Geshema Nuns of Jamyang Choeling
December 2016 marked the historical event when a group of nun became the first women Buddhist schloars in history to pass all the exams of Geshema degree, equivalent to the Doctorate (phD) in Buddhist philosophy.
Six nuns from Jamyang Choeling Nunnery were among the total of twenty nuns to receive their Geshema degree from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Meet the Geshema Nuns of JCI
Geshema Tenzin Lhadron
I was born in Zanskar region in Ladakh, Northern of India and lived with my parents until the age of 13. I have five sisters and two brothers and we all grew up in a very simple and remote semi nomad family. Upon receiving teachings and Kalachakara Initiation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Zanskar in 1988 I was lucky enough that my parents sent me to Dharamsala with another nun to get better education. I jointed at Jamyang Choling Institute (JCI), an Educational Project for mainly Himalayan Buddhist women in 1989. After more than 17 years, I completed my formal monastic education from (JCI) in 2005.
Due to His Holiness the Dalai Lama's blessing and unwavering support of His Holiness and many of my kind teachers for so many years I feel very fortunate to be among the 20 newly graduated Geshema (Equivalent to Doctorate in Buddhist philosophy) for the first time in Tibetan Buddhist History! The study program at Jamyang Choling Institute includes Buddhist Philosophy as core subject and Tibetan Language, poetry, histories and English as additional subjects.
I was also very fortunate to have had opportunities to take part in few international conferences, study tours, seminars in Asia, and Europe, North America and few Tibetan Religious and Gelung International conferences in India.
From 2009 to 2013 I took a month for each year intensive Science Workshop at Sarah College (close to Kangra Airport) provided by Emory Tibet Science Initiative. Two times Science Workshop provided by the Science for monks program for which I am honor to take part in creating an exhibition on Climate Change that consists of Parallel prospective both Buddhist and Modern Science.
I also had opportunities to serve as administration duties for many years at Jamyang Choling Institute, including seven years as Secretary or Assistant Director, two years as accountant, a year disciplinarian, and another year of chatting master and for a year of store keeper. While I was taking the responsible at Janyang Choling office, I had the wonderful opportunity to invite His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa Ugen Thrinley Drojee to observe the annual Tibetan nuns' debate in 2008 and His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV to bless the Institute and impart teachings and advice to the nuns in the year 2009.
Any successes that came in my life is due to the kindness and blessing of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and many of my philosophy teachers, friends and family who look after me so many years. I cherish and keep the bound between teachers, friends and family so deeply.
Currently I am participating Cultural Exchange Program at the University of California Irvine (UCI) through the UCI-Tibet Initiative from 3rd April to June 15th 2017! From the creation of drop of positive action, May His Holiness the Dalai Lama live long and may every World Spiritual teachers and teachings prevail on this earth to bring about Peace, Happiness and harmonious in the World.
Geshema Lobzang Choden
Tashi Delek! My name is Lobzang Chhodon. I was born in 1977 in Hansa village, in the District of Lahaul & Spiti in the northern part of the Indian Himalayas. I am the daughter of Mr Aangdak Dorje and Mrs Chhering Angmo. My parents are farmers. I have four brothers and two sisters. I'm in number five among them. My youngest brother is a monk and other brothers and sisters has got married. I have many cousins.
From the age of six to thirteen I attended the Government senior secondary school in Hansa village. Where I learned Hindi, English and mathematics etc. In 1989 at the age of thirteen my parents sent me to Dharamsala with the senior Spiti nun Ven. Jangchup Norzin from Gaden Choling Nunnery, to become a nun. Ven. Jangchup helped me to look for a place in a nunnery, and I was given a golden opportunity to study Buddhist philosophy at Jamyang Choling Institute.
With the other nuns I learned the five major Buddhist philosophy texts from the great teachers Geshe Dhamchoe Gyaltsen la, (Director of IBD), Geshe Wangdak la, (ex-abbot of Namgyal Monastery), Geshe Tsultim Gyatso la, (Director of Jamyang Choling Institute), Geshe Gyatso la (Senior teacher of IBD) and many other teachers.
In 1990 I had the opportunity to take the ordained novice vows from His Holiness the great 14th Dalai Lama. In 1995 the first nuns' debate session (Jang-gonchoe), organized by the Tibetan Religious Department and the Tibetan Nuns' Project, was held at Gaden Choling nunnery. I was given an opportunity to participate in the first Jang-gonchoe and received a glorious chance to debate in front of His Holiness The Dalai Lama.
Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo (Founder of JCI) was very inspirational for us all, and she gave us many opportunities. In 2002 she invited me to attend the Sakyadhita International Women's Conference in Taiwan. This was a wonderful chance to meet many strong women from different countries.
