Pilgrimage to the Main Buddhist Sites, December 2011 to Feb. 2012
We left Leh for Delhi on 19th December. At Indira Gandhi airport we saw the moving walkway for the first time and I felt afraid to walk on it, but finally I could walk on it. Namgyail, from the Japanese temple, came to receive us. We made our sleeping arrangements and some of the nuns went to the bazaar to shop. Delhi is not such a good area because of pollution and dirty water.
The next day we went to visit the Lotus Temple and Bhadarpur market. At the Lotus Temple we could see a lot of water; it was blue because of marble reflection. In the market there were lots of people and so many shops, for clothes, utensils, junk food. We rode in the metro – it was very clean and beautiful. We also rode in a lift. Today I felt little bit happy and also my health is good and fun.
On the 21st we went to visit Qutub Minar, the National Museum, Indira Gandhi Museum, Rajghat, India Gate and the Red Fort. Qutub Minar is 238 feet high (5 feet less than the Taj Mahal) and it has 379 steps. I saw lots of new things in the Indian National Museum; the main things were the Holy Relic of the Lord Buddha and a Ladakhi trumpet, of copper and brass, which was made in the 20th century. There were lots of things from the Harappa civilisation.
I liked the Indira Gandhi Museum the most. It is because I saw lots of new and interesting things in it: her living room, study and dressing room. I also saw the dress which she was wearing on the day of her murder. She was killed by her bodyguard.
In the Gandhi Museum we saw different life styles where he faced difficult problems. There are models of Gandhi and his wife Kasturbai, made of clay. They looked real! I also saw models of the boycott and the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. In my opinion he had a simple and non-violent life. In Rajgat Bhavan we saw the ‘samiti’ , grave of Gandhi with ‘Hai Ram’(Oh God!) written on it .
India Gate is for Amar Jhawan, that means it was built for those soldiers who lost their lives in the world wars. A fire burns for eternity.
In the Red Fort we saw different ancient things and lots of flowers, meadows and birds.On Thursday, 22 December, it was our turn to cook after we chanted and prayed for our journey to Bihar and Bodh Gaya. Next day we left the Japanese Monastery and went to the railway station. We spent the whole night on the train. On the way we saw different kinds of villages and their life styles. During the night, one family had their luggage stolen in the sleeper car.
We stayed in the Bangladesh Temple. Next day, after having local chapatti and milk tea for breakfast we went to visit the Stupa (the Mahabodhi Stupa). And the famous Bodhi tree. I saw Ghonpo Londup in the middle of the water tank and Ashoka pillar. I also saw the statue of Tara: it is said that she spoke just once, saying she wanted to be in the Buddhist area and different kinds of flowers and trees. There were many people in the area, all of them were chanting, prostrating, offering, circumnambulating (doing ‘chora’). We also circumnambulated and prostrated. I felt very lucky and thanked his Holiness the Dalai Lama for everything.
The next day, Monday, we got up at 5 o’clock and went to Stupa (Mahabodhi); we went again in the evening. Dr Palmo gave us a teaching about Buddhism.
On Tuesday we went to Gurpa Path (Hill) in the mountains. We saw statues of Phakpa Thongmad (Maha Kassapa) and his foot prints. There were also Hindu statues, such as Ganesha and Sarasvati. There was a big stupa inaugurated by HH Gwalwang Karmapa in 2009. We ate local chapatti and achar (pickle) and took pictures. There were many people and we felt a little bit afraid. In the evening we visited the Karmapa Monastery, which is near our residence. Again the next day we went to Mahabodhi at 5.30 and did (circumnambulating the stupa) and prostrations. We had rice and dhal for lunch, then visited more monasteries.
Next day we got up at 4.30 and made breakfast before getting ready for our pilgrimage to …. Unfortunately the bus came late. We climbed a mountain for one hour; there were many Hindu and Tibetan people there, but the statues were Hindu. There were many little shops on the way. Some of the Tibetans placed flags on the mountain and sang songs.
Next day we visited Shanti Stupa in Rajgir and the remains of Nalanda University. We travelled one hour in the bus. We had samosa and tea at a tea stall, then we took the ropeway (chair lift) to the top of the hill. We rode on a small wheel chair – I felt very afraid. At Shanti I circumnambulated the stupa and the Tara mantra. I put the prayer flag which my mother sent on ‘Vulture’s Peak’. There were many beggars on the way and many Tibetans gave them charity.
On Saturday, 31 December, we had breakfast, prayed and then went to the shops to buy ice cream, dates and holy thread. Dr Palmo gave us a class about the Buddhist epic, Rinchen Ghunlog. On Sunday we rose at 4.30 to get ready for His Holiness’ teaching, the Kalachakra. We had to line up at the main gate of the teaching area; the lines were very long but finally we reached security and they checked everyone. His Holiness arrived at 10.30. He taught dharma to us and then wished us a happy new year.
