Dalai Lama holds special audience with Geshemas in Dharamsala

- through Henry Oudin

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His Holiness the Dalai Lama granted a special audience at his residence in Dharamsala on May 17 to a group of Tibetan Buddhist nuns, all gehemas of three Tibetan nunneries in India: Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute, Geden Choeling Nunnery and Jangchub Choeling Nunnery.

During the auspicious gathering, His Holiness, who has long been an advocate for the education and empowerment of female Buddhist monks, urged the nuns to use their learning as Buddhist scholars to become teachers. , emphasizing gehemas that they should focus on life and practice with a sincere compassionate mind and heart for the benefit of all beings.

"Also present at the event were Nangsa Chodon, Director of the Tibetan Nuns Project India and Deputy Director Tsering Diki," the Tibetan Nuns Project (TNP), a US-registered charity based in Seattle and the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, India, said in an announcement shared with BDG.

Le Geshema is the highest academic degree in the Gelugpa tradition and has only recently been made available to Buddhist nuns. geshe degree for male monks, it is roughly equivalent to a doctorate in Tibetan Buddhist studies. The rigorous examinations last four years, with a series held each year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Geshema exams have been canceled in 2020 and 2021.

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The following translation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Teaching for Nuns was prepared by Dechen Tsering, Board Member of the Tibetan Nuns Project, and is presented here with the kind permission of the TNP:

Now you all must continue to study the Buddhist scripture well. In order to get gelongma (women gellong) one must generally have the lineage of Gelongma. Nevertheless, (the) Buddha granted access to his teachings to all – it is not limited to male monks – so take the opportunity to study the scriptures well and achieve Geshema. Study the scriptures carefully and benefit the world (with your knowledge and insight). There are many people in some parts of the world who previously had no idea about Buddhism and now show great interest in the Buddha's teachings. Therefore, by becoming gehemas, it would be very beneficial if you became teachers now. So do your best! Have peace of mind.

Remember that we Tibetans originally descend from the Avalokiteshvara lineage, so visualize that at the top of your head is Avalokiteshvara and you move through the world to have a good heart and think only to do good to others – never to hurt others. If you do this, the blessings of Avalokiteshvara will follow you life after life. I am like the messenger of Avalokiteshvara. Thus, we of the people of the Land of the Snowy Mountains (Tibet) are devoted followers of Avalokiteshvara and have a special relationship with Avalokiteshvara. So develop the Buddha's compassionate heart and do your best for the benefit of others and make a contribution for the benefit of others. Many people are interested in Buddhism these days, so if you do your best to help them, I will be very beneficial. So do your best!

Inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2005, the Dolma Ling Convent and Institute of Buddhist Dialectics is located in the Kangra Valley near Dharamsala in northern India. The nunnery was the first institute dedicated to Buddhist higher education for Tibetan Buddhist nuns of all traditions, and is fully funded by the TNP.

Geden Choeling, located in McLeod Ganj, is the largest and oldest Buddhist nunnery in India. Since 1975, the center has provided safe haven to a steady stream of refugee Tibetan nuns. There are currently 175 nuns in residence, including a number of elderly nuns who are cared for by their younger colleagues. The nunnery was founded by a group of nuns who fled the destruction of the Nechung Ri Nunnery in Tibet. In collaboration with nuns from elsewhere in Tibet, they founded Geden Choeling, which means "house of the virtuous who devote their lives to Buddhadharma". (Tibetan Nuns Project)

Jangchub Choeling Nunnery was founded in Mundgod, in the southwestern Indian state of Karnataka, in 1987, under the vision of the Dalai Lama to preserve Tibetan culture and heritage, as an educational institution enabling women of all ages to study the Buddhist scriptures of the Nalanda tradition. The first resident nuns attended the Central Tibetan School to study secular subjects during the day and practiced Dharma in the evenings. In 1989, two geshesGeshe Konchok Tsering and Geshe Khenrap Dhargay of Gaden Shartse Monastery, began teaching Buddhist philosophy to resident nuns twice a week.

“Fifty-three nuns hold the Geshema degree from November 2022,” the TNP explained. " THE gehemas pave the way for other nuns to follow in their footsteps. This degree makes them eligible to take on various leadership roles in their monastic and lay communities reserved for degree holders and therefore previously not open to women.

Title geshe was first awarded to esteemed masters of the Kadampa tradition, such as Geshe Chekawa Yeshe Dorje (1102-1176). The diploma is the highest form of training in the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. The first female monastic to qualify for the Geshema the title was German nun Kelsang Wangmo, who was ordained in India in the early 1990s.

The Tibetan Nuns Project provides education and humanitarian aid to refugee nuns from Tibet and the 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, the TNP supports hundreds of nuns from all Tibetan Buddhist lineages and seven convents. Many of the nuns are refugees from Tibet, but the organization also extends to the Himalayan border regions of India, where women and girls have little access to education and religious training.

For more information on ways to support the work of the Tibetan Sisters Project, Click here

* The Central Tibetan Administration took this unanimous and historic decision on May 19, 2012 after a two-day meeting in Dharamsala attended by high lamas, representatives of nuns from six nunneries and members of the 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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