In 2005 I discovered a swelling in my throat which was caused by a thyroid problem. After an operation to remove the swelling, I lost my voice for eight months. Eventually, after consulting Tibetan and Western doctors, I was given some exercises to do which restored my voice.
In 2006 I got an opportunity to attend the Vinaya Holder's Conference on the revival of the lineage of Bhikshuni ordination in Tibetan tradition organized by the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala. In 2007 I participated in the International conference for Vinaya in Germany, and in 2009 I got an opportunity to attend the Mind and Life Conference in His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s palace in Dharamsala. Also in 2009 the opening ceremony for Jamyang Choling Institute (Gharoh) took place in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. At this ceremony I received certificates from the Minister of the Tibetan Religious Department, after successfully completing the study of the five major Buddhist philosophy texts.
I was also given an opportunity to study modern science for a month each year for four years. This was organized by Emory University and the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. In 2013. I was presented with the four year completion certificate in science by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As well as my studies, as a senior nun of Jamyang Choling Institute I was able to serve as part of the administration team, as a member of the Board of Directors, Accountant (6 years), Cashier (3 years), Secretary (3 years) etc. These responsibilities helped me to gain a lot of experience and confidence, and taught me many new skills to complement those which I had learned from the Buddhist philosophy texts
In 2008 the kind guidance of Jamyang Choling's Abbot I did the first Tsok-lang (reciting religious discourse to the assembly at a special meeting) in the nunnery on the occasion of the Tibetan New Year for world peace. In 2009 at the request of the nunnery I taught Buddhist philosophy to the junior nuns for four years. In 2012 in the presence of His Holiness The Dalai Lama, I had the opportunity to debate at the Monlam festival in the main temple, something which only monks had previously been able to do.
In 2013 with the kind advice of my teachers I joined the first ever Geshema examination course. In July 2016 the Geshema exams results were announced by the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration. I successfully pass all the exams for the Geshema degree, the equivalent to a Doctorate in Buddhist philosophy. In December 2016 I received my Geshema degree from His Holiness The Dalai Lama at the great Monastery of Drepung in Mundgod, South India, in conjunction with the celebration of the monastery’s 600th anniversary.
During this journey of more than twenty five years there have been both good times and obstacles. The ongoing courage and support of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, My teachers,Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo, parents, sponsors, friends, relatives have helped me to reach the Geshema. Without your support and guidance really I don't know where I'm today. Therefore, I want to give my heartfelt thanks to all these people.
I would like to say I will never lose you from my heart Jamyang Choling Institute! Without touching my awareness and senses, a lengthy more than 25 years has passed away from the first day I came to join this Institution. Within the ups and downs of those by gone times, Jamyang Choling changed me from the head to toe. It open my eyes to the world with the tools of non-violence knowledge and lighted up the ways with the candle of guidance. Healed my pains by love and brought smiles to my sorrowful face. From here, in this innovative education Institute, I found the direction of future and meaning of my life. And under its loving care, I grew up bright from dull and wise from fool. So, I love this Institute from my heart.
The introduction of the Geshema examination course has opened the way for younger nuns to be able to take their studies to a higher level. We the first Geshema will dedicate ourselves to supporting future generations of nuns. This will enable Jamyang Choling and other nunneries to continue to flourish and serve the world through the teachings of the Buddha. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama has stressed the importance of studying the classic texts composed by Nalanda masters and also often exhorted his followers to be a Buddhist of the 21st century said that he would prefer building learning centres than monasteries or temples. He pointed out that Buddhist practice is to use our intelligence to the maximum and transform our emotions.
The noble peace laureate also said, the 21st Century will be a peaceful time for the world, as long as people work together in a spirit of compassion, understanding and religious harmony. I pray that we will see the fulfilment of His Holiness' dreams. Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama and great teachers.
May all sentient beings be happy and may peace prevail on earth.
Geshema Rinchen Pal
My name is Rinchen Pal. I am from Tara village Zansker Nothern part of India. If I stay home then I don't understand Buddhism, so I decided that I needed to leave the village in order to study Buddhism otherwise. I would not have a meaningful life because without education human life is like a blind man.
I became a nun when I was 11 years old after that I lived few years in Bhutan there is one nunnery, but there is not any opportunity to study Buddhist Philosophy therefore in 1993. I joined in Jamyang Choling Institute and I began its formal classes on Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan Grammer.
I study five major texts in Geluk pa tradition, they are parjapramita, Madymika,logic,Abidarmakosa and Vinaya . Now our degree is finished and I think we are lucky, we have a good chance to study Buddhism and also I receive to His Holiness teachings often. I successfully completed 17 years course four major text in Jamyang Choling Institute 2011 before joining the Gehema course.