The next day it rained so we couldn’t attend the teachings. In the evening Dr Palmo explained the teachings to us, telling us that we were lucky to be given the Kalachakra here in Bodhgaya as it was equal to receiving it elsewhere seven times. In the 21st century we should try to understand the meaning of Dharma and try to dissolve our egos, not just recite mantras. The Buddha said that he had shown us the path to enlightenment and it was our job to follow the path of Dharma, or not. Today I felt very happy and lucky, because today is the New Year and we received teachings from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on the first day of 2012. I hope this year will be very special for us.
On the Wednesday we recited the Prajnaparamita which the Buddha gave at Rajgir, for all sentient beings to have peace, harmony and security. The security at the teachings was very strict: we were not allowed to carry mobile phones or cameras.
Today was a very auspicious day for all the Tibetans and the world as the South African Etta Gandhi (the Mahatma’s granddaughter) presented the Gandhi Prize to His Holiness. He said he was the first person who is ready to follow the path of non-violence and peace. Today also the Khalon Tripa (the leader of the exile government) gave a speech about Tibetan monks aged 19 and 20 giving their lives for freedom in Tibet.
On another day of the teachings a foreigner spoke about the Dalai Lama’s latest book, “Ethics beyond Religion”. The Dalai Lama said love, peace and compassion are very important in our lives, whether you follow the path of religion or not. Inner peace depends on having a warm heart. Anger, sadness and fear are bad for your health.
We received very sad news, that Jigmet Lhazes’ our friend nun’s mother had died. She is 49 years old. We all nuns prayed for her and the family. Later they visited a mandala exhibition. On January 12 the nuns visited Kopan Nunnery at Bodhgaya. Dr Palmo gave classes on the dharma. The nuns continued to spend time in Bodhgaya, having classes and making more visits, for example to the Archaeological Museum in Bodhgaya all newly constructed monasteries of different Countries.
On 19 January we travelled by bus to Sarnath, near Varanasi, where Dr Palmo’s nephew, Gyal, a monk studying in Sarnath, and his friend met us and assisted us with practical matters. Next day we visted Mulgandhakuti Vihara (Temple), the Deer Park and the Dhamekh Stupa, built in 1026 A.D. In older times it was known as the Dharma Chakra Stupa because it was here that the Buddha gave his first teaching. The Stupa is cylindrical and it has eight small niches for statues. It is 28.5 metres at the base and 33.35 metres high. It contains relics of the Buddha. We walked around the stupa and took photos. We visted the Stupa again in the afternoon, because a Ladakhi Geshe was explaining the dharma and giving information about the site. There are many Ladakhis here in Sarnath. Later in the evening we met Evonne, an old friend and sponsor of LNA.
Journey to Kapilavastu and Lumbini
On 23 January we got up at 4.00 to get ready for the next part of our pilgrimage. We travelled for 6 hours in the bus, then had a break. We arrived at Kachchi Kuti at 4.30 in the morning. This is the site of the well-known Jeta’s Grove. Angulimala became a monk here. In the evening we stayed in the Sri Lankan Temple. We also visited the Purvaram Mahavihar at Sravasti, where the Lord Buddha had done 336 disciplines for monks and spent 27 years with the sangha community. We continued travelling the next day and visited the place where the Buddha flew to heaven and taught the Dharma to his mother. We visited Kapilavastu, the homeland of the Sakyas and the Buddha. We reached the India-Nepal border where our identity cards were checked. We arrived at the Korean Temple at 6.30 in the evening. Next morning we got into the bus again and drove to Lumbini, a World Heritage site and birthplace of Lord Buddha. We all walked for one hour to reach the actual place where Buddha was born and visited the house where he was born and saw his footprint. We spent the night at the Japan Sri Lanka Buddhist Centre.
The next stop was the Mahaparinirvana Temple in Kushinagar; we prayed in the temple where the lord Buddha died. There were Buddhists from many countries praying in their own languages. We circled the temple three times. Next we visited the Matha Kuar Shrine and the remains of Remebhar Stupa.
Back to Sarnath
On the 26th of January, Republic Day, after a long journey, we arrived back in Sarnath where we stayed in the Lamdon Society (Leh) residence. We visited the zoo (behind the Mulgandhakuti Temple and saw parrots, peacocks, crocodiles and deer and the Archaeological Museum. There we saw many statues of the Buddha, some missing a head, leg or hand. We also saw the lion capital, the Ashoka pillar.
