KF Supports Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo’s Dongyu Gatsal Ling
By Emily Webber
In the Kangra district of Northern India, nestled below the Himalayas and fresh with the growing trees and grasses of an ancient forest, a new generation of Buddhist teachers meets the modern world. Through a Khyentse Foundation grant, the nuns at Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo’s Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery are learning computer skills.
Amid the laughter, chanting, gongs, and kitchen clatter of monastic life, 14 senior nuns spend dedicated hours each day to training with this new technology. They are now able to access the library’s digital resources, document administrative procedures, and better oversee nunnery finances and public relations. They create daily timetables and schedules, document and update academic guidelines and rosters, and post notices about maintenance and household activities, thus greatly simplifying the nunnery’s daily functionality.
The nuns are also able to compile sacred Buddhist texts and instruction manuals, which until now had been available only through oral transmission. They are currently preparing a Manual of Empowerment Techniques, which is the result of a series of residential workshops given at the nunnery. This manual will be available in Hindi, Tibetan, and English. In fact, the computers provide an excellent opportunity for the nuns to practice and master the English language.
With a KF grant of $3,830 KF, the nuns purchased six computers, printers, scanners, photocopiers, software, ink, and paper, and hired qualified trainers. Initially they had intended to purchase only four computers, but because demand for the training was so high, two additional computers were needed. A local Indian couple, back from working in the technology industry in the United States, is volunteering their time and skills to train the nuns.
Well-known from Vicki Mackenzie’s biography Cave in the Snow (Bloomsbury), Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo is a British woman who, starting at the age of 20, spent 12 years meditating high in the Himalayas. She was a student of the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche.
From its humble beginnings in 2000, with only a few Ladakhi girls meeting in Tashi Jong, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo’s nunnery is now a thriving community of 75 women from Tibet, Spiti, and Kinnaur. Mostly between the ages of 12 and 25, the nuns train vigorously in Tibetan language, English, Buddhist philosophy, debate, and meditation techniques. They all undergo a 2-month retreat during each monsoon season, which allows the necessary integration of instruction, practice, experience and realization. Five nuns are in their third year of a strict 3-year retreat.
Some of the nuns are learning office skills, with the intention of being as self-sufficient as possible. These nuns plan to use the computers to create a weekly newsletter for distribution within the nunnery and that will also be available online. Basic math and science programs on the computers will further train the nuns, and also enhance their English language skills. They plan to translate some simple teachings from Tibetan into English and then translate them into Hindi and Tibetan to provide resources for their library. Even though Hindi is the main language for these nuns, resources in it are very limited. They will download Buddhist teachings from the Internet to further grow their digital library. By expanding their programs in this way, they hope to make them more accessible to the next generation of nuns.
With support from Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo’s publications, generous donations from the world-wide Buddhist community, and assistance from Khyentse Foundation, the next generation of Buddhist masters in Northern India is flourishing at Dongyu Gatsal Ling.