Tibetan Nuns Project

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Tibetan Nuns Project
Tibetan Nuns Project logo.jpg
Founded1991 [1]
Type Nonprofit organization
Website http://tnp.org/

The Tibetan Nuns Project is a non-profit organization founded in 1987 dedicated to educating and supporting female Buddhist monastics in India from all Tibetan Buddhist lineages. [2] It supports nuns interested in study and higher ordination. [3] The mission of the Tibetan Nuns Project is to educate and empower nuns of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition as teachers and leaders; and to establish, strengthen, and support educational institutions to preserve the Tibetan religion and culture. The organization supports seven nunneries and over 700 nuns in India.

India Country in South Asia

India is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

Tibetan Buddhism is the form of Buddhism practiced in Tibet where it is the dominant religion. It is also found in the regions surrounding the Himalayas, much of Chinese Central Asia, the Southern Siberian regions such as Tuva, as well as Mongolia.



Gompas (Buddhist convents) have historically been well established in Tibet, certainly from the twelfth century and with traditions reaching back as far as the eighth century. Before the Chinese invasion in 1949, there were at least 818 nunneries and nearly 28,000 nuns living in Tibet. Traditional education in the nunneries included reading, writing, and lessons in ancient scriptures and prayers taught by the senior nuns or lamas from monasteries. Traditional activities for the nuns included performance of rituals requested by the lay community and crafts such as embroidery and sewing. Administrative and maintenance tasks were rotated so that all nuns gained experience in running the nunnery.

Gompa Buddhist monastery

Gompas, Gönpas, or Gumbas, also known as ling, are Buddhist ecclesiastical fortifications of learning, lineage and sādhanā that may be understood as a conflation of a fortification, a vihara and a university associated with Tibetan Buddhism and thus common in historical Tibetan regions including parts of China, India, Nepal, Ladakh and Bhutan. Bhutanese dzong architecture is a subset of traditional gompa design. A gompa is a meditation room where practitioners meditate and listen to teachings.

Vihara Sanskrit and Pāli term for a residence, monastery usually Buddhist

Vihara generally refers to a monastery for Buddhist renunciates. The concept is ancient and in early Sanskrit and Pali texts, it meant any arrangement of space or facilities for pleasure and entertainment. The term evolved into an architectural concept wherein it refers to living quarters for monks with an open shared space or courtyard, particularly in Buddhism. The term is also found in Ajivika, Hindu and Jain monastic literature, usually referring to temporary refuge for wandering monks or nuns during the annual Indian monsoons. In modern Jainism, the monks continue to wander from town to town except during the rainy season (Chaturmas), the term "vihara" refers their wanderings.

In recent years, due to the repressive conditions in Tibet, an influx of nuns have arrived to join the refugee communities in India and Nepal. Ranging in age from pre-teen to mid-eighties, these nuns come from all parts of Tibet and from many different backgrounds. Upon arrival in India, many nuns are suffering severely from the stresses of their long, arduous and often dangerous journeys of escape. Some have faced torture and imprisonment at the hands of the Chinese authorities in Tibet and are enduring immense physical and emotional pain. In most cases, the nuns arrive without money or possessions.

Nepal A landlocked country in the Himalayas

Nepal, officially Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked country in South Asia. It is located mainly in the Himalayas, but also includes parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. With an estimated population of 26.4 million, it is 48th largest country by population and 93rd largest country by area. It borders China in the north and India in the south, east and west while Bangladesh is located within only 27 km (17 mi) of its southeastern tip and Bhutan is separated from it by the Indian state of Sikkim. Nepal has a diverse geography, including fertile plains, subalpine forested hills, and eight of the world's ten tallest mountains, including Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. Kathmandu is the capital and the largest city. Nepal is a multiethnic country with Nepali as the official language.

In the mid 80s, under the auspices of the Department of Religion and Culture of the 14th Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Women's Association, the Tibetan Nuns Project (TNP) was established to assist the refugee nuns from Tibet as well as to improve the overall status and level of ordained Tibetan women. The main objectives of the project are to provide basic care for these women, and educate them in traditional values and philosophy, as well as the essential skills and knowledge needed to function in the modern world. The Tibetan Nuns Project also works to establish a role for ordained women as teachers and leaders comparable to that of monks.

