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DGL Nunnery: Beginnings

Tenzin Palmo's vision was to found a Nunnery to give young nuns of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage the opportunity to realise their intellectual and spiritual potential after so many centuries of neglect and to reinstate at the Nunnery the 'Togdenma' (yogini) tradition.

The Nunnery was named 'Dongyu Gatsal Ling' by the Spiritual Director His Eminence the 9th Khamtrul Rinpoche Shedrup Nyima. It means 'Garden of the Authentic Lineage' and was chosen because 'Dongyu Nyima' was the name of the previous Khamtrul Rinpoche, who was Tenzin Palmo's personal Guru.

The emphasis of DGL Nunnery is to:

  • Provide a programme of study, meditation and service.
  • Train nuns in integrating their daily life and work with Dharma principles.
  • Encourage a life based on monastic vows and communal harmony and eventually to reintroduce the bhikshuni (higher monastic) ordination.
  • Re-establish the precious 'Togdenma' (yogini) tradition of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage and train some nuns as teachers in meditation.
  • Prepare some of the nuns who undertake higher philosophical studies to become teachers or professors.

The Nunnery started in January 2000 in a small room at Tashi Jong with a group of girls from Ladakh. Initial plans were quickly put into action with the help of volunteers Eliz Dowling and Monica Joyce. Gradually others dedicated themselves to Tenzin Palmo's vision.

Soon more young nuns from Tibet, Spiti, Kinnaur and other Himalayan regions boosted the numbers to twenty one. For the first eighteen months the nuns lived in the newly built monastic college at Tashi Jong which previously had lain empty. They were taught philosophy by Khenpo Losal, Tibetan language by Gen Lodoe and English by various volunteers. Later when Khampagar Monastery needed to re-establish their college, the nuns moved to a hundred-year old mud brick house on a nearby tea estate where they remained for some time.

Meantime the DGL Trust (established in India in mid-1999) purchased seven acres of suitable land from the Tashi Jong Community and construction of the Nunnery began. In late 2005 the nuns were able to move to their newly completed living quarters at the permanent Nunnery location while the construction continued around them.

A DGL website was established and teaching tours were organised to gain support for the Nunnery as well as to spread the Dharma. Soon donations from all over the world came in and sponsors committed to helping the nuns. Vicki Mackenzie's biography of Tenzin Palmo 'Cave in the Snow' brought awareness of this work and continues to raise funds, as does Tenzin Palmo's book of teachings 'Reflections on a Mountain Lake'.

The story behind the DGL logo

DGL Logo

The Nunnery name Dongyu Gatsal Ling translates as 'Delightful Garden of the Authentic Lineage'. This name was bestowed on the Nunnery by His Eminence the 9th Khamtrul Rinpoche Shedrup Nyima when Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo founded the Nunnery. On top of the logo is the Victory Banner, the personal emblem of the Khamtrul Rinpoches. The banner is surmounting a Dharma Wheel which shows that this is a place of study and practice where the Wheel of the Doctrine is being turned. On both sides of the Wheel are jewel-holding dragons, symbols of the Drukpa Kagyu or ‘Dragon’ lineage. The lineage became known as the Dragon Lineage because nine dragons (Druk means dragon in Tibetan) thunderously roared up from the earth as flowers rained down from the sky when the first Drukpa Kagyu monastery was established in Tibet, in the 12th century.

The logo was designed by renowned artist Dugu Choegyal Rinpoche and was painted by Tsering Wangchuk, a master artist from Tashi Jong.