The Shar Bakhang Dhondup Dhing Nunnery is located in the isolated mountain region of upper Sindhupalchowk District, Nepal, near the Tibetan border. It is a unique community of over 250 nuns who have developed a beautiful nunnery village around the residence of their late founder and teacher, Most Venerable Singdrag Rinpoche, a renowned master of meditation who supported large numbers of nuns and monks. Unlike in modern nunneries or monasteries, the nuns here do not live in a single large structure or in group housing. At Dhondup Dhing nunnery, they have built small huts or individual houses, and have thereby maintained an independent life style.
Dhondup Dhing Nunnery suffered massive damages from the earthquake, and most of the nunnery compound collapsed. One of the nuns was killed, and several nuns were buried and suffered broken ribs and other fractures. As the road access to the region was cut-off due to massive landslides, aid and rescue were delayed, leaving the nuns with dwindling supplies and few resources to cope.
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Initially, we learned about the nunnery from our friends Dhondup Sherpa and Pasang. Dhondup Sherpa is a Buddhist monk at the monastery of Venerable Tharangu Rinpoche and comes from a small Sherpa village just near the nunnery. Venerable Metteyya accompanied Dhondup and Pasang to visit their village and the nunnery, to assess the situation and to bring essential relief supplies.
When he reached the nunnery in mid-May, the conditions were desperate. The nuns were forced to abandon their collapsed and damaged homes and were taking shelter in a large, makeshift, tarp-covered tent. They were sleeping on the cold ground, and many nuns were suffering from diarrhea and the flu. After this initial visit, Global Karuna sent additional supplies via helicopter to fulfill the basic needs of the nuns and villagers, including food, medicine, and tarps for the coming weeks.
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After the second earthquake on May 25th, the mountain behind the nunnery developed cracks and new landslides threatened the safety of the shelter. This led to discussions with the nunnery management team, and after much deliberation, it was decided that the nun’s needed to be rescued. Global Karuna sprang into action to search for a suitable property in the Kathmandu Valley and was blessed with a generous offer by Mr. Wangchuk (the president of nunnery management committee), who offered his old carpet factory compound as a site for a new shelter for the nuns.
With the skillful supervision and great dedication of all Global Karuna volunteers and the nunnery management committee, a beautiful shelter started taking shape near Bungamati Village, in the south of the Kathmandu Valley. Thanks to the Dharma energies helping and guiding us through every step of our relief work, we were able to help develop rooms for the nuns, a prayer and meditation hall, a kitchen, storage rooms, and washrooms. Venerable Zong Yong, the abbot of the Chinese temple in Lumbini and a friend of Venerable Metteyya, donated some metal sheets for the roofing and also donated enough rice to feed the nuns for a full year.
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All the nuns were rescued and transported in good time, and were able to continue their retreat in the safety and comforts of their new shelter. It gives us a great pleasure to recollect the spontaneous and kind manifestations of good intention and swift action that helped us develop this well-organized nunnery shelter project.