Gaden Relief Projects

Helping Tibetans preserve their unique culture.

CHUCHIKJALL PROJECT

Report to Chuchikjall Sponsors 2000

Dear Sponsor:

The nuns of Chuchizhal Nunnery send their deepest blessings, warmest regards, and pray for your continued health, happiness, and peaceful progress towards enlightenment. In the Year of the Dragon (2000), the nuns continue to be grateful for your generous contributions and pray that this Dharmic connection continues. Your contributions have made a huge difference at the nine nunneries in Zangksra now supported by Gaden Relief.

Over the last decade, we have successfully established the largest and longest continuous winter prayer sessions at Karsha nunnnery. Every day for five months, the Karsha assembly of twenty nuns and their abbot sit for several hours praying for the release from suffering of all sentient beings. Your donations supply the butter, tea, and salt, which warms the nuns sitting motionless in the frigid hall before the first meager ray of winter sun has hit the assembly hall. The success of or program at Karsha has led us to branch out to other nunneries. While our primary focus was and continues to be Karsha nunnery, in recent years, we have tried to expand our funds to include daily morning ritual sessions at all the nunneries in Zangskar. For two years (1998, 1999) we funded three more nunneries in Zangskar, which proved very successful. Finally last year, we funded all nine nunneries in Zangskar, so that each one can hold a winter prayer festival of their own, most of them for the first time ever. in history.

Your donations cover miscellaneous ritual expenses such as decorations for the ritual cakes, blessing scarves, butter lamps, kerosene oil for cooking, and the rice, lentils, oil, and spices to feed the participating monastics. The funds are also used to buy butter to fuel the butter lamps and flavor the salt tea drunk by the nuns throughout these ceremonies. For those who wish to make specific donations, we will continue to channel the funds to Karsha or to the purchase of smokeless smokeless stoves at all Zangskari nunneries. We have not yet accomplished this task because the nunneries still to be supplied are quite remote and the transport costs will be considerable. These stoves, which were developed by the Save the Children Fund in Ladakh and are produced by local blacksmiths, are the most efficient and healthy way to burn the common fuel of Zangskar, dung.

For those of you who may be new or have forgotten, Zangskar lies tucked deep into the Himalayan folds of Indian Kashmir. These nunneries may well be a calm eye at the center of the hurricane of strife which has enveloped Kashmir in recent decades. The nuns invest in Karmic capital so as to improve the moral balance sheet of a state torn by religious violence, political terrorism, and more recent international warfare between India and Pakistan. Retreat to a nunnery may be sanity, not sacrifice, in an area where army generals squabble over uninhabitable desert and glaciers, all the while keeping one finger on the nuclear button. In an age when altruism has become almost unfashionable, these small communities of Buddhist nuns continue to pursue selfless meditations on behalf of other suffering beings.

Your efforts have helped the nuns here practice exemplary lives. In pursuit of the Buddha's discipline of detachment, they strive for simplicity in an already stark and barren landscape, practice compassion in a merciless clime, and pursue poverty in an economy of subsistence and occasional want. The Zangskar nuns seem to defy the ordinary conventions of comfort as they endure both frozen winters and scorching summers in a treeless desert at nearly thirteen thousand feet above sea level. Winters spent in prostrations and visualizations give way to summers laboriously spent harvesting dung patties and scrubby thistles. These ritual and practical rigors leave behind more than just bloody elbows and sore knees. The nuns appear to be testing themselves, socially, physically, and emotionally, in an environment that truly deserves to be called extreme.

You may be wondering, why an able bodied woman in the flower of her youth would choose lifelong celibacy and poverty to go live on a lonely cliff in the Buddhist Himalaya. Life within a monastic community where everyone is meditating upon a similar vision of vast interdependence provides both spiritual regeneration as well as physical renewal. The founding nun at one of the largest nunneries in the area once told me that she had joined the nunnery in order to live deliberately, while learning to be awake and above the venial distractions and desires of village life. The nuns will surely continue to pray your health, well-being, and more generally that all sentient beings find peace and the end to suffering.

I am enclosing a blessing cord which was blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama when he visited Ladakh in 1998.

Once again, thank you for your contribution.

Best Regards,

Kim Gutschow
Harvard University
May 20th, 2000

Yes! I want to help! Your donations will go directly to the Tibetans in need. Gaden Relief has a sterling record of putting over 95% of donations to work in the Tibetan communities. All of our staff are volunteers and pay our own expenses. So you can rest assured that your donations will be put to maximum effect to help Tibetans.

Click here to donate to Gaden Relief Projects. Click here to contact Dr. Kim Gutschow.