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After the tragic event of 2010 flash flood and the subsequent recovery time of almost one year, this year has been a time to rejoice and to pay gratitude to Three Jewels for being able to sustain the hardship and the struggle to keep our efforts towards the welfare of nuns in Ladakh and the people as a whole. There has been an increase in the number of visitors to our various centres.
We are thankful to all our supporters especially to Mr. C. Somboon (Moo), General Secretary of International Network of Engaged Buddhism (INEB), Thailand, who shared his views on the future development of LNA. It has been a great inspiration for all the nuns and provided immense support and encouragement to strengthen the will-power to continue our work and efforts.
The school reopened in March and all of the students were excited and enthusiastic to be back. This time the students are supported by convenience facility from nunnery to their respective schools. They are studying in three different schools; Lamdon Model Higher Secondary School at Leh, the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies at Choglamsar and Siddhartha School at Stok. The Director of the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies has kindly accepted our request to send their bus to pick up our nuns from Leh.
Work on the wooden flooring in the multipurpose hall started in March and it took almost one and half months to complete. After that we decided to paint the interior in the traditional way. Three painters were employed and within two months they had completed all the walls and the shelves.
We had the opportunity to attend ten days of teachings at the Gumay Monastery by the Most Ven. Gaden Tripa Rezong Rinpoche, who is also LNA’s patron, from the third to the nineteenth of June. On the 11th of June Rinpoche la visited our nunnery and performed the blessing ceremony and gave teachings to the Sangha and the public in the morning. In the afternoon we held a meeting to receive Rinpoche’s advice in regard to the future of LNA. We presented the three year account report and the activities report. All of the nuns were able to attend the meeting. Rinpoche also gave a ten-day teaching in the Main Temple in Leh where all of the nuns attended his discourse.
From August 4 to August 7 the nuns participated in the discourse by H.H. the Dalai Lama. It was really a great inspiration for all the people having the great opportunity to attend the teachings.
On the Buddha Jayanti (June 4) day celebration at Leh, all the LNA nuns participated and they sang the Vandana at the beginning of the Ceremony. Thirty nuns sang in the centre of the Leh Polo ground and they blessed the days. Five nuns also participated in a debate with their school class mates during the Buddha Janti day. This is the first time in the history of Buddha Jyanti in Ladakh that the nuns and students were given the opportunity to share the sublime teachings of the Buddha
with the public through debate. It is an honour for all the nuns in Ladakh that they have started receiving this broader support and recognition from the public. Ven. Jigmat Chorol received second prize in the Inter School Essay Writing Competition in Bhoti Language and three nuns also received consultation prize from the Chief Guest Shri. Rigzen Spalbar, Chief Executive Councilor, LAHDC.
Above: LNA students chanting on Buddha Jayanti at Leh
Above: Dr. Marguerite Theophil inaugurating Children’s library
Dr. Marguerite Theophil from Mumbai visited LNA and inaugurated the children’s library for the younger nuns in the nunnery.
She brought many books which she collected with the help of her friends.
All the nuns are very excited and happy to read books with many interesting stories.
Above: Captain S.Balasu inaugurating the Divine Bal-Gurukul
Dr. Theophil’s friend Mrs. Bala and her friends visited LNA and they spent half a day with the students. They helped to initiate the free tuition program for the weaker nuns within the LNA.
Captain Bala inaugurated the program, known as the “Divine Bal Gurukul“, a joint activity of the Indian Development Foundation and the Ladakh Nuns Association on August 28.
All the Amchi nuns and the students again helped in the annual herb collection, spending four days in the Changthang and Karnak Valleys. The nuns made three visits to the high pass of Khardong la. Most of the students participated in the collection.
This year a nun from Basgo village joined LNA. Venerable Bhikkhuni Ishey Angmo has a fascinating story: she spent seven years in Taiwan where she received the full Bhikkhuni ordination and five years in Kolkata helping in the Centre. She is now interested in learning Amchi medicine so she has decided to stay in Ladakh.
Currently there are six nuns studying the basic health care program under the guidance of Amchi Dorje Youdon, Amchi Thubten Dolma and Amchi Palmo. The Amchis gave treatment within the nunnery for women’s diseases: five elderly women received treatment from the nuns using the medicinal water therapy. All of them recovered. One elderly monk, 81 years old,also received the medicinal water treatment. He had partial paralysis for one year and nine months. He is steadily improving. His attendant monks were at LNA to care for him and to learn from the Amchis.
Above: Nuns collecting medicinal herbs
We would like to thank Bioligo for continuing their support of the Amchi training program. Six nuns are already receiving basic training in the health care program. Eight nuns had the great opportunity to receive free tuition from the Dreung Loseling Pethub Khangtsen Education Society, Leh.
The Bhutan Nuns Foundation organized a trip to Ladakh. There were representatives from thirteen of the twenty-six nunneries in Bhutan. The Director, Dr. Tashi Zangmo, and four member of the foundation also participated in the one-day exchange workshop with the LNA nuns.
It was really a great opportunity for all the nuns of Ladakh and Bhutan to share information about mutual problems and exchange their ideas and views regarding the future. Both groups agreed to have more exchange workshop in the future. Dechen la was the representative of UNFPA, which funded the nuns’ visit to Ladakh.
Above: Dr. Tashi Zangmo with her Bhutanese nuns during their visit at LNA nuns.
The nuns gave medical consultation for two international groups of patients in July and August. The group was satisfied and happy to meet the nuns and receive advices on mental and physical health. The group has contributed to the seed fund for the medicines.
We are highly grateful to Paticia Beaudeau and Thierry Beaudeau of Association Docteur Trogawa Rinpochey, who guided the group to us, for giving the nuns the opportunity and encouragement towards their medical and treatment skills.
Dr. Cornelia visited with her group and encouraged us to repair the roof so that it can withstand heavy rain. They donated a sum of Rs. 100,000; we are very thankful to the group.
Heather Crotts from America visited and shared her experience with the nuns. Isolde Walter, a member of the Tibet Support Group from Kempten, Germany, visited for one day. Her sponsored nuns, Tashi Dolkar and Rigzen Angmo accompanied her on a trip to the Whaka Jampchubling Nunnery. The two students gained experience in esharing their knowledge and experiences of being a nun.
Yeshe Khando and Dolma, the LNA coordinators from France, visited and spent a day with the nuns.
G.H. Road, Lower Skara, P.O. Box 157,
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.