Himalaya Nuns and the Nalanda Tradition

The Buddhist Channel, 26 June 2023

Palampur, HP, India -- In 1999, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo established Dongyu Gatsal Ling (DGL) Nunnery in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India at the request of His Eminence the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche Shedrup Nyima. Their shared vision was to enable girls and young women from Tibet and the Himalayas to find their voices as legitimate Buddhist monastics.

Although intelligent and devoted, nuns in these regions have not had access to the same teachings and training traditionally available to monks. DGL Nunnery strives to fill the gap by providing rigorous Tibetan Buddhist instruction to their resident nuns. DGL believes equal access to opportunities outlined in the Nalanda tradition is important for empowering nuns to become potent agents for social change in the Himalayas.

Overcoming social obstacles

Nuns in the Himalayas are known for their dedication to the Dharma. However, their dedication has been restricted to dispensing public prayers, reaching to villagers providing social services such as basic wellness, health, tuition and providing humanitarian distribution of food and medicine. They usually reside in remote villages, cut off from main cities and big urban hubs. Due to their isolated locale, access to amenities such as schools and healthcare are limited. The way forward for them is to provide education, and opportunities to acquire Dharma knowledge and skills which for many centuries have been restricted to monks only.

Elevating Nuns Education

DGL Nunnery strives to enhance educational standards and empower women by addressing the historical disparities faced by Buddhist nuns. Throughout the years, access to education has been uneven between monks and nuns within the Buddhist community. However, significant progress has been made since the 1990s when women and girls began receiving instruction in Tibetan Buddhist debate.

In the Tibetan tradition, training and practice in Tibetan Buddhist debate hold great importance as part of monastic education. Engaging in debates enables the nuns to cultivate critical thinking and logical reasoning skills. It allows them to showcase their knowledge and comprehension of various subjects while honing their ability to articulate arguments effectively. Additionally, debates expose the nuns to diverse perspectives, broadening their understanding of different viewpoints.

The introduction of debate training has had a profound impact on the academic achievements of the nuns. By participating in annual inter-nunnery debates, they have been able to refine their skills and build confidence. This has been instrumental in their preparation for the Geshema degree, an equivalent of a PhD in Tibetan Buddhism.

Spiritual Dykes against Christian Evangelists

Himalayan nuns frequently encounter Christian missionaries who employ diverse strategies in an attempt to convert local Buddhists to Christianity. These tactics encompass using money as an incentive for conversion, spreading false information, instilling fear and insecurity, making threats of poverty and hunger, ridiculing Buddhism, making forceful demands, presenting inflexible ultimatums, appropriating elements of their culture and religion, promising immediate wealth, and depicting an idealized afterlife. The primary objective of Christian missionary endeavours revolves around targeting Buddhists, particularly those with limited resources, who hold deep value for their families, culture, and religious beliefs. Missionaries strive to dismantle their familial bonds, appropriate their cultural practices, and denigrate their faith. In certain cases, they aim to assimilate Buddhism into their own beliefs, reshaping it to conform to their perspectives and levels of tolerance. Offering quality education is once again the sole means to assist these nuns in confronting this form of religious imperialism. Apart from studying Buddhist texts, it is also crucial for them to acquire knowledge and training in order to effectively counter the tactics employed by these evangelists.


DGL Nunnery currently sustains itself via public donations, payments received from holding a monthly three-hour prayer ritual of the Buddha Akshobhya on the day of New Moon and donations from reciting Green Tara each day.

The Nalanda Buddhism Initiative

The Buddhist Channel aims to publicise the work of DGL nuns and their efforts to have a continuous, sustainable stream of educational opportunities. The project’s initiative involves a three pronged action plan:
  1. To provide a small donation to DGL to kick-start the "Media Outreach for Buddhist Nuns Education Initiative" via the BC-DGL Media Room. The aim is to publicise and promote news on nunnery education on a regular basis. DGL to provide news info to Buddhist Channel, which will be distributed worldwide through the InDepth News Syndication.
  2. To highlight the case of DGL’s success in implementing the “Nalanda Tradition syllabus” into its education curriculum for the nuns. The aim is to showcase that the philosophy of Nalanda Tradition is not just applicable in the Indian subcontinent but also throughout East and Southeast Asia.
  3. While Buddhism in the Indian Subcontinent has its problem, lessons learnt from the project will also bring to light the dangers of "Dimming Dharma" which is occurring alarmingly in East and Southeast Asia. The project will bring to light four elements of the Buddha Dharma's slow destruction, namely (religious) Scepticism (or Spiritual Doubt), Overloading, Fragmentation and Addiction (SOFA). The initiative will highlight why it is more important than ever to bring the Nalanda Tradition to fore once again outside of the Indian subcontinent. It has become an imperative to make it the primary vehicle to continuously help keep the flickering light of Dharma to shine strong and bright. 


It is time to showcase the success of nuns in the Himalayas in their efforts to elevate themselves despite their limited access to education and resources due to their remote locations. The Buddhist Channel plans to publicise these successes, and highlight the Nalanda Buddhism Initiative which provide the educational platform for the educational transformation for these nuns. The initiative includes three components: funding a media outreach program to promote nunnery education, highlighting the successful implementation of the Nalanda Tradition syllabus in the nuns' curriculum to showcase its relevance across East and Southeast Asia, and raising awareness about the dangers facing Buddhism, such as scepticism, fragmentation, addiction, and overloading. The initiative emphasizes the importance of the Nalanda Tradition in preserving and strengthening the teachings of Buddhism.

Supporting the Nalanda Buddhist Tradition Initiative project

If you to support the Nalanda Buddhist Tradition Initiative project and require more information, please write to editor@buddhistchannel.tv.
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