The Lingshed Nunnery (Lingshed Como Gonpa) was originally the vision of Geshe Ngagwang Jangchup (affectionately referred to as “Geshela” by all who know him). A native of the area, Geshela has tirelessly raised funds and advanced projects in support of the broader Lingshed community.
Lingshed is one of the most remote areas of the Ladakh region of Northern India. The Lingshed area consists of six villages and approximately 1300 villagers. The area is quiet, solitary, and surrounded by beautiful Himalayan snow mountains.
Unfortunately, the Lingshed area is also one of the poorest and most isolated areas in India. Almost all the people are poor, and their standard of living is very low.
There is no electricity or communications or modern health and sanitation services.
The situation is made worse by the fact that there are no roads for motor vehicles leading to the Lingshed area. Nearly all essential foods and construction supplies must be brought in by mule-train or back-pack. Moreover, the trip to Lingshed from the closest village of Wanla takes four or five days under the best conditions, and the winter snows close the roads and passes entirely for six months of every year.
In addition the soil is weak and the growing season is very short, the local farmers work hard for limited crop yields and the people suffer greatly from starvation and malnutrition.
As a result of their poverty and isolation, the people of Lingshed desperately need nutritious food, agriculture to improve crop production, forestry science to supply fuel for cooking and heating, not to mention the most basic necessities of modern life, such as electricity, medical supplies, and so forth.
In the entire Lingshed area there is no hospital, clinic, or resident doctor or nurse versed in western medicine. There are doctors of Tibetan medicine in the area, and the people depend heavily on their traditional diagnoses and herbal medicines. But due to the prevailing poverty, the people for the most part cannot afford the services of these doctors, and there is a future danger that even this type of medical service will decline.
We, the villagers of Lingshed, strongly believe that the Lingshed area’s dual afflictions of isolation and poverty can be substantially reduced through even modest advances in education, both modern and spiritual. An overarching goal of the Lingshed projects is to introduce modernity which improves the quality of life while ensuring that traditional spiritual values, beliefs and customs can flourish.
For the last forty years, limited primary education has been available for certain Lingshed students. However, since educational opportunities were mainly limited to the summer months, the women and men who had to work the fields could not attend classes. Since the Lingshed area has always had a monastery for men. Approximately 70 monks from poor families reside in the monastery. Many males – both monks and laity – have learned to read and write our Ladakh language. But for over one thousand years, the women of our Lingshed area have been entirely deprived of educational opportunities.
For this reason, and also because our local women lack opportunities for spiritual development the importance of the nunnery for our area’s women cannot be overstated. Not only will the nunnery function to provide a spiritual home for those women who wish to become ordained as nuns, but also all women in the Lingshed area feel the need for the nunnery in order that they may have a focus for their desire to learn more about their world and their religion. The nunnery will provide spiritual education for all the women in the Lingshed area, not just the nuns, and also will function as a central place where women can come to discuss and begin to solve their own special problems.
With the generous contributions of donors starting in 1994, building of the nunnery began. However, due to the harsh and remote conditions, money alone would not build the nunnery. The Nuns themselves carried building supplies and helped to build their Nunnery through “sweat equity”. They will never forget the generosity of the sponsors who allowed their dream to become a reality and joyfully did the physical labor to finish the project.