Khachodling Nunnery - Zanskar
Zanskar is renowned for
its spectacular landscape - it is a high mountainous plateau at the roof of the
world. From Leh, Ladakh it takes some 30 hours over high mountain passes to reach this landlocked beautiful region. Zanskar is also known for its pilgrimage sites. Great masters and yogis
of the past have spent years there, deepening their spiritual essence and
attaining unsurpassable qualities.
Sani is the ancient
pilgrimage site of the great siddha Naropa, who meditated many years under the
Kanishka stupa. A bronze statue now marks this blessed place and is unveiled
each year in the Naro Nasjal Festival. The unsurpassable Guru Padmasambhava
also meditated on charnel grounds in Sani for many years. The nunnery land is
very close to these blessed charnel grounds. On the hill opposite the nunnery
there is a high cave where guru Nyima Ozer meditated.
Khachodling nunnery lies on the high hillsides overlooking this very holy valley of Sani which is just 6 kms from Padum the main township of Zanskar. Overlooking the site is a jagged mountain peak that is said to be a female protector. The renowned yogi from Zanskar, Drubchen Ngawang Tsering, had a nunnery on this very Khachodling site in ancient times. On this land this great master attained Parinirvana, and his female students and nuns attained high realization. Some of them are said to have dissolved into rainbow body here. To this day you can see the statue of Drubchen Ngawang Tsering in the temple next to Khachodling nunnery.
In 2005 when Khandro-la first visited the nuns had already began building their own mud hut living quarters. This deeply touched Khandro-la's heart. Since that time Khachodling through Khandro-la's teachings has been able to provide these devoted nuns a gompa from which they can gather to learn and practice. Now, once again, there is a nunnery flourishing on this site. 21 dedicated nuns call this simple hermitage home. To Khandro-la these 21 nuns symbolise the 21 Taras (the female essence of enlightenment).
At present the nuns are
engaged, like our lineage ancestor Milarepa, in helping to build the nunnery as
well as daily practice. The entire winter is covered with thick snow and so the
nuns have this opportunity to engage in intensive solitary retreat, under the
guidance of Lama Wangdu who has been appointed by Khandro-la as their teacher.
Of the 21 nuns, seven will undergo training in the traditional three years solitary retreat. In 2008 Khandro-la took Lama Rigdzin, a student of her fathers, to Zanskar to begin their meditative training. Another seven will concentrate on learning traditional prayers and rituals from the elders so they can perform pujas for both the immediate community and the rest of the world. The remaining seven nuns will be trained in philosophy and to develop skills in incense making, carving and painting. There will be always a few nuns to take care of the grounds and buildings.
These nuns had nothing before, and these last years good musical instruments, dharma texts and puja items as well as a greenhouse, gompa, basic kitchen and utensils have all been provided. A 5 km road has been built and tree planting begun.
In the next few years there is a need to focus on building a fenced boundary, improved water provision to the entire site, harnessing solar energy and a generator for electricity, tree planting and pathways as well as providing more nuns quarters, a three year retreat facility and guest house cum retreat rooms for visitors. Climate and remoteness make building costs here higher than in other localities. For example wood and concrete has to be transported over the high passes.
Communal kitchen area rebuild - special urgent project of 2016/17
This year the Sani hermitage needs your help. The small kitchen has become all broken and needs urgent rebuilding to become also a larger communal kitchen and dining area with storage. Climate change has lead to snow falling that is now moist and heavy compared to the past when it was light. The traditional roofs of Zanskar are made only of straw and twigs and so our kitchen roof has, like many roofs in Zanskar, now collapsed! We need to urgently rebuild this facility so that there is a kitchen and dining area ready for the next winter period! Please read this article and find out more about the difficulty and how you can donate.
To learn more and to donate, please click here