Ladakh Nuns Association Realizing the dwindling situation of Buddhist nuns and other social problems in Ladakh, Venerable Dr. Tsering Palmo, a Ladakhi nun and traditional Tibetan Medical (AMCHI) doctor with far-sighted vision established the Ladakh Nuns Association (LNA) in 1996. Since its establishment, LNA has been providing opportunities for young girls, whose families maybe have experienced difficulties, to have secular and monastic education and live in the nunnery with spiritual nurturing and care of the older nuns. In order to promote the role of nuns, LNA has given them the opportunity to obtain higher education in Buddhist philosophy and in Traditional Tibetan Medical studies within Ladakh.
Ladakh- The Land of Snow, is a major tourist destination now, drawing crowds from across the world. It’s unique geography, hospitality, uniqueness of culture, and the well preserved Buddhist imprint has made it a highly sought after destination. But it was not always the case. Until four decades ago, it was a remote land. It’s isolation from the outside world ensured the preservation of the Buddha’s teachings in it’s pure form. Since the 10th Century, Buddhism flourished in Ladakh this vast and beautiful desert high in the North-Western Indian Himalayas. This predominantly Buddhist region, however, still struggled when it came to support structure for the woman practitioners of Buddhism.
LNA is a Non-profit, non-sectarian foundation that supports nuns and nunneries of the Ladakh region. This tree here depicts the various activities and engagements of the LNA. Founded in 1996, the tiny seed of LNA has grown and is strongly growing, spreading its branches in all directions, empowering the nuns and the lay people also with the power of Buddhadharma. Apart from its role in supporting the life of a nun it engages in various other activities that empower not only the nuns but also the community. To name some of its engagements- building nunneries, education for nuns, conducting workshops for nuns and lay persons, training nuns as doctors in Tibetan Medicine, conservation of spiritual studies, local herb collection, education support for children. As you can see LNA has evolved to become a place to Study, Reflect, Meditate, Heal and Serve.
Health care particularly for nuns and laywomen, is a key concern for the LNA with the AMCHI (Traditional Tibetan Medicine) training project a main focus. In addition, the LNA has supported many workshops on health in Leh and in local villages and has worked with many organizations that have come to Ladakh on a range of health topics and clinics (dental and hygiene, acupuncture and psychosomatic somatic diseases, etc.). During the flood disaster, LNA also operated a mobile clinic to reach out to people and offered emergency relief to affected communities, particularly in remote areas.
Since 1999, Ladakh Nuns Association has sponsored nuns to receive Buddhist and general education in schools and institutions in Ladakh and throughout India (Dharamsala and Dehradun) and Nepal. The number of nuns receiving such assistance has risen steadily each year. LNA currently sponsors 40 nuns training in Buddhist philosophy and modern education. Generous individuals from around the world support the Scholarship Program. Many sponsors visit the nuns they support, and the nuns write letters with periodic updates of their studies and progress.
The Scholarship Program for nuns education is greatly contributing to an increasing number of young nuns in Ladakh and helping to improve literacy and numeracy, and Buddhist knowledge among them. More and more young women are choosing monastic study and a way of life in order to liberate themselves from the suffering they have experienced. With access to Buddhist education and a spiritual community for practice, educated nuns play an essential role as leaders and Dharma teachers in their communities. Many of the nuns receiving education have a long-term vision of becoming teachers themselves for the younger nuns, which helps in the revival of the Ladakhi nuns, ensuring that the nuns’ Sangha thrives into the future.
LNA in collaboration with partner organizations and individuals has provided training and workshops on many issues, including Buddhist Philosophy, Socially Engaged Buddhism, Team Building, Leadership, Conflict Transformation, Non-Violent Communication and Peace Building. These courses aim to develop the roles of nuns, youth and lay women in society. LNA and trained nuns have reached out to communities to carry out various socially engaged activities, relating to death and dying; domestic violence; trauma healing; drug and alcohol addiction; childbirth; adolescent problems; cultural preservation; environmental issues; pollution; organic gardening and communal harmony. With genuine interests in social problems the LNA nuns continue to improve their own understanding and capacity for social service, especially in education and health care.
Networking at local, regional and international levels, LNA has worked with many organizations and groups especially women’s and engaged Buddhist organizations for exchange, cooperation and sharing for further development of both personal and institutional capacity for supporting Ladakhi society.
LNA receives support from sponsors so that the institution can take care of the formal education of 40 young nuns in 3 schools around Leh. Currently, there are 60 nuns studying Buddhist Philosophy throughout India and Nepal. Although most nuns have pursued secular education in schools, they have chosen ethics and spirituality as a way of life. Since the establishment of LNA, 9 nuns have completed their studies in Tibetan Medicine (2009), and an additional 4 nuns gained admission in the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies (CIBS) in Choglamsar, Ladakh. LNA organizes short courses and training in Dharma and literacy to nuns and lay women who have little access to education in some of the most remote areas. The nuns appreciate all opportunities to receive teachings. Most recently they attended the Kalachakra teachings given by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in Summer 2014.
As well as receiving teachings, LNA started offering trainings on Buddhism to Ladakhi women in 2000. Recognizing and honoring the many vital roles of women in Ladakhi society, LNA not only prioritizes Buddhist education, but also works to create opportunities for trainings and education in valuable life skills for nuns and laywomen. Usually organized as participatory workshops which encourage women to share and learn from one another, these trainings provide the time and space to build community and develop mutual understanding.