All of the nuns were very enjoyed this tour or pilgrimage. For majority of us this is the very first time exposure trip. It was also an educational tour for us, we got opportunity to visited collages too. Among them the best University is the Central University for Tibetan Studies at Varanasi. The Clean environment of the surrounding really big helped to concentrate to study. They got all the arrangement as need for a students . We visited different places of Lord Buddha. It was really a very excellent and inspiring experience for us. Majority places are ruined but still one can experiences the presences of the dharma deeply inside the soils of the holy places. 2600 years ago there were no transportation, no machines too, its incredible the hard work they done in the past.
The journey in the bus was a little bit difficult but we enjoyed the travel. Sometimes the weather was not very good and it was foggy.
We are very lucky and all the credited go to our very kind sponsors. Without their kind financial support and also leadership of Dr. Palmo, and her staffs one can’t achieve the wonderful exposure trip. It’s a remarkable trip. Finally we are very grateful and thankful to all sponsors and guardians for making our tour very successful with flying colours. We all are blessed too.
(Based on J. Chorol and Dechen Chuskit’s diary)
Students from Bolton High School with nuns at LNA
Bolton High School students with nuns
Dr Palmo presenting to one of the teachers at the end of the workshop
LNA nuns preparing Tibetan medicine – dried rose petals
Thupstan collecting herbs at Khardong-la, summer 2011
Workshop, International Women for Peace and Justice (IWP), LNA 2011
Bolton High School students, LNA nuns and Heather Zimmerman on picnic near Leh
Ven. Lhamo, painting class
Working in the LNA vegetable garden, near Spituk Monastery
June started with normal life, but the number of Indian tourists suddenly over flowed in early summer.
Visit by Bolton High School Students
For the very first time LNA had the opportunity to have an exchange program with foreign students. Sixteen girl students from Bolton High School in England stayed at the LNA Centre to provide workshops for LNA students and to experience workshops designed by LNA students. They spent five days in the Nunnery. Our volunteer English teacher, Heather, helped to facilitate the program. Our students had fifteen days of summer holidays so nine students from the Choglamsar hostel and twenty from the Leh centre participated for the whole five days. Heather also gave many hours to LNA students not only in English speaking skill but also in confidant building to communicate t with the other students too. It’s really encouraging for all the students to work together in every time. LNA trained the students also making stupas with clay ( tsa-tsa) and presented one for each in the memory of Ladakh.
In the middle of August the nuns went on another herb collecting trip to Khardong la. It was a memorable trip, as in the morning it was raining heavily, then it started to snow, but we still collected herbs. At mid day it hailed for fifteen minutes, so in one day we experienced three different kinds of weather! It was so cold in the mountains side that it was difficult to collect the herbs but all the nuns worked very hard. Two friends from Mumbai also helped in the collection.
International Women for Peace and Justice
IWP Director, Ouyporn Khuankaew and her colleague arrived from Thailand. They offered a two-day workshop on leadership organised at the LNA centre
Mari Sato, Japan
Mari Sato is the coordinator for LNA in Japan. She visited again in July to study LNA’s projects, follow-up after the floods and meet the nuns.
Tibetan Women’s Association, Dharamsala
LNA is very thankful to the Tibetan Women Association for giving the opportunity for LNA staff for a month long training in their office on gender issues and public relations.
Visitors from Germany
Isolde Walter from Germany visited again this year to meet all the nuns and gave 10-15 Euros to each nun sponsored from Germany. Spalzes Angmo’s sponsor, Ursula …. and her husband also visited for a couple of days to meet her. Both Tashi (sponsored by Isolde) and Spalzes were very happy to meet them.
Dutch Foundation for Ladakhi Nuns (DFLN)
Marlies Bosch from DFLN visited LNA in July, to discuss collaboration with the Nunnery Project at Nyerma and planning to get younger nuns to study there. DFLN funded the herb collection and the IWP Leadership Workshop (travel expenses and food).
Kinder Himalaya, Germany
Kinder Himalaya visited to see how the nuns were after last year’s floods.
Marga and Taba, Mumbai
Marga and Taba visited from Mumbai. Marga met Dr Palmo at the IWP centre near Chiang Mai, Thailand, during a Spiritual Healing course. They accompanied the nuns on the herb collecting expedition, stayed at the nunnery and spent time understanding the situation of nuns in Ladakh. Marga offered a donation to LNA from her colleagues and friends and she hopes to maintain ongoing links with LNA.
Heather Zimmerman, from the USA, visited LNA and stayed for three month to teach English to the students who are applying for Amchi studies in Dharamsala next year. Marianne started the class and then Heather took over for intensive classes. Heather is spending two years volunteering in India; before her visit to LNA she taught Tibetan students in Dharamsala. The students are now more confident and skilled in using English as a means of communication.
