Previous | Home | Next

In their daily lives, the nuns concentrated on Dharma practice—study, chanting and meditation. Except for those engaged in strict retreat, each resident also took a share of the responsibility for the maintenance and functioning of the monastery. The chief administrator, or abbess (Khenpa), was always a nun selected from amongst their own number. Generally, education was provided by individual teachers, each nun taking responsibility for two or three students. In addition, there was one main scripture teacher for the nunnery as a whole, who was the nun most learned in the texts.
The daily schedule of the nuns begins with puja and prayers at 6 a.m. during which a breakfast of tea and bread is served. There is a work period devoted to the cleaning of individual and community living areas. Following this, classes in Tibetan grammar and literature are held, at intermediate and advanced levels. Younger nuns, ages eight to fourteen, study handwriting, Tibetan grammar at beginning levels, and reading, with older nuns who are assigned as teachers to them. From 10:00 to11:30 is the morning debate session, followed by a communal lunch, consisting of rice or steamed buns with dahl (lentil soup), potatoes, or vegetables.
After classes, afternoon tea is served and then the nuns have time to study on their own. Most of their studies revolve around the basic logic texts, but there are also many texts and prayers that are traditionally learned by memory amongst the Tibetans. Each day, a nun takes up a certain number of lines for memorization and recites them before the elder nun who serves as her teacher. To retain previously memorized material also requires frequent recitation, and the nuns can often be heard until as late as midnight, reciting the texts aloud in the surrounding forest.
Although the above schedule is generally adhered to, it is all too frequently interrupted for extended pujas. These pujas, rituals and ceremonies are requested by various members of the lay community. They are valued as methods of practice which accumulate great merit, and are thought to have particular efficacy in removing obstacles for the sponsor, as well as for the practitioner herself. The donations offered by the sponsors of these ceremonies comprise the greater portion of the nunnery’s income. The nuns may also be offered a few rupees each as a contribution, which may be used for soap, clothes and other personal necessities. While almost everyone has faith in the value of these practices, they do tend to interfere with the study program, particularly when they extend over many days or weeks. However, the reality of the situation is that accepting requests for these ceremonies is at present an economic necessity.