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Buddhist nuns break rules for a cause

by Renu Kshetry, The Himalayan Times, October 21, 2004

33-year-old Ani, two others to act in documentary on life of nuns.

Purang, Mustang (India) -- The Anis or Buddhist nuns, who have long distanced themselves from the hurly-burly of the world studying Buddhism in monasteries and spreading Lord Buddha's teachings to others, are slowly giving up their age-old tradition and coming forward to mingle with the world outside otherwise forbidden to them. After many years in seclusion under strict conditions, Yeshi Lhamo, a 33-year-old graduate from Benares Hindu University, has agreed to act in a feature film based on the life of nuns. Unlike other nuns who enter the nunnery at a very tender age, Lhamo joined the nunnery on her own free will after completing her graduation in astrology, ayurvedic Tibetan medicine and philosophy at the age of 23. Lhamo is alone and has one mission ? erecting 1,000 Buddha statues within a year. However impossible it might seem for a nun, she has already constructed 600 of them. For her, this is a way of spreading the message of peace.

?My parents were devastated when I told them I was becoming a nun,? she said. She says she wanted to become a nun since early childhood and her inspiration was her elder brother who was a ?Rimpoche.? According to her, sacrificing our happiness to help others gives us immense pleasure and we should be able to enjoy the feeling of satisfaction. During the ten arduous years at a nunnery in Shimla, she served the poor as a nurse for two years, taught the nuns at the Arya Tara School and collected resources for the nunneries by her teachings in France and other countries. ?I never wanted to get married and have kids as marriage means commitment and my priorities would have been divided,? Lhamo said. She has two brothers and a sister who is a nurse in London. ?I am happy with the course of life I have chosen,?she said.

Impressed by her dedication, movie makers have decided to cast her in a documentary, Karma, shooting for which is scheduled to end by March. Lhamo justifies her decision of acting in the 90-minute movie thus: ?There is nothing wrong in playing a part in a movie. The important thing, however, is keeping our rituals alive. It all depends upon a person.?

Tshering Ritar Sherpa, the movie director said he had found Lhamo by a quirk of fate. ?The part will be played by a real-life nun. This will be totally different from casting any actress in the role.? Sherpa has also motivated two other nuns to act in his movie being shot against the backdrop of the beautiful Mustang valley.

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