Inauguration of LNA Community Hall
The inauguration of the Community Hall was held on August 19. The Shin-Shu Kowokai Association of Japan with their team from nine temples travelled to Ladakh for the inauguration. It was a really a big day for the LNA as they started the construction in April and it was completed on August 13. All the staff and the students gave countless hours to help in the completion of the building, including painting and cleaning the surroundings.
Ven Geshe Konchok Namgyal, President of the All Ladakh Gonpa Assocation, was invited to the inauguration to bless the Community Hall along with the Japanese priests. LNA’s neighbours from the Skara Youkma village, the President of the Community and the village leader and members supported for the full day program.
The Australian coordinator organized for a photographer to visit LNA for three days in September, to capture important photos for the LNA CD and booklet. Evonne and her colleagues are producing a CD with accompanying booklet of the nuns chanting to promote LNA and raise funds.
The most Venerable Gaden Tri pa Rezong Rinpoche la offered ten days of teachings in the Jokhang in Leh. All of the nuns had a special opportunity to attend the teachings, on Lamrin Jampel jalung, for the whole ten days. Last year in August we all experienced the floods in Ladakh, so all of us were very much frightened but Rinpoche-la’s teachings really helped a lot to overcome the trauma from last year’s events.
Tibetan Language Class
The five nuns who are preparing for Amchi training in received tuition in Tibetan language and grammar from June to December. They will sit for the examination at the Tibetan Medical College in May 2012.
The Jammu and Kashmir Handicraft Department has sponsored the painting classes which have also included learning to make clay moulds. The painting teacher, Smanla Tundup, is making a Medicine Buddha statue for the new Community Hall. Classes will conclude in March 2012 and the nuns will develop their own income generating activities as a result of their training.
The nuns continue to make prayer flags as an income generating project and to provide them them with a way of expressing their creativity and relaxing after their many other duties.
INEB (International Network of Engaged Buddhists)
Dr Palmo and Thubstan Dolma attended the INEB youth workshop and conference in Bodh Gaya. Dr Palmo gave a presentation on Tibetan medicine. Both the workshop and conference were helpful to exchange and learn in an international environment and to meet old friends again, such as Venerable Dhammanda Bhikkhuni from Thailand, Jill Jameson from Australia, and many others.
Venerable Jenkir’s Visit, November
Venerable Jenkir from Taiwan met Dr Palmo at the INEB conference in Bodhgaya and decided to visit the nuns. This has been a very exciting time for the nuns, as it is the first time that a bhikkhuni has stayed at the nunnery. Venerable Jenkir shared information about her own life as a nun and about the experiences of her nunnery in Taiwan. Her teacher, Ven. Wu-yin, gave a training on the Vinaya to Tibetan nuns in 1996, the first such training. She and Dr Palmo first met at this event. The Venerable Jenkir has assisted the team at LNA to develop a Dharma training course for the public.
Marianne also made another short visit to see the nuns.
Garden at Spituk
The garden was a great success this year, both in growing vegetables and herbs. The owner is very supportive of LNA. Some plants self seeded from last year, an unusual event in Ladakh. The nuns are searching for land in Matho, as the soil is better quality.
The weather during the winter was relatively mild. LNA continued to provide health services through the Amchi clinics, and set up a clinic at the main LNA site. Following the floods, the Tibetan Women’s Association in Dharamsala made direct contact with LNA and organised a workshop on healing.
Dr Palmo and the team are increasingly aware of the need to provide services for elderly Ladakhis, particularly for nuns and monks. So far the main initiative in this area has been Nyerma nunnery and guest house, funded by DFLN (Dutch Foundation for Ladakhi Nuns). The building work at LNA last year has provided more facilities for such work, with downstairs bathrooms and spaces that can be converted to a small kitchen for families of sick patients and for the monks to support their elderly brethren while staying at LNA to receive medical and support services. Dr Palmo envisages that patients, especially the elderly, will stay at LNA for short periods for treatment, and the family (or monks/nuns) will be expected to stay as well to learn how to do the follow-up care and support of the patient.
To celebrate their 5oth anniversary in 2010 the Japanese Buddhist group, Osaka Shinshu Kyouwaka, chose to donate funds to LNA in recognition of their crucial role in Ladakhi society. Following the floods in August last year, the organisation decided that the funds should be directed towards emergency activities to assist flood-affected people and to the building of a meditation/community hall on LNA’s premises, to be used as a holistic healing centre offering Tibetan medicine and Buddhist teachings. This building, on the second floor of the one-storey accommodation block, will replace the existing meditation hall which will be used as a library and quiet space for the nuns. (With so many nuns in such a small area there is a need for quiet space to meditate, read and rest). The community had already requested such a hall, so this further encouraged the Osaka Shinshu Kyouwaka to move ahead quickly with this project in recognition of the greater need for such a facility following the floods.
