Today I walked quickly back down to Kathmandu, on a dusty limestone path that follows a pine ridge south from the Shivapuri National Forest. It took me two hours to get back to a hot shower and the internet, it takes over three to walk up the hill, a climb of about four thousand feet. I spent the last ten days at the nunnery. I managed to attend the last five days of the Ngagso Puja Drubchen (a nine day continuous ceremony for mending breaks in committments to the Dharma). The past five days were spent actually doing some practice, as I have been fantasizing about for some time.
Wake up with the horns announcing the morning chanting session for the nuns, which starts at 5:30. Prostrate, chant, meditation until 7:30. Breakfast with some nuns and an American, three Canadians and a Swede. Back on the cushion before 8:30, until 11:30 for a lunch of lentils, rice, vegetables and fresh yogurt, cow and water buffalo. Afternoon session was difficult for the legs and back, it varied for me, but usually from 1:00 to 7:00 with an hour break in between for some physical yoga stretches to loosen up my legs and back. Dinner and then reading a Dharma book for awhile, and finally an hour of practice before passing out, exhausted into a swirl of dream fantasy and peace.
There are around 90 nuns at Nagi Gompa, 32 of which have completed a 3year 3 month intense meditation retreat. There are ten who are in retreat right now, and after 2 years that number will increase to 42. Its quite impressive, the nuns are more dedicated to actual recitation and meditation than most monks I've met, but part of that comes from their lack of other opportunities. They have no formal education, and do not get to participate in the courses of study in philosophy or language like their male counterparts.
Related to this, I have sponsored the purchase of a text on basic philosophy for the nuns at the Khari Gompa in Khumbu Nepal (Everest Region), where I spent 2 months on three different occasions over the last few years. I bought 31 copies of the introduction to LamRim, which cost about $170 in total, but it was well worth it, because I believe strongly in the equal education of monks and nuns, and have had a wonderful experience with these nuns. I hope to spend a longer period of time with them in the future, at least for some retreat at their beautiful mountain hermitage.
After my short retreat this week, I am even more committed and excited about doing longer silent solitary meditation retreats. I am praying for long life, if only to be able to take advantage of this opportunity for plodding the path.
I snagged this photo of the Khari Nuns from the Tibetan Nuns Project website.