A new year in an ancient tradition

Dispelling rituals before Losar

As they do every year, the Gebchak nuns spent ten days before Losar performing intensive dispelling rituals, based on yidam (tantric deity) practices from the nunnery’s sixteen retreat divisions. These annual end-of-the-year rituals function to clear negative energy and habitual patterns through prayer, deity visualization, ceremony and profound meditation. With the threshold to the lunar new year cleared and charged with blessings, the nuns then celebrated Losar by cooking a feast in their new central kitchen, which was recently built beside the main temple.

Gebchak Nunnery has survived a turbulent passage into modernity in Nangchen – one shared by everyone in the region. Rapid economic development, the internet and modern education has brought with it a ‘new intellect’ among Tibetans that is slightly skeptical of ritual and faith-based practices.

First day of the new year

The nuns are aware of this and of some recent local criticisms of their full-time practice program which lacks a strong philosophical component. Nevertheless, they have observed modernization of Tibetan Buddhist practices over the last few years and concluded for themselves that nothing can replace the transformative power of their drubchens (extended group sadhana ceremonies) and the other Vajrayana rituals that comprise their Dzogchen practice system. The nuns are consciously maintaining the same practice system that Gebchak nuns practised at the turn of the 19th century.

Meanwhile, down the mountain at Dongtsang Ritro hermitage, about 40 nuns and monks are engaged in winter retreats, with 8 young nuns training to start a 3-year retreat in the next year or so. These girls are from Gebchak’s branch nunnery regions, and they will practice the Gebchak tradition in this 3-year retreat center, and then stay permanently on this ancient hermitage land or return to their branch nunneries. Dongtsang Ritro hermitage has been built on the oldest uncovered cultural site in Qinghai Province and is intended to serve as a training hub for the wider Gebchak lineage in the long-term future.

Nuns moving into retreat huts for the winter at Dongtsang Ritro

Thus the Gebchak community in Nangchen is thriving, despite a sea change in cultural values taking place in modern China. All of us reading this are participants in this thriving in various ways, through sponsorship, our own practice and/or the inspiration and faith we feel for the Gebchak nuns.

The Gebchak nuns and lamas pray sincerely, and with gratitude, for your health, success