Work on the building is already completed. Japanese donors will visited in summer for the inauguration of the building. The project is being managed by Angmo and Lhamo, who, as well as having masters’ degrees in Buddhist philosophy, also have practical management skills and knowledge of building in Ladakh!
As a result of the building work, the garden has once again had to take second place, but the nuns have already started planting some flowers, both for decoration and for use as medicine. Next year they will plant more trees and a more extensive vegetable garden. LNA’s immediate neighbour works for the Forestry Department and has been reassigned to Leh so he has offered his support in planting, as will DIHAR.
The fields are in a very quiet and peaceful area outside Leh and as well as providing the nuns with vegetables for the summer and winter, will also offer them the chance for some rest and relaxation in nature. The nuns will experiment with growing herbs and other medicinal plants from other areas of the Himalayas (Sikkim, Arunchal and Darjeeling). Currently the Amchi Project has to buy these medicines; as it is quite expensive it would be a great advantage if it is possible to grow a more extensive range of medicinal plants in Ladakh.
The new truck has been useful to LNA: as well as transporting goods it also provides extra transport for the nuns! It is also much safer on the often poor roads in Ladakh, for example, visiting Sabu. It was not possible to use the vehicle during the coldest part of the winter, as it has a diesel engine.This meant the nuns could not visit some remote vehicles. LNA is very grateful to the donors who supported the purchase of the truck.
The two LNA Amchi clinics worked throughout the winter, providing free medical and psychological support to Ladakhi patient. There have only been a few patients so far, but from now on the Amchis will publicize this clinic in the neighborhood. Having an Amchi clinic at the nunnery and the community hall will enable LNA to be a more central part of life in Leh and further contribute to the community’s awareness that nuns in Ladakh are here to serve.
Update on Sabu
On one level, it was a peaceful scene, with the trees just starting to change colour, the deep silence broken only by the chirping of sparrows and little wrens, but on another level one could feel the continuing sadness and loss resulting from the floods. The authorities are encouraging families to replant the fields which were not washed away, but some people are doubtful as repairs to the irrigation channels have just begun and they are worried there may not be water for the seeds.
Note how Ladakhis are combining the old and the new: tin roofs with earth bricks on top to prevent the wind blowing away the roof. This construction work was done last autumn; much more work will be done this summer.
Several students from the Choglamsar hostel have moved to the LNA centre in order to attend Lamdon School and one new student (Sonam Dolkar, 10 years old, from Shara) joined LNA during the winter. The roads are still closed, so the only produce available are eggs and fish, flown in from Kashmir, and potatoes, onions and apples stored during the winter. It was exciting for the three little nuns, as they do not usually have the chance to wander around the town!
Students Becoming Teachers
Norzom will accompany Dr Palmo to Dharamsala to attend five days leadership training organised and sponsored by the Tibetan Woman Association.
She comes from a long lineage of Amchis, but she also developed an interest in studying archaeology following a school excursion to some of the major sites in Leh. Norzom, who became a nun when she was 10, is still happy with this decision and hopes to make a contribution as a nun to the Ladakhi people in future.
Visit to Dharamsala
Dr Palmo, Thubten Dolma and Tsering Norzom left Ladakh on April 21 to visit Delhi and Dharamsala, following an invitation from the Tibetan Women’s Association. Dr Palmo will see LNA’s auditor in Delhi: the accounting requirements for NGOs in India are very complex and require a lot of work from the management team. In Dharamsala there will be leadership training for nuns from the Himalayas, and an opportunity to share experiences and challenges.
Looking Ahead to Summer 2011
Most of the nuns are optimistic about the future, not least because of their youth! However, there is a general feeling of uncertainty about the weather following the unprecedented floods of 2011. So far there seem to be fewer tourists visiting Ladakh than this time last year. Some of the Kashmiri traders who have returned commented on how quiet the town is. The nuns certainly feel reassured about their safety now that the main building has a corrugated iron roof and the new wall on the Leh town side is being constructed. LNA will discover more about how Ladakhis feel now about last year’s events during visits to villages affected by the floods (visits and support to villagers funded by Gaden Relief). Interestingly, some people believe that there is now more rain in Ladakh because more trees have been planted, while others attribute the weather changes to global warming. (See the website in the next month for an article on the weather in Ladakh).
Let’s wait and see what the summer brings!
LNA is grateful to each and every donor and sponsor. In some cases LNA sends a report to an organisation on how funds are spent, in other cases donations are made for specific purposed. LNA is very grateful for the ongoing support and in particular for the wonderful response following the floods:
The nuns at LNA send greetings to you all and thank you for your kind support interest. May you be well and happy!
Post Floods December Update
Ladakh in General
Most of the people who lost their homes in the floods now have proper wooden houses. They moved from their tents in mid November. Most of the roads, the hospital , the telecommunications office and the radio station have been repaired properly. The roads from Srinagar and Manali closed for the winter on 25th November and no more supplies/materials can come in by road until next spring. Many repairs still need to be done in the remote villages in the coming summer of 2011.
