28 January 2024
After breakfast, the nuns assembled in the Monlam Pavillion and sat in rows on the Monlam stage. Usually, the inaugural ceremony takes place in Tergar Monastery shrine hall but this year it is being used for ordinations so events during the first two days of the Arya Kshema will be held in the Monlam Pavillion.
Nuns playing gyalins heralded Tai Situ Rinpoche’s arrival to preside over the ceremony. After opening prayers, nuns representing all the nunneries, and led by Drupon Dechen Rinpoche, made a mandala offering to the Gyalwang Karmapa and Tai Situ Rinpoche.
As is the custom, plentiful Tibetan butter tea and sweet rice were served to celebrate the occasion, and then Tai Situ Rinpoche addressed the nuns.
He emphasised the important role of women. “Women rule the world” he said, pointing out that many high-level jobs these days are held by women. He also stressed that though there are physical differences between men and women, the nature of their mind is identical. Both women and men possess buddha nature.
He encouraged the nuns to take their studies seriously, to the best of their ability.
He also emphasised the responsibilities of ordained nuns and monks who live on the offerings of laypeople.
Finally, he ended his advice by singing the opening lines of Mikyo Dorje’s Four-Session Guru Yoga, known as the “Four Mothers Prayer”. His clear, beautiful voice resounded through the Monlam Pavillion:
My mothers, all beings throughout space, pray to the guru, the precious buddha.
My mothers, all beings throughout space, pray to the buddha, the all-pervading
My mothers, all beings throughout space, pray to the guru, the great bliss sambhogakaya.
My mothers, all beings throughout space, pray to the guru, the compassionate nirmanakaya.
After Tai Situ Rinpoche had returned to his duties in the ordination ceremonies, the nuns continued with their programme for the day.
Next came the ritual which has become a key feature during the Arya Kshema —A Ritual for Women’s and Especially Nuns’ Dharma to Flourish, Based on the Inseparability of Noble Chenrezig and Noble Ananda. The ritual was composed especially for the nuns by the Gyalwang Karmapa before the inaugural Arya Kshema gathering in 2014. To the left of centre stage, a shrine had been set up below a thangka of Avalokitesvara depicted in Indian style. He is standing and wears a saffron lower garment, The small figure of Ananda can be seen emanating from the palm of Avalokiteshvara’s right hand. The thangka symbolises the inseparability of Avalokitesvara—the Buddha of compassion—and Ananda.
Recalling the ancient Indian origins of the Buddha and Ananda, the ritual opens with refuge and prayers in Sanskrit, before changing to Tibetan.
Midday, Tsurphu Labrang offered all the nuns a special lunch, and then, in the afternoon, the intensive programme continued. At 2.00pm, the nuns had the first group debate practice session. Between 4.30pm to 6.00pm they had classes with their teachers, followed by prayers at 7.00pm, and private study until 8.45pm.
Then, between 9.00pm and 10.30pm, they had a further group debate session.