I am very happy that the first Gresham exam hosted at Jamyang Choling Nunnery and everything went very well in 2013. I was very nerves before the exams the first year and then second year, I felt quite satisfied afterwards and then 3rd year I got sick during exam time but my dharma friends help a lot because of their encourage I gave exam continue and finally today I completed the final exam without any obstacles and it went well, so with fellow 5 other nuns from Jamyang Choling I had the historic opportunity to join the four years Geshema examination (equivalent to Doctorate in Buddhist Philosophy) for four years from 2013-2016 affiliated by the Department of Religious and Culture Affair, CTA and Gelug International Association the distinction in the final year examination.
This is fulfilling the greatest and far vision of our Spiritual Guru His Holiness Dalai Lama and we deeply appreciate for her achievement for receiving the high level of obtaining the Degree from His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the Auspicious occasion of 600 years Founding Anniversary of Drepung Monastery in December 2016.
I think all nuns know about this course, which is supported by His Holiness as well as the Tibetan Central Administration. We are aware that this is vey historic time because it is the first nuns have taken up such high level studies. I think this encourage the young nuns to study hard and aim at doing this course. So this is something young nuns can strive for.
I would like to thank His Holiness the Dalai Lama, my teacher's supporters, Jamyang Choling Institute staff members and dharma friends who have donated their time, energy and generous and caring support for me.
Don't give in and don't give up
Do keep in mind that every effort
You make is step closer to achieving your goals.
With much universal love (of aspiration for the time being )
Geshema Lhamo Gurung
I am Lhamo Gurung from Mustang, Nepal. I lived with my parents and relatives until I was 13 years old. During this time, I was engaged in raising cows, sheep and working in the fields thus I didn't get the opportunity to study in school. Hearing the benefits of being a nun from my elder brother Lekshey Jangchuk, I got interested in becoming a nun. At the age of fourteen, I got ordained as holy place Lumbni Buddhas birth place during Sakya Monlam Chemo.་
After that I was taken to Dharamsala and was enrolled in Jamyang Choling Institute 1993. In the beginning, it was difficult to learn formal Tibetan language and grammar, as well as settling into a new environment. But I worked hard and after consistently learning Buddhist philosophy for years and years, I got the opportunity to have my Paramitha and Madhyamika Degree (equivalent to B.A and M.A) from the Ministry of Religion and Culture. I received my degree in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama during our nunnery's inaugural ceremony at 29, May, 2009. I completed my 17 years of studying Tibetan Buddhism in the year 2010. And in 2013 I was enrolled in first Geshema's course. After continuously studying for four years I was awarded the Geshema Degree on 22nd December 2016 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Drepung Monastery, South India. I feel myself fortunate to have had such a great opportunity. I have also been able to contribute in other ways. Apart from being a student, I have taken the responsibilities of working as a member of the administrative board, two times as discipline master as well as store keeper and cashier. I also guide and advise junior students with their studies and personal issues. I do my best to serve them as per my capability.
I look forward to using my knowledge to practice the dharma to benefit myself and others.
"Like earth, water, wind, fire,
Medicine and woods of the wild,
May all beings always find joy,
Freely and without obstructions.
(Geshema Lhamo Gurung Jamyang Choling Insitute March ,22,2017)
Geshema Tenzin Zangmo
Geshema Tenzin Zangmo’s life story.
I would like to write briefly about my life. My name is Tenzin Zangmo I was born on April 24th, 1969, in a village in the north of India called Kanam. This village is located in Himachal Pradesh, Distt. Kinnaur. My family name is Serpon. My mother's name is Wangchub Lhamo and my father's name is Abbhey Singh. They were both farmers. Both are still alive. I have three brothers and four sisters. Most of them have jobs and are married, and all their children go to school.
As a child, I was upset with my parents because they did not send me to school. I was a serious girl and my mother told me that married life would be difficult, whereas becoming a nun would be very good for me. Since I was destined to become a nun, I did not attend school. All but one of my sisters went, though at that time few girls went to school. If I had gone to school, I would have been able to study Hindi and English in my early years. Instead, my parents sent me to a nunnery where I learned about Buddhism.
I became a nun when I was 13 years old. At that time, I did not want to become a nun because I was so young and did not know which life path was right for me. However, my parents wanted me to become a nun because my aunt was a nun, and she had many books about Buddhism. My parents wanted to pass down these books to me so this tradition in our family would not be lost. They also believed that if I became a nun, I would look after them in their old age. My parents are Buddhists, but they do not know much about the philosophy behind Buddhism. I agreed to become a nun to fulfill their wishes.
In 1985, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was going to give the initiation of the Kalachakra Tantra in Bodhgaya, and my Geshe teacher advised me to attend. After the initiation, His Holiness was going to give getsul ordination to those who wanted it. My teacher told me it would be good for me to be ordained by His Holiness in such a holy place, so I decided to go to Bodhgaya, and I was given the ordination and name of Tenzin Zangmo. Ten of us from the same village were ordained together.
