th Arya Kshema on January 28, 2024 (Facebook)

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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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