photo gallery
medical clinics
tibet projects
stupas for peace
tsering art school
shechen archives
Shechen Orgyen Chozong Nunnery
Sisinang, Bhutan
Latest Shechen Orgyen Chozong Nunnery newsletter

Nuns and women hermits, practitioners and spiritual teachers have played an important role in Tibet. Although in a typically patriarchal society the role of women is often difficult, in Tibetan Buddhism, women are respected and symbolize wisdom or prajna. There have been many enlightened female teachers such as Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal, Jomo Menmo, Machik Labdron, Jetson Mingyur Paldron, Sera Khandro and Shuksep Jetson. However, since the Tibetan diaspora, very few nunneries have been built outside Tibet.

Nestled in the rugged hills south of Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, in a secluded area known as Sisinang, Shechen Orgyen Chozong Nunnery is one of the few facilities in Bhutan where women can study and practice. Bhutan is the only country that recognized Vajrayana Buddhism as its official religion. This small nunnery was the first monastic center built by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche after his escape from Tibet. He gave numerous important teachings there and its beautiful temple frescoes are painted according to his instructions.

At present over seventy nuns, mainly Bhutanese and ranging in age from 15 to 60 years old, live and study at the nunnery under the guidance of Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche. The Nunnery offers women the rare opportunity to study and train in the lineage of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. The Nunnery provides for the nuns’ complete education in addition to covering all expenses for their food, shelter, and clothing. Eleven of the nuns have taken Bhiksuni ordination in Hong Kong and were the first group of nuns from the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism to receive this full ordination.

In 1998, Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche and Khandro Lhamo, (1913-2003) the wife of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, began the process of improving and expanding the nunnery's facilities to meet the growing demand for proper accommodations and in-depth teachings for nuns in Bhutan. Water and electricity were brought to the site and a building with 12 double rooms and a study hall was constructed.

Two graduates from the Shechen Shedra teach an extensive course of meditation and study, including reading and writing for the younger girls. The older nuns follow a five-year study course and this training equips them to eventually return to their communities to teach and create further opportunities for women.

Additional work was urgently needed to accommodate the community's growth and to insure a proper quality of life for these dedicated women. To meet their needs, Rabjam Rinpoche built a dining room, new kitchen, living quarters for resident teachers and nuns and a library. Construction has now begun on a small retreat center for the nuns to be built on the hill above the Nunnery. There will also be individual cabins for elderly nuns. Rinpoche’s goal is to extend to provide the same quality of life and standard of education as the monks at Shechen Monastery receive.

The flourishing of Shechen Orgyen Chozong as a place for education for women is a wonderful step in establishing the equality of women practitioners in the East. Your help is still needed to create a place that gives women of all ages an opportunity to study and teach and keep alive the wisdom tradition of Tibet for the next generation. Please contact us if you would like to support this project or sponsor a nun.

updated 7/31/06