Tibet Foundation

Tibetans in Exile Newsletter

Feb 1, 2004

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Tibetans in Exile Newsletter

Taken from Newsletter 42 A report by Lucy Cawthron, manager of the Tibetans in Exile Programme Support Monks and Nuns Escaped to India from Tibet The strength and cohesiveness of their Buddhist beliefs and traditions has always been a key factor for the Tibetan exile community in maintaining their sense of identity and community. At the heart of this tradition are the monastic institutions, centres of art and learning as well as religion. There are over 200 Tibetan monasteries and nunneries in India, Nepal and Bhutan with a population of over 20,000 monks and nuns – about 15 per cent of the total exile community. The great monasteries of Drepung, Sera and Gaden, once home to thousands of monks in Tibet, have been re-established in Tibetan settlements in south India. Smaller monasteries are found in every Tibetan settlement. Now, most monks and nuns studying in exile are born in India or Nepal. However, over the last two decades, nearly 10,000 monks and nuns have escaped from Tibet in order to pursue their studies in freedom. The continued restriction of religious freedom in Tibet means there is little opportunity for serious religious or philosophical education there. Most of these monks and nuns have no family in exile to support them. The religious institutes, many of which already suffer severe overcrowding and shortages of basic facilities, are not in a position to take them in without additional support. The Department of Religion of the Central Tibetan Administration provides a scholarship to all new arrivals aged between 16 and 25 – currently about 600 a year – for a period of 15 years to allow them to complete their studies. This scholarship covers basic living costs and health needs and contributes towards the costs of education. The Tibet Foundation’s Tibetans in Exile programme supports the Department in providing for these newly arrived monks and nuns through its sponsorship programme and donations from its Community Fund. The Department has also developed a programme to support destitute and old monks who live outside the monastic community. These monks do retreats and occasionally offer prayers in individual households. Most of them are new arrivals from Tibet. At present the Department supports about 130 such monks. Our sponsorship programme also supports the Tibetan Nuns Project, established in 1987, provides education and support with food, clothing, housing and health care to more than 500 nuns in northern India. The Project supports nuns and nunneries of all Tibetan Buddhist traditions, including the non-sectarian Dolma Ling nunnery in Himachal Pradesh. Nuns recently arrived from Tibet are given a monthly stipend until they can find a home in exile. An increasing number of young nuns come from the Himalayan border regions of Ladakh, Zanskar, Spiti, and Kinnaur, where nunneries are poor and few. Nuns arriving from these regions, and from Tibet, need more than just food and shelter. Many have received very little education, if any and they lack the basic skills required to sustain themselves and their religious practice in a new environment.? Sponsorship for newly arrived monks and nuns costs just £10 per month. If you would like to contribute to this fund on a regular basis, or would like to make a one-off donation to support this project, please send a cheque to Tibet Foundation marked ‘Monks and Nuns’. If you would like to set up a regular banker’s order please phone the Foundation for a form. Thank you for your help.