14th Dalai Lama Current Dalai Lama

The 14th Dalai Lama is the current Dalai Lama. Dalai Lamas are important monks of the Gelug school, the newest school of Tibetan Buddhism, which was formally headed by the Ganden Tripas. From the time of the 5th Dalai Lama to 1959, the central government of Tibet, the Ganden Phodrang, invested the position of Dalai Lama with temporal duties.

Tibetan Womens Association organization

The Tibetan Women's Association(TWA) is a women's association based in McLeodGanj, Dharamshala, India. The group was officially formed on 10 September 1984 in India, by Rinchen Khando Choegyal, a former Tibetan Youth Congress activist, although the group itself claims that a precursor was created in Tibet during the 1959 Tibetan Rebellion. Stephanie Roemer traces the organization back to the Lhasa Patriotic Woman's Association, founded in 1953 by the People's Liberation Army, which introduced the idea of women participating in politics, which was "radical" to Tibet.

The Tibetan Nuns Project works to:


Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute, built and fully supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project, was the first institute dedicated specifically to higher education for Tibetan Buddhist nuns. It is open to nuns from all traditions. Upon graduation from a nineteen-year program, the nuns will be thoroughly trained in their Buddhist tradition and will be eligible to receive a Geshe degree (Geshema for women), equivalent to a Ph.D. in Tibetan Buddhism.

Geshe or geshema is a Tibetan Buddhist academic degree for monks and nuns. The degree is emphasized primarily by the Gelug lineage, but is also awarded in the Sakya and Bön traditions. The geshema degree is the same as a geshe degree, but is called a geshema degree because it is awarded to women.

Shugsep Nunnery, a Nyingma nunnery, was re-established in India and is fully supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project. The nunnery traces its lineage back to some of the greatest female teachers in Tibetan Buddhism. Upon completion of a nine-year academic program, nuns receive a lopon degree (equivalent to a M.A.) and may then do research towards obtaining a khenpo degree (equivalent to a Ph.D.). These nuns will then be able to give the full Nyingma teachings to other monastics.

Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism

The Nyingma tradition is the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. "Nyingma" literally means "ancient," and is often referred to as Ngangyur because it is founded on the first translations of Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Old Tibetan in the eighth century. The Tibetan alphabet and grammar was created for this endeavour.

Lopon is a spiritual degree given in Tibetan Buddhism equal to M. A.

The term khenpo, or khenmo is a degree for higher Buddhist studies given in Tibetan Buddhism. In the Nyingma, Kagyu, and Sakya traditions, the title is awarded usually after a period of 13 years of intensive study after secondary school. It may roughly translate to either a bachelor's degree, or nowadays more likely to a terminal degree in Buddhist Studies equivalent to a PhD or MPhil. The degree is awarded to students who can publicly defend their erudition and mastery in at least five subjects of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, namely Prajñāpāramitā, Madhyamaka, Pramāṇa, Abhidharma, and Vinaya. After successfully passing their examination they are entitled to serve as teachers of Buddhism.

Gaden Choeling Nunnery, a Gelug institution, is the oldest Dharamsala nunnery.

Karma Drubgyu Thargay Ling or Tilokpur Nunnery, a Kagyu institution, provides scriptural and ritual training and has a basic study program.

Sherap Choling in the Spiti Valley has 45 resident nuns who have begun a rigorous course of study, the first of its kind for women of that region.

Sakya Nuns Institute in Mundawala near Dehradun will offer the full course of studies followed by the monks of Sakya College.



The Project is primarily funded by generous donations from individuals and organizations. Institutional funding has come from the Heinrich Böll Foundation of Germany, the Norwegian Tibet Committee Women's Group and the Norwegian organizations Fokus and Norad, the Swedish foundation Soir-IM, the American Himalayan Foundation, Rigpa Foundation of London, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Hershey Family Foundation, and the Betsy Gordon Foundation.


The sponsorship program is funded by individuals world-wide through monthly or yearly contributions. The sponsorships provide food, shelter, medical care, and education to the nuns. Sponsors receive a photo and biography and contact information for the nun(s) that they sponsor.


Additional funding is provided by the sale of handmade traditional Buddhist items such as malas, prayer flags, kataks, and a printed calendar with photographs.

See also

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  1. "Tibetan nuns thrive in exile". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. August 29, 2005. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  2. Tibetan Nuns Project | About Us from the organization's website
  3. "North Caldwell native treks to northern India to see Dalai Lama". The [Caldwell] Progress. August 27, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-30.