Second Arya Kshema Gathering for Kagyu Nuns (Buddhist News)



by Naushin Ahmed, Buddhistdoor International, 2015-01-28



Opening ceremony. From kagyuoffice.org

From Gyalwang Karmapa photos

The Second Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering for Kagyu nuns took place from 8–24 January 2015. The annual event—named after Arya Kshema, a bhikshuni (nun) from the time of the Buddha, who was renowned for her wisdom and confidence—was held at Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya, in India’s Bihar State. Established last year by His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the gathering was launched to enhance the practice and education of Kagyu nuns, as well as to boost equality between nuns and monks.

Discussing the initiative behind the program, the Karmapa explained, “Another aim was that the nuns would be able to take responsibility not just for activities within their own nunneries, but also take wider responsibility for upholding the teachings” (The Karmapa). On the same website he goes on to state, “Monks and nuns are the same in being able to uphold the Buddha’s teachings, and have the same responsibility to do so. However there has been a period when nuns have not really had the opportunity to uphold the teachings, and this has been a loss for all of us.”

This year, about 400 nuns from nine different nunneries in India, Nepal, and Bhutan took part. The program began at 8.30 a.m. on 8 January, with the Karmapa leading the opening ceremony. A number of tulkus, monks, and khenpos were present, as well as His Eminence the 4th Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, who was recognized and installed by the Karmapa in 1996. Several hundred laypeople also gathered inside the monastery, where garlands of flowers decorated the hall, sweet-smelling incense was burned, and the voices of female umze (chant leaders) rang out with Kagyu lineage prayers.

The Karmapa was quick to address the issue of bhikshuni ordination: “I think it’s important for me to do everything I can in order to support nuns’ teachings and practice, and to increase their listening, contemplation, and meditation. So I want to put as much effort into this as I can, from the bottom of my heart. I think this is something that’s appropriate for me to do from now until the end of this lifetime. I think it’s something that fits well with the activities of the previous Karmapas, and it’s also something that is definitely necessary within our contemporary society” (The Karmapa).

This year, the 17-day gathering focused on discussion, debate, elementary to intermediate philosophy, and a variety of teachings, including a continuation of teachings by the Karmapa on Gampopa’s The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, introduced last year. A number of special pujas and practices were performed, including a ritual of the Sixteen Arhats and a Tara puja, as well as a ritual for the nuns’ Dharma to flourish, which the Karmapa had composed. He also personally taught the nuns most mornings from 8.30 a.m. to 11 a.m. 

In contrast, the First Annual Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering—which took place from 20 January to 2 February 2014—concentrated to a greater extent on the Karmapa’s teachings, as opposed to the more rigorous training in dialectical debate and philosophical study that was a cornerstone of this year’s event. 

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