Geshema degree becomes a reality

Phayul, May 22, 2012

DHARAMSHALA, India -- After years of debate and careful deliberation, Tibetan Buddhist nuns are finally set to receive Geshema degrees (equivalent of a PHD in Buddhist Philosophy).

The historical decision was arrived at a high-level meeting organised by the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration last week in Dharamshala.

“The decision to officially honour Geshema degrees was unanimously taken at the two-day meeting,” Ngawang Choedak, the secretary of Department of Religion and Culture said.

“High lamas from different monasteries, including from the Dalai Lama’s main temple, and representatives from nunneries attended the meeting,” Choedak said while adding that the push came from the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

“His Holiness the Dalai Lama has over the years strongly advocated for Geshema degrees and guided the concerned people in arriving at this decision,” the secretary said.

Kalon Tripa Dr Lobsang Sangay and minister for the Department of Religion and Culture, Pema Chinnjor also addressed the two-day meeting.

In September last, the 11th meeting of Tibetan religious heads, presided by the Dalai Lama had also discussed on the required steps for the honouring of Geshema degree.

Nuns have been graduating from the rigorous 19-year program of philosophical studies as required for the normal Geshe curriculum study of the Five Great Canonical Texts. Now with the decision, nuns, at par with monks, have the opportunity to appear for the very stringent doctorate examinations.

In 2011, Ven. Kelsang Wangmo became the first Buddhist nun to be awarded a Rime Geshe Degree by the Dharamshala based Institute for Buddhist Dialectic Studies with the authorisation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The degree is titled Rime Geshe [Non-Sectarian Geshe] as the curriculum includes study with Nyingma, Sakya and Kagyu masters of their respective presentations of philosophy.