Nepalís most popular Buddhist nun is a musical rock star

The Hindu, October 14, 2016

Ani Choying Drolma is famous as one of the Himalayan country’s biggest pop icons.

Kathmandu, Nepal
-- There is one Buddhist nun everyone in Nepal knows by name not because she’s a religious icon and a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, nor for her work running a girl’s school and a hospital for kidney patients.

<< In this October 7, 2016 photo, Buddhist nun and musician Ani Choying Drolma performs during a concert in Mumbai. She is one Buddhist nun everyone in Nepal knows by name, not because she is a religious icon and a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, nor for her work running a girl’s school and a hospital for kidney patients but because she is one of the country’s biggest pop stars. With more than 12 albums of melodious Nepali tunes and Tibetan hymns that highlight themes of peace and harmony, the songstress in saffron robes has won hearts across the Himalayan nation and abroad.

Ani Choying Drolma is famous as one of the country’s biggest pop stars.

Nepali tunes, Tibetan hymns


With more than 12 albums of melodious Nepali tunes and Tibetan hymns that highlight themes of peace and harmony, the songstress in saffron robes has won hearts across the Himalayan nation and abroad.

“I am totally against the conservative, conventional idea of a Buddhist nun,” the 45-year-old nun said. Some people “think a Buddhist nun should be someone who does not come out in the media so much, who is isolated ... always in a monastery, always shy. But I don’t believe in that.”

Neither do her fans, who greet her with a roar of applause whenever she walks out on stage, and fall silent as she closes her eyes to sing.

‘She is my music goddess’

“Every time I get frustrated with life or get angry, I just listen to Ani’s music and I calm down,” said one fan, Sunil Tuladhar. “She is my music goddess.”

But with a career deviating sharply from what conservatives in Nepal believe to be the proper path of a Buddhist, she is caught in criticism as well. One Buddhist monk at the famed Swayambhu Shrine questioned how she can reconcile the simple life of a religious ascetic with the fame and wealth she’s amassed over her two-decade musical career.

“How can a nun be making money by selling her voice, living a luxurious life and yet claim she is a nun?” Surya Shakya asked.

Monastic life, alongside

Despite her fame, Drolma looks every bit the typical Nepalese Buddhist nun, with her hair shaved short and an ever-present smile. She travels the world giving concerts in countries including the United States, Brazil, China and India.

Popular composer Nhyoo Bajracharya, who has worked with Drolma, describes her music as a fusion of traditional Tibetan and Nepali styles. “They are religious songs, slow rock with flavors of blues and jazz combined,” he said.

But Drolma believes her singing goes beyond delivering a catchy tune. Her 2004 hit “Phoolko Aankhama,” which means “Eyes of the Flower” in the Nepali language, features lyrics that touch on religious teachings- “May my heart always be pure/May my words be always word of wisdom/May the sole of my feet never kill an insect.”

Mum on her money

Drolma refused to say how much money she has earned from album sales and concerts, but has said she donates much of it to education charities through her Nun’s Welfare Foundation and runs a kidney hospital.

Still, compared with most Nepalese living in this impoverished mountain nation, Drolma lives like a rock star with a luxury car and a new home in an upscale neighborhood of the capital of Kathmandu.

‘Why should a nun be poor?’

“It is a very conservative point of view thinking that a nun should be poor and wearing rags. That’s a wrong attitude,” Drolma said. “My concerts make very good money, my CD sales make very good money, and I think that helps me to afford such a comfortable life.”

Drolma said she was 13 when her mother allowed her to join the Nagi Gompa nunnery to escape from an abusive father. She also dreaded getting married, as she would likely have been forced to do as it was the custom in Nepal at the time.

“I had the impression that getting married was the worst thing to do in life,” she said.

Hymns and rhythms

At the nunnery, just north of Kathmandu, she learned to chant the Buddhist scriptures. But while most recited the lines quickly, she stood out chanting melodiously and drawing the other nuns’ admiration.

In 1994, American musician Steve Tibbetts visited the nunnery and, being impressed with her voice, recorded her singing. He returned after receiving interest from U.S. record companies, and recorded Drolma’s first album, “Cho,” released in 1997.

The album royalties and performance fees that came after left Drolma a bit stunned. Most Nepalese have humble lives, with a quarter of the country’s 28 million people living in poverty and heavily reliant on subsistence farming and remittances from family members working abroad.

And the school came


“The question was, what do I do with the money?” she said. “I realized that this money can help me fulfill my dream, so that is how I started the school.”

She set up an educational foundation and opened the Arya Tara school, on a mountainside just south of Kathmandu. The boarding school offers about 80 girls, aged about 5 to 18, free lessons in Buddhist scripture as well as math, science and computer skills. The foundation also covers the cost of sending the girls to college.

The students, similarly clad in saffron robes, giggle and smile when talking about Drolma.

More than my mother

“Ani is more than my mother. My mother gave me birth, but Ani raised me, gave me education, took care of me and is the only reason that I have reached this far,” said 17-year-old Dolma Lhamu, who is now enrolled in college.

Drolma is similarly adored at the kidney hospital she runs in Kathmandu, where hundreds of patients receive free dialysis twice a week.

She said it was her work at the hospital and school that kept her singing and accepting invitations to perform. For the critics who question her globe-trotting lifestyle or high income, she has little patience.

“People in society will have different opinions,” she said. “I try my best to see how I can improve my attitude toward life, toward people and toward the world, and to find ways to make the best use of my life.

“I am famous today, but tomorrow people will not know me. It fades away. That is the reality,” Drolma said.
We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
NORBU!
(Neural Omniscient Robotic-Being for Buddhist Understanding)



For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.


Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.



For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team


Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv


TOP