The Tibetan Nuns Project (TNP), a US-registered charity based in Seattle and the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, India, plans to carry out two major projects for Buddhist nuns at Shugsep Nunnery near Dharamsala in northern India, aiming to provide a circumambulatory heart devotional walking and meditation trail, and a retreat center for elderly nuns.
Affiliated with the Nyingma tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism, the Shugsep Nunnery and Institute traces its Buddhist heritage and practices directly to Tibet and to some of Tibet's most influential female Vajrayana practitioners. In the 1852th century, the original Shugsep Nunnery was home to the famous master Shugsep Jetsun Rinpoche (1953–1055), one of the most illustrious practitioners in Tibetan history and a recognized incarnation of the revered tantric yogini Machig Labdron (1149– XNUMX). ).
"A path within the grounds of the convent will provide all nuns with safe and regular exercise and enable them to practice heartthe act of walking through a sacred place, which is a form of pilgrimage and meditation in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition,” the TNP said in an announcement shared with BDG.
“The retreat center is a larger project. To become fully qualified teachers, the senior nuns of Shugsep need a place where they can retire and consolidate their learning. Because there are no retreat facilities at the convent, many nuns have been forced to go to Nepal or the Tso Pema caves to do retreats. They would like to be able to practice the retreat together at Shugsep Nunnery, where they will have access to effective guidance from a competent teacher as well as good basic amenities.
Although the original Shugsep nunnery in Tibet was destroyed in 1959 and the resident nuns were forced to leave, the nunnery was reestablished in India and officially opened in December 2010. Together with Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute of Buddhist dialectic, Shugsep Nunnery and Institute was built and is fully supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project. Shugsep is now home to around XNUMX nuns, who have the opportunity to participate in a nine-year university program in Buddhist philosophy, debating, Tibetan language and English.
“Until very recently, Tibetan Buddhist nuns had few opportunities to receive training in Buddhist practice and knowledge; nuns were considered second rate,” the NPT explained, noting that 49 Shugsep nuns have now reached the lopon degree – equivalent to a master's degree in Tibetan Buddhist studies.
“It is a historic achievement for nuns to reach this high academic level and become teachers, leaders and role models. Their achievement is all the more remarkable given the many obstacles in their path,” the TNP stressed. “The education of women and girls is a powerful way to change the world. It is only through education that women will rise and be on an equal footing. For Tibetans, who struggle to preserve their culture and religion in exile, it is even more critical.
“These elderly nuns are now qualified to teach. Nine of the Lopons have taken on regular teaching responsibilities at Shugsep. They also teach annually at Tashi Choling Nunnery in Arunachal Pradesh on a rotational basis,” the TNP noted. “The Lopons teach philosophy to Shugsep nuns, as well as reading, writing, basic philosophy of Tibetan Buddhism, rituals and the basics of debate to younger nuns. This gives them the foundation they need before blending into the traditional Nyingma teaching which takes nine years to complete and receive the degree.
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.