Gaden Relief Projects

Helping Tibetans preserve their unique culture.

CHUCHIKJALL PROJECT

Report to Chuchikjall Sponsors 2001

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 Snake (2001), the nuns continue to be grateful for your generous c ontributions and pray that this Dharmic connection continues.

For the last three years, we have managed to fund wintertime prayer sessions at all nine nunneries in Zangskar (Karsha, Zangla, Pishu, Dorje Dzong, Tungri, Skyagam, Shun, Satak, Sani), which are home to a residential population of roughly 102 nuns. Your f unds enable each of the nunneries in Zangskar to hold their wintertime retreat sessions for several months, during which tea and one daily meal are served to the resident nuns. This allows each community of nuns to gather on a daily basis to say prayers o n behalf of all the sentient beings, while also renewing their sense of spiritual purpose in the long, dark winter months when agrarian activity ceases and nuns have more time for spiritual pursuits. These sessions are helpful because they provide a daily focus for the older and younger nuns, during which ritual texts are read, daily agendas are discussed, and new plans are made for the coming year. They also enable the younger nuns to recite the texts which they must learn to memorize by the time that th ey serve as chantmaster for the assembly of nuns, a post held by every nun in the assembly according to seniority.

These prayer sessions, which last roughly half the day, begin in the early dawn as nuns go down to the streambed to fetch the water, by hand, for cooking the tea and food. When several jerrycans have been filled and hauled up the slope, the nuns in charge of cooking that day light the fire and begin to make the classic Tibetan tea, mixing in liberal quantities of salt, butter, and baking soda, and churning the tea to frothy perfection before serving it in the freezing prayer halls where the nuns have gath ered. After several hours of prayer and tea, a simple meal will be served, either stew, rice and vegetables, or rice and dahl. After the meal and discussion, the nuns will say a few closing prayers, during which they always pray for the long life of Gaden Choling sponsors.

The Gaden Choling funds were also used to sponsor a number of construction projects in the last two years. At Karsha monastery, a new toilet was constructed in 2000 and a new greenhouse should be completed by late fall of 2001. The greenhouse, the first e ver at a Zangskari nunnery, will enable the nuns to grow much needed vegetables in the early spring before the fields have thawed and when the diet and nutrition is especially poor as winter supplies are largely exhausted and the passes are not yet open t o vehicular traffic. During this period, when shop shelves are barren and medicinal supplies often exhausted, anemia and other ailments are rife. The nuns hope to grow enough vegetables for their community and also present the villagers with a model that may be emulated by other households in their turn.

At Skyagam Nunnery, a new assembly hall was finally completed after two years of construction and fundraising. For the last two winters, the Skyagam nuns traveled from house to house collecting donations throughout Ladakh and Zangskar. Rather than simply relying on our sponsorship to provide the funds for their construction, the Skyagam nuns made sure to provide their local Buddhist population with an opportunity to make merit. Locals contributed funds to pay the masons, buy local beams, and much needed l abor, hauling stones, wood, mud, and water to the construction site. Gaden Choling funds were used to buy expensive materials like wood and the interior paint, while also funding the wages for the painter, a monk from Karsha monastery. A few remaining tou ches are still needed, such as the painting and construction of the altar. Gaden Choling funds were also used to purchase the first three statues to be placed inside the assembly hall: a Buddha, a Tara, and a Vajrayogini. These statues assist the nuns in performing their highest Tantric meditational practices, including Vajrayogini Tantra.

For more information on the Nuns Project, you may wish to visit the Gaden Choling web site (http:/ /www.gadenrelief.org/ chuchikjall.html) which has are several articles describing the life of the nuns at Karsha Nunnery in Zangskar. We intend to continue assisting the nuns in Zangskar in material ways so that they have the means to pursue their the spiritual aims rather than working in the domestic spheres for their daily bread.

Thank you again for supporting these women and may each of you have a long, healthy, and happy life.

Regards,

Kim Gutschow
August 5, 2001
Brandeis University

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.