Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

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Nenang Nunnery
by José Ignacio Cabezón
January 30, 2006
Section 2 of 4


One of Padmasambhava’s caves at NenangGnas nang.

NenangGnas nang is, as we have mentioned, a site associated with Padmasambhava. Two large caves found near the main hermitage buildings are said to be meditation caves of this important ninth century Indian master, one of the legendary founders of Buddhism in Tibet. Of course, many hundreds (if not thousands) of caves throughout Tibet are associated with Padmasambhava, and we have no way of determining the accuracy of the claim that Padmasambhava (if he was a historical figure at all) lived in the caves at NenangGnas nang. However, there is a strong oral tradition that maintains that this was a site at which Padmasambhava did a three-year, three-month retreat.

An informant, a former monk of Khardo Hermitage (Khardo RitröMkhar rdo ri khrod), tells us that NenangGnas nang was founded as a nunnery by a certain Jetsün (or Khachö) Dröldor Wangmo (Jetsün Namkhachö Dröldor WangmoRje btsun nam mkha’ spyod sgrol rdor dbang mo), a nun who was considered to be a ḍākinī. During her lifetime, and during that of her next incarnation, the nunnery flourished, but then there were no further incarnations. The nunnery went into a period of decline, and it was at this time that the institution sought to affiliate with Khardo Hermitage.

NenangGnas nang was a site used as a retreat place by the third Khardo incarnation Rikdzin Chökyi Dorjé (Khardo Kutreng Sumpa Rikdzin Chökyi DorjéMkhar rdo sku phreng gsum pa rigs ’dzin chos kyi rdo rje). It is the place where he is said to have “practiced the special treasure teachings of Khardo.”1 That same master is credited with later (re)founding a nunnery at the site (see Negodong Nunnery). The site has been under the control of the Khardo Lama’s estate (Khardo LabrangMkhar rdo bla brang) since this time.

Living so far from the village, the nuns, it is said, feared for their safety, and generally experienced great hardship. According to one oral account, a group of brigands actually attacked the nunnery, looting it, and raping several of the nuns. As a result, the nuns asked to move closer to KhardoMkhar rdo, and so the monks then living at NegodongGnas sgo gdong traded places with the nuns: NegodongGnas sgo gdong became a nunnery, and the more remote NenangGnas nang became a monastery for male monks. In another version of the story, the exchange of the two institutions was ordered by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama (Dalai Lama Kutreng ChuksumpaDa lai bla ma sku phreng bcu gsum pa). In any case, this occurred sometime around 1930. From the 1930s up to 1959, therefore, NenangGnas nang was a monks’ hermitage.

A nun meditator currently living at NenangGnas nang.

The site was forcibly closed sometime between 1959 and the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, and the buildings began to deteriorate. No one has formally taken on the responsibility of rebuilding NenangGnas nang. However, sometime in the last decade several NyingmapaRnying ma pa nuns and one elderly man (the father of one of the nuns) have fashioned makeshift huts out of the ruins of NenangGnas nang’s former buildings. These hermits all hail from KhamKhams, Eastern Tibet.

[1] mkhar rdo gter chos thun mong ma yin pa nyams bzhes.
Nenang Nunnery , by José Ignacio Cabezón

Table of Contents

  1. Location and Layout
  2. History
  3. Glossary
  4. Notes
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