A Sacred Pilgrimage with Buddhist Nuns
Ladakh: Learn, Serve, Immerse
Quote from His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at Gaden Chhatnyanling Nunnery in Ladakh, India:
"For more than a thousand years, the Three Collections of the Buddha's teachings which comprise Discipline, Discourses and Higher Knowledge and deal with the Three Higher Trainings in morality, concentration and wisdom, have been cherished in this region. Now that you have a nunnery here, you nuns must take the opportunity to study the teachings too.”
What does it mean to live into the vows of a Tibetan Buddhist Nun?
Join Global Family Travels on a journey to Ladakh, India, for a Sacred Pilgrimage with Buddhist Nuns and learn first-hand. With Venerable Tenzin Dasel as our Trip Leader and spiritual guide, and by supporting the good deeds of the Nuns at the Ladakh Nuns Association, we will learn about the commitment of Ladakhi nuns and how they nurture their communities and the local environment.
On this journey, you will also immerse in the compassionate Ladakhi communal culture and gain a deep understanding and heartfelt appreciation of the traditional heritage of this stunning region!
Learn more about the details of this journey from our recent travel event:
Through our Learn, Serve & Immerse travel pillars, we have designed a journey of cultural and mindfulness experiences that dive deep into the spiritual nature of Ladakh at centuries-old monasteries and Ladakhi nunneries, and explore local heritage homes, traditional markets and crafts workshops.
Through meditation, gardening, and being side-by-side with the nuns, travelers will most certainly experience a more peaceful pace of life centered on cooperation and compassion. By living one’s life with kindness and respect, and valuing all life an entirely new social perspective opens up to both embrace and be embraced by.
At Global Family Travels we believe that the most powerful way to learn is through the first-hand experience. We let the country and its people be your teachers and supplement your experiences with reading lists, informal discussions, and a pre-trip orientation which includes information on the culture and history of your host country, helpful words, and phrases, and cultural “do’s and don’ts”.
Learning themes unique to this tour include:
• Ladakhi cultural traditions
• Tibetan Buddhist Nun culture, philosophy, and history
• Learn firsthand from Buddhist nuns at several nunneries about their journey to become a nun, the taking of Buddhist vows, and how they live and contribute to their community and steward the environment.
• Experience working side-by-side in the garden of Thupstan Choskorling Nunnery with the nuns, learning about the herbs and plants used in their medicinal practice.
• Meditation practices, by sitting with the nuns and bodhisattvas at their temples.
• Learn about the impacts of climate change, and water conservation practices in Ladakh.
Our guide, Venerable Tenzin Dasel, believes that this journey begins at home, before we embark on the trip. She shared this paragraph of wisdom below which provides a window into the lives of the nuns we will meet, and to help prepare ourselves for this unique experience:
"Each day in your life is so important. Your entire life is made up of these days, one after another. Therefore, you should organize your life. Then your life becomes useful, and you don't waste time. If you make a program for your life, you'll see clearly how you waste your time…So, make a general program, and within that a more detailed schedule. It's up to you; you can be flexible. But somehow, you should organize every day of your life. It's very useful. When you do this, you should also make sure that you balance your activities: your intellect, your emotions, and your practical applications."
- Lama Yeshe, Co-founder of Kopan Monastery
We will both learn from and support the good work of several nunneries in Ladakh, including two locations of the Thupstan Choskorling Nunnery, in Leh and in Saboo and the Thikse Monastery and Nunnery.
There are many opportunities to be of service to the nuns we will be visiting, including sponsoring a young nun’s education. As part of the commitment to this trip, we encourage a donation to support the Ladakh Nuns Association, which will help preserve their culture, education, practices, and history. A donation link can be found here. (The cost for a one-year sponsorship is US$300, and can be facilitated through the donation link)
The nunneries we will be visiting have gardens that provide herbs and plants for the medicines they make and the food grown for themselves and the community they serve. The Thupstan Choskorling Nunnery has made a special request that guests of Global Family Travels bring the following gardening items to donate:
1. Quality gardening gloves for small, medium and large hands.
2. Quality garden hand tools, such as hoes, trowels, forks, weeders, etc.
3. Organic flower and fruit seeds that thrive in Growing Zones 8, 9, 10.
This unique experience provides unique immersive experiences in local nunneries in the Ladakh, India. We have worked with our longtime friend and spiritual guide, Venerable Tenzin Dasel, to thoughtfully create immersive experiences with Ladakhi nuns. We will learn firsthand from Buddhist nuns at several nunneries about their journey to become a nun, take Buddhist vows and how they live and contribute to their community and steward the environment. For example, we will work side-by-side in the garden of Thupstan Choskorling Nunnery with the nuns, learning about the herbs and plants used in their medicinal practice. If we choose, the nuns can also take our pulse and share what type of herb and plant-based medicines they would recommend.
