Karma Samtenling Nunnery: Building a Beautiful Women’s Monastic Community in the Nepalese Hills

I would like to welcome you to a sacred site that is especially close to my heart: Samtenling Nunnery in Pharping, a haven of wisdom, peace, and compassion. Located 30 minutes from Kathmandu on a sacred mountain associated with Padmasambhava, the nunnery provides a refuge for underprivileged women who wish to dedicate their lives to the practice of Buddhism.

Samtenling Nunnery is officially under the Karma Kagyu Samtenling lineage, which means that the nunnery is under the authority of Gyalpo Rinpoche, the abbot of Karma Samtenling Monastery in Kathmandu. There are currently 50 nuns (ani) residing at the nunnery and enrolled in a 15-year curriculum that covers both traditional and modern subjects. They range from 5 to 18 years old and have dedicated their lives to the Dharma.

Image courtesy of Rebecca Wong

Their sincerity and work ethic are deep and limitless. Since 2022, I have been inspired by these girls and young women striving to study amidst an incomplete environment. By incomplete I mean just that: that the nunnery is still under construction. Many halls remain empty of furniture and Buddha images, and even the walls are not fully painted.

In early November, my friends and I visited Samtenling Nunnery with stationery and supplies. Our bigger goal was to fulfil a promise that we had made to Gyalpo Rinpoche and the nuns: to populate the main hall of the nunnery with gold-plated Tara statues. While this is only one aspect of the broader project to finish the complex, it is an important one, especially given what Tara, the only female Buddha, means to women and nuns. Tara is the female manifestation of the Buddha’s enlightened mind, and she represents the qualities of wisdom, compassion, and action.

Image from Rebecca Wong

To ensure transparency and the smooth transfer of funds from respected donors, earlier this year we set up a board for the specific purpose of donating the gold-plated Tara statues with Gyalpo Rinpoche’s blessing. I am proud to be one of this initiative’s board members, combining my strengths with those my friends and fellow board members, who range from ex-Goldman/Citibank bankers, Harvard lawyers, and international foundation members. All of us are female and devoted Vajrayana Buddhists. Together during our November Nepal trip, we signed a MOU that will ensure good governance.

Image from Rebecca Wong

We have started Phase One’s gold plating of 13 Tara statues, with the final objective being to complete 21 for the hall. We hope that we can begin Phase Two by June 2024 after completing our current progress. If one is interested in donating a precious Tara statue, one will not only beautify Samtenling Nunnery’s main hall, but also create a relationship with Tara and connect to her blessings. Each statue will have a plate under it with the donor’s name and dedication. The merit of this offering is enormous for the donor and their family, as well as for the nuns and all sentient beings.

Should you be interested, feel free to join me in building this beautiful monastic women’s community. You can always find more information on our Facebook page. May you always be protected by Tara and enjoy health, happiness, and peace.

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