After we returned back home, I and other nuns realized that although we were ordained as nuns, we did not understand the deeper meaning of Buddhism. We sent a letter to my cousin, Tenzing Choezing, who was studying at Geden Choeling Nunnery in Dharamsala, to see if there was space for us to come. Unfortunately, there was no space. However, Tenzin Choezing told us that nearby was an American nun, Ven Karma Lekshe Tsomo, who had some land and who might allow us to join her. She was contacted and she agreed.
And so, Tenzin Deden and I went to Dharamsala, and were introduced to Ven Karma Lekshe Tsomo. She had some rooms for us to stay in, but room and board were not free. She could only give a salary to our teacher when he came to visit. I studied continuously and also earned my keep by doing chores to keep the nunnery running. I already knew the Tibetan U-chen, the language used in the scriptures, but I needed to learn how to read and write in Tibetan U-med; and after one year I started to study Buddhist philosophy. After some time more nuns came to stay and Ven Karma Lekshe Tsomo made it possible for all of us to be able to stay there free of charge. That’s when Jamyang Choling Institute was established.
At that time, the conditions were not like now; the rooms the nuns were staying in were very damp and cold, because of which some nuns got sick, including me. My life was seriously threatened by a grave disease all over my body and at times I couldn’t move. I was taken back home where the weather was more favorable, but it took more than a year and a half for me to recover and be able to come back to my studies. However, a few months later my illness relapsed and it became more serious. I was taken to Shimla Government Hospital for treatment which was not successful. Then I was taken care of by an Ayurvedic doctor in a village near by Shimla where I was successfully treated for about three months. Following the treatment I came back and caught up with my studies again. As I recall those events now, the feeling I remember about that time was like a return from death. This is
just an example of how harsh and difficult the nuns’ journey is and how determined we are to reach our goal.
This summary of my experiences reveals examples of the traditional life stories of many other nuns: the support of my mother, the companionship of other nuns, the encouragement of a village lama, and the traditional lack of schooling for a nun-to-be. But two elements were different from what my teachers’ generation experienced: the opportunity to receive nun’s vows from the Dalai Lama in India and the chance to join a nunnery offering a modern monastic curriculum – not only in Tibetan grammar and philosophy but also in debate, traditionally not taught to nuns, and English.
It took me almost twenty years to complete my Sutra studies, which are mainly about the five major texts. During that time, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave nuns the opportunity to study further for the Geshema degree, which I decided to do. In order to earn my Geshema degree, along with 19 other nuns from Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and the Himalayan region, I had to review those five major texts again for four years. The final examination was successfully held in May 2016 in Geden Choeling Nunnery in Dharamsala. My next aspiration is to deepen my studies about Tantra which will take another couple of years to complete.
For the first time in history the Geshema Degree will be given to 20 nuns by His Holiness Dalai Lama at Drepung Lhachi in South India, in December 2016.
Buddhism is very suitable for me and I know how fortunate I am to have met the Buddhadharma and to have had an interest in learning about it in depth. But I don’t know much about other traditions; therefore I cannot say that Buddhism is best for everyone. It depends upon one’s interest and aspirations.
Since I am a Buddhist nun, I must know well what it means to be a Buddhist and to be able to explain Buddhism to others. Although achieving a Geshema degree is a great accomplishment, I think the most important thing is to put the Buddha dharma into practice. I know that a proper understanding of the Buddhist teaching is difficult; moreover, putting those teachings into practice is even more difficult. But as we Buddhists practice the Buddha dharma, we hope that one day we will become enlightened, in order to free ourselves from the endless sufferings of samara and to help others free them through following the path we teach.
Here I would like to thank His Holiness the Dalai Lama from whom I was given the opportunity to study all those precious Dharma texts, and to complete my studies. I always keep in my mind His Holiness’ teaching of not harming any other living being and to be kind to everyone, and try as much as possible to implement this into my practice.
Finally, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as well as to Ven Bhikshuni Karma Lekshe Tsomo, and to Ven Gen Damchoe, Ven Gen Gyatso, and all my spiritual teachers who opened my eyes into the blissful world of the Dharma. I also want to thank Khen Rinpoche from Jamyang Choeling Institute, and the staff; as well as all my parents, relatives, sponsors and friends for their continuous support and help in many different ways, during this long and arduous journey.
May all the Dharma teachers live long and the Dharma teaching ever increase; and may all sentient beings abide in Buddhahood very soon.
May His Holiness live long and all his wishes be fulfilled!
Geshema Tenzin Zangmo
Jamyang Choling Insitute, Dharamsala, 2017
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