We will also have the opportunity to meditate with the nuns and bodhisatvas at their temples. We are asked to be open and curious about the life of nuns, and we will work with you to prepare questions to ask the nuns, as there will be an opportunity to sit with them and learn about their lives as nuns and their Buddhist practice.
About our Trip Facilitator and Monastic Specialist,
Venerable Tenzin Dasel
Tenzin Dasel has vast experience traveling throughout Ladakh, from Leh, to Nubra Valley and the remote region of Zanskar. She has visited, studied, taught and volunteered extensively since 2005 as a trip leader, guest lecturer, environmental project leader and Buddhist teacher.
Over the past six years, she has been primarily based in India since 2016 and has travelled extensively though out the country, having deep knowledge of its culture and rich heritage. Tenzin Dasel has spent the most of this time in Ladakh, and is well versed in the people and cultures there.
As an ordained Buddhist monastic, she has unique knowledge and of the Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist practices, artistic iconography and monastery systems. It is her pleasure to introduce and share this extraordinary land, culture, spiritual traditions, and the essence of “Jullay” with visitors and locals alike!
Ladakh Nuns Association & History of Nuns in Ladakh
The Ladakh Nuns Association was founded in 1996 by by Dr. Tsering Palmo with the aim of reviving and rejuvenating the tradition of nuns in Ladakh. The organization aims to raise the education level of the nuns and to give them a way to study and practice the Dharma.
History of Buddhist Nunneries in Ladakh Prior to the founding of the Ladakh Nuns Association, nunneries in Ladakh were held in extremely pathetic positions, and the nuns lived in terrible conditions. In the 1990s, Thiksey received a degree of international support and attention when some awareness programs on the stature of nuns were launched in Ladakh.
Also, in 1995, the Sakyadhita Conference of Buddhist Women was held in Leh. It led to the establishment of the Ladakh Nuns Association. The association helped in raising the status of the Buddhist nuns. And also ensured positive developments in their betterment.
Thupsta Choskorling Nunnery
Home to about 70 nuns, the Thupsta Choskorling Nunnery does not exist within or in conjunction with any monastery. It is uniquely independent and is part of the Ladakh Nuns Association. There are two campuses, one in Leh, and a new campus in Saboo, where there is a larger program with schools, a medicine clinic, herbal processing operations to make medicines, a greenhouse, gardens, and a community learning center.
Nunnery at Thiksey Monastery
A Nunnery for the community of nuns is located within the boundaries of the Thiksey monastery, and is administered by the Monastery Administration. Thiksey Rinpoche, the chief lama of the Thiksey monastery was an important figure who worked vigorously for the improvement of the nuns in Ladakh. The Thiksey monastery donated land for the nunnery near Thiksey. It is the same place where the first monastery was established by Rinchen Zangpo in the tenth century.
Nowadays, the nunnery is home to 26 nuns who have taken steps to assert their position in society by changing their usual name of “Ani” (aunt) to “Chomos” (female religious practitioners). The Dutch Foundation for Ladakhi Nuns also functions at Thiksey.
Once at the crossroads of vital trade routes between China and the Middle East, Ladakh is located in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and became a new Union territory state of India in 2019. Ladakh, also known as the "Land of High Passes," is famous for its unrivaled splendor and infinite exploration points, filled with high mountains, valleys, and plateaus offering plenty of cultural sightseeing and outdoor adventure opportunities.
The Ladakh region is ecologically and culturally unique, and has a topography that is very different from the rest of India, and is home to enormous mineral reserves. The extremely fragile cold desert ecosystem of the region has meant that its inhabitants have a very adaptive lifestyle. The population of Ladakh is approximately 300,000 people and is spread sparsely over an area of about 60 thousand square kilometers. Its unique geographical location in one of the northernmost regions in India makes Ladakh rich with extraordinary trekking trails for all expertise levels (should you be interested in extending your stay with a trek or visits to other areas, we can arrange that for you).
Buddhism and Islam are the two main religions of Ladakh. There is also a small population of Sunni Muslims in addition to Hindus, Sikhs and Ladakhi Christians.
The introduction of Buddhism came when Emperor Ashoka sent missionaries to Ladakh to convert the feuding populace to Buddhism with mixed results. Buddhism took hold in Ladakh only when the Kushans conquered the region in 1st - 2nd century AD. The most visible symbol being the Kanika Stupa in the Zanskar Valley. However, Buddhism did not survive for long in Ladakh after the fall of the Kushans. Later, in the 11th century, the younger grandson of King Skyid Lde Nyima of Ladakh, King Yeshes Od of Guge resurrected Buddhism in Tibet, also known as the Second Diffusion of Buddhism.
A number of Buddhist monasteries were established across Ladakh in the process. The building of these monasteries is credited to Rinchen Zangpo, a scholar, in the service of the King of Guge. However, recent research proves otherwise. Among these monasteries, Alchi Choskor is famous for its paintings.