All the nuns are fine. Most of the students completed their exams and obtained good marks. As you know, LNA was able to place a tin roof on the main office building to secure it against heavy rains in the future, thanks to the donations from the Swiss Group and many friends.
Thanks to the support from the friends from Switzerland, timely donations from a number of friends and supporters and the excellent relationship that LNA has built up with trades people in Leh over the years, the nuns were able to start reconstruction very quickly. The workers continued with the construction work on the new accommodation block, as this work was still under contract, the roof needed to be completed and the upstairs rooms will be needed to provide short-term accommodation for families affected by the floods. Dr Palmo plans to offer three-day respite care (Tibetan medicine, psychological support) during the winter.
The reconstruction was funded by donations from donors and supporters in Japan, Europe (France, Germany, Switzerland, Holland) USA, Australia and Thailand. Further reconstruction work will begin in May 2011, as a lot more repairs and rebuilding are needed. We will keep informing you about the progress next year. We would like to thank all of you for your care and concern for the nuns and our public.
LNA is very thankful to Marianne Wiseman for being with LNA for more than five months. Marianne was helpful in leading the administration in the critical time. During the flood she helped to give counselling for the staff and the students in healing and caring for our minds. We are very proud of Marianne Wiseman and will never forget her kindness for each and every thing. We are requesting Marianne to return to LNA to help the nuns.
The staff of the Gaden Relief organization (USA) visited LNA and spent a few days in the nunnery; this visit helped the nuns to overcome the shock of the floods. (http://www.gadenrelief.org )
The President of the Tibetan Women’s Association and their team conducted a two-day intensive workshop at LNA from 22 to 24 November. The main topics were: domestic violence, communication and leadership. More than thirty nuns had the opportunity to attend the workshop which was a healing experience, learning through games. Most of the nuns are confident to be strong enough to face challenges.
LNA was invited to give a presentation at the Central Institute for Buddhist Studies, Choglamsar, about the past and present conditions and the future plans of the nuns. The seminar took place over four days and was helpful for all the nuns and the students to learn more about current issues.
LNA Support to the Community
We started to give free health consultations to the public from the beginning of November and free medicines too. Every Sunday we give free treatment to more than sixty people in Leh. We have contacted the village leaders in remote villages to guide us in how to reach the public there.
There are symptoms of depression in most of the public and this is a serious concern. LNA plans to help most of the affected mothers and children from January 2011 until the end of March. All the schools closed for the winter vacation therefore it is helpful to meet them. We have also prepared medicines that can help to cure the trauma and depression. We are distributing medicines for the public and sharing talks and short workshops in the villages. Intensive workshops will start in the nunnery in February.
The construction of the accommodation block (including the Amchi pharmacy store) at the Lower Skara site has been completed. The nuns and local supporters have been very busy all summer. All the nuns, neighbours and members of LNA helped in stripping the poplar branches of bark, ‘watering’ the cement columns and cleaning up all the areas after the construction of the whole building.
The Most Eminent Tokden Rinpoche (President of the All Ladakh Monastery Association) was invited to bless the building. Rinpoche also gave a long life initiation for all the nuns and the public.
Thanks to the ongoing funding by Bioligo, and the hard work of the Amchis, the Amchi Project is progressing well, providing much-needed medical services to patients in Leh. The clinics operate six days per week, closed on Saturdays.
The pharmacy store has been completed. The Amchis are already making their own medicines, with materials bought in Amritsar and herbs collected during the summer.
The Amchis have found that Ladakhi patients prefer the medicines in crushed form, rather than as pills, as patients have found that they are more effective. This shows that LNA”s Amchi Project is very much a work in progress and it will continue to make innovations based on the experience of working with Ladakhi patients and responding to a constantly changing society and environment. As a result of this new information about the attitude of Ladakhi patients to the type of medicines prescribed, the Amchi Project has re-thought its plans for the pill-making machines (funded by Bioligo). We have already ordered them but they have not arrived s the roads were blocked suddenly. Therefore, in May next year we will get the pill-making machines from Delhi and make pills to sell to other Amchis and to provide to people in more remote areas, where there is a need for more ‘portable’ medicines. At the LNA clinics the Amchis will continue to measure out the crushed herbal medicines.
Six Amchis went back to their nunneries to help their people. They received seven years training within LNA, sponsored by Bioligo Switzerland, and now they are happy to go back to their home towns. Three Amchis are now helping the public inside Leh. This team includes Amchi Dr Tsering Palmo and they have been busy visiting flood-affected villages to give treatments to the public.
