BUDDHIST FEMINISM IN LADAKH [7/14]
In this photograph: young nuns inside the main building of Julichen Nunnery, Ladakh.
Julichen Nunnery is only 2 km away from Rizong Gompa, the main male monastery to which it is subordinate. The nuns have to work hard to support Rizong Gompa’s economic needs, with no return but being taken care of by the Governing Body of the main Monastery.
“Nuns work from dawn to dusk processing Rizong Gompa’s vast wealth of grain, apples, apricots and wool.” (Gutschow)
The social and economic aspects of Julichen nuns’ life have been the object of in-depth studies.
The nuns’ rights and conditions within Buddhism have also been discussed during a cycle of International Conferences held in the Nineties as well as a specific Association for Buddhist Women has been established in order to elicit growing awareness.
Ladakh (Himalayas) is one of the most elevated inhabited areas in the world, almost inaccessible to the outer world until the second half of the twentieth century. It is a land of climate extremes, and the population, living in such harsh conditions, has devised survival strategies to keep population growth low. Practices and customs such as primogeniture privileges, fraternal poliandry and monasticism have maintained a balance between man and nature.
In Ladakh, gender roles do not diverge much, even in adulthood.
Yet, in monasticism the status of women (nuns) has not been considered particularly high, as compared to that of monks.
An interesting instance is provided by Julichen Nunnery, where the nuns have always been working hard to support the economic needs of Rizong Gompa, a male Monastery 2 km from Julichen.
Gutschow, Kim (2004), Being a Buddhist nun: the struggle for enlightenment in the Himalayas, Harvard University Press;
Grimshaw, Anna, “Servants of the Buddha: Winter in an Himalayan Convent”, in Himalayan Research Bulletin XV (2), 1995.