Both construction and dharma activities are at full throttle this spring at the new Surmang Kyelaka nunnery. Following up on groundbreaking in late 2019 and a remarkable construction campaign for the nunnery lhakang (shrine hall) in 2020, finish work on the building interior resumed in April 2021. Painters, carpenters, and tile layers are on site and plan to complete their tasks by this fall. Although various furnishings and artwork will still be needed, the main shrine room will then be ready for use, as well as additional rooms on the second floor.
The nuns have participated in the construction of their own homes and also, in whatever ways they can, in the overall work at the nunnery site. A 38-second video of the nuns planting trees at the nunnery in April can be seen here.
The lhakang library is currently in intensive use by the nuns for a study program similar to that provided at a shedra (monastic school). Led by two khenmos (female professors) and a khenpo (male professor) graciously provided by Yachen Gar, the nuns are studying daily during what had historically been a lull period for dharma activities at Surmang. (The winter is the busiest time for dharma programs at Surmang Dutsi Til monastery and the summer, at which time monks visit their families, is the slowest. As is usually the case, Choseng Trungpa XII Rinpoche is also absent this summer, visiting his family and other locations.) However, at Surmang Kyelaka nunnery, the nuns expect to continue a full schedule right through the summer.
During this past winter, many of the nuns participated in the annual cycle of dharma programs at Dutsi Til, making use of the monastery shedra complex as living quarters. This series of practices included a rushen closed retreat and the commemoration of the parinirvana of Chögyam Trungpa XI Rinpoche.
The nuns and their families take responsibility for their houses, although the building sites, site preparation and much of the building materials have been provided. For those nuns whose families are too poor to help build their house, additional support is given. Nuns are also given help with food, including bulk items like barley. The houses have electricity and heating stoves. An outdoor water tap is provided for every several houses and group bathrooms.
Surmang Khenpo reports that many more nuns would like to come to the nunnery beyond the approximately one hundred already present, but the government places limits on how many monastics can live at a particular institution. The reason that Surmang was allowed to restart this nunnery in 2019 is because there had historically been a small nunnery close to Surmang Dutsi Til and associated with it.
Konchok Foundation and its donors are providing financial support to make the Surmang Kyelaka nunnery possible, led by major donations from Scott Wellenbach and the Pema Chodron Foundation, and with contributions from many additional donors. Thank you to everyone who is participating.
Join the effort to support the Surmang nuns at Kyelaka with a donation.
Other Surmang news: Although no cases of covid have been reported in the Surmang area, many activities were nonetheless restricted during 2020 and early 2021. Therefore, the children’s educational program could not operate at Dutsi Til monastery or at anything like its normal scale during the past winter. The children’s program next winter will be supported, as always, by Konchok Foundation, with help from the Gesar Fund in Europe.
In addition to the completion of the Kyelaka construction and ongoing support provided for the nuns, funding continues to be given to the monks on long-term retreat at the Dutsi Til retreat centers, Dorje Khyung Dzong and Dechen Choling. A modest amount of funding is also provided for another nunnery from the Surmang group that is a considerable distance from Dutsi Til.