Defence Institute for High Altitude Research (DIHAR)
The Field Research Laboratory (Leh Unit) for vegetables and medicinal plants, now DIHAR, is offering support to the Amchi Project. They have donated medicinal plants for the Project to plant. These plants were grown successfully this summer in the plantation on rented land below Spituk Monastery. The Field Research office team visited the land and inspected the plantation in mid September. The plantation project is successful and we want to expand to cultivate more plants next year.
We purchased a Bolero truck to facilitate herb-collecting trips and to use as a mobile clinic to develop links with villages, especially with the women’s groups, so that LNA can visit to help people. As you know, the LNA vehicle was totally destroyed in the flood. Several weeks after the flood the insurance people came up from Delhi and gave priority to processing LNA’s claim. The nuns decided to take the plunge and apply for a loan from the bank (Rs, 560,000, five lakh sixty thousand) for the purchase, excluding insurance and registration. With the kind donation from Japanese donors, friends and sponsors we managed to pay back the loan to the Jammu and Kashmir Bank at the end of November. At present two of the nuns can drive and two had driving lessons before the flood. We are using the vehicle to visit the villages to see patients, but the diesel froze and it was very difficult to drive. We bought a second-hand Maruti car, which is helpful for us to attend meetings and to visit patients in nearby places. The truck will be very useful in spring and summer, especially in visiting remote areas to provide services to villages and collect herbs.
Ceremonies and Tours
Enthronement of Gaden Tripa (most Venerable Rezong Sras Rinpoche la)
Rinpoche la is the Patron of LNA and it was really a precious time for the nuns and the Ladakhi public to receive him as the 202nd Gaden Tripa in Tibetan history, but t in Ladakh the very first Gaden Tripa (representing Lama Je Tsongkhpa) the founder of the Geluk pa tradition in Tibet. It’s a historical year and Rinpoche la is already 83 years old. On 13 July the big enthronement ceremony was arranged at the Rezong Monastery. The public prayed for the long life of Rinpoche la. In October, HH the Dalai Lama invited Rezong Rinpoche la to Dharamsala to receive the owner of the Geluk of great master Je Tsongkhapa.
On 5 August the seventeenth reincarnation of the Most Venerable Bakula Rinpoche la was invited from the Nubra Vally to Pethub Monastery. Rinpoche la’s enthronement took place with prayers only, as the floods in Ladakh took place on the same day. (See the article on the Ladakh Studies website for an account of this day: http://www.ladakhstudies.org/bakularinpoche.html)
The nuns participated in the annual Monlam ceremony at the main Gompa in Leh in mid-May. Nuns came from a number of regional nunneries, It took place over five days and the nuns spent each day chanting. This prayer ceremony is for world peace and for the long life of His Holiness the Dali Lama and all rinpoches and lamas.
On 27 May Ladakh celebrated the birth, enlightenment and Parinibbana of the Buddha. For the first time, a group of nuns from LNA were invited to sing at the ceremony at the Polo Grounds in Leh. The song was about the Buddha’s life.
Losar (Tibetan new year) was not celebrated in the usual way this year because of the natural disaster. Instead, people gathered in many places in Ladakh to pray for those who lost their lives in the floods. The nuns began praying each evening for those who died during the floods and they are continuing these prayers.
Bharat Darshan Tour
Five nuns will join the Bharat Darshan Tour at the end of December, departing Ladakh to visit the Buddhist holy places (Bodhgaya, Varanasi, etc) inside India for about two months.
LNA is renting land below Spituk Monastery, in order to grow vegetables and experiment with cultivation of medicinal plants. There is a good source of water in this area bu the soil is not so fertile.
Painting classes began at LNA; our teacher, Mr Manla, is highly skilled and respected in Ladakh and he wishes to share his skills with the nuns before he retires. The nuns are learning to paint thangkas, lama tables and statues. This will be an income-generating project in future and it is also an appropriate extension of the range of activities that nuns in Ladakh are engaging in. Previously, only monks painted thangkas, monastery walls and statues.
Making Prayer Flags
Another income-generating project is the making of prayer flags. LNA sells these in the market in Leh.
LNA is very thankful to Maggie Lavalle for designing and creating a new website for LNA, as well as training Thubten Youdon and K. Chodon in how to manage and update their new website.
We deeply appreciated her time, energy and skill in training and sharing her knowledge and experience for the nuns in Ladakh.
The nuns are experiencing difficulties in updating the website, due to the slow internet connections in Ladakh. Ginger Norwood set up this blog on the website, so news can be added more easily. This newsletter has been lightly edited and added to by Marianne who will send it out from Australia, using the LNA email account, as well as this posting on the blog.
Partnership between Ekno Experience and LNA
Sharon Thrupp of Ekno Experience has proposed a partnership between her organisation and LNA to begin in 2011. Dr Palmo and the team first met Sharon in 2009 when her tour group visited the nunnery. Sharon decided she would like to offer a tour to Ladakh to benefit the nuns and began discussions with LNA, including a meeting in Leh earlier this year. The nuns are grateful to Sharon for her proposal and excited at the prospect of a new venture to raise awareness of the situation of nuns in Ladakh and to generate further funding to support LNA> Tour guests will stay at nunneries in Ladakh, meet the nuns and have the opportunity to attend a workshop on Tibetan medicine.
Many tourists visit Ladakh and the monasteries without any awareness of the existence of nuns, of the problems which they face and the steps they are taking to overcome these problems and build the nuns’ sangha in Ladakh. Increasingly, tout operators and groups are showing an interest in staying in the nunnery and this is why the nuns have made rooms available for women visitors to stay.
Ekno Experience will organize the tour, and LNA will be involved in the program in Ladakh. It will be an exciting new development for LNA giving the younger nuns more exposure to people from around the world and providing an opportunity to share the culture of Ladkah and the perspective of Buddhist nuns in a constantly changing and challenging environment.
Ekno Experience will be responsible for marketing and communication about he tour: we have already sent a message about this to all on the LNA mailing list. For more information see:
Ekno Experience: http://www.eknoexperience.com
Winter holidays will start from 15 December. More than thirty students are staying in the nunnery for the winter holiday. We will receive training on mediation and focus on learning Tibetan grammar and basic health care based on Tibetan medicine. We are interested in learning about healing mental related diseases through the methods of Tibetan medicine.
Nuns studying in Dharamsala, at Jamyang Choling Nunnery
Natural Disaster in Ladakh
Tsering Lhadon and friends
“The biggest disaster of Ladakh. Darkest period in the history of Ladakh. Remarking 6th August on the calendar of Ladakh. The reason for this huge devastation was cloud burst. This usually takes place when the clouds come in contact with each other. Over 179 people killed, 400 were missing and many were left homeless in this tragic disaster. This horrifying disaster washed away all the life long possessions of people as an eraser rubs a mistake. This devil gave no time for the people to fight for their life just in minute all flash away.
We all never thought that some thing like that would happen even though it rained heavily and noisy thunder and lightning. The Bus Stand was totally ruined from the face of the earth. Many homes, shops and complexes had vanished. No one believed that there were buildings before. Cars and even buses had been swept away by the flash flood.
This left nothing more than dust. After the destruction, people of Ladakh suffered from trauma. They are affected psychologically as Ladakh has never faced such destruction in the past centuries.
The morning was a cry morning, moaning and mourning at hospital. Its corridors were filled with victims from the flash flood areas. It was a very tragic day and darkest period, we Ladakhi people would not be able to forget easily. We, Ladakh Nuns Association, offered our deepest condolences to the grieving families.
May the departed rest in peace
His Holiness ‘ Teaching and Exposure Trip to Nubra Valley
Jigmet Lhazes and friends
LNA’s staff and students got a golden opportunity in the month of July. Two staff and students (29) booked a bus from Leh to Nubra on 19th July. the road was badly damaged by rain and we waited for five hours in the bus near the road side and it took 8 hours to reach Nubra. We were invited to stay that night at Ven Thupstan Dolma and Youdon’s family houses.
On 20th July, H.H. the Dalai Lama arrived to Samtanling Monastery. We attended two days teaching and one day’s Seminar. The Seminar was interesting and more than inspiring experience for all of us in the presence of H. H. The Dalai Lama.There are many scholars, shared their knowledge to the public too. We got the very first time opportunity to attend seminar during the teachings time. We are also welcome to raise questions, which is a big support for all the students to learn more on deeper level about the teachings of the Buddha.
We moved to Nubra Diskit on 24th July and put our tent in a beautiful garden. 80 feet Matrieya Buddha’s blessing ceremony organized at Disket Monastery. We all the nuns were invited to attend the ceremony at 7:00 a.m. It was a bright sunshine with clear sky in the early morning.
On the small hill Matrieya Buddha is bestow his love and care for all sentient beings. H.H. The Dalia Lama all the Sangha members offered prayers for world peace. It was a historical day. The blessing received from H>H> The Dalai Lama and Maitreya was unbelievable, inspiring experience for all of us.
Then we attended three day’s teaching on Eight Verses of Mind Training. We visited eight monasteries in different places of Nubra Valley. The beautiful landscape, forests, rivers and valleys refreshed our mind and attracted us to visit again in the future. So it was a remarkable living experience and memories in our life. We enjoyed a lot. We all want to thank our staff and LNA’s organizer.
We are very thankful to all the donors and friends of LNA who are concerned for the people of Ladakh. We will never forget your kindness and thinking of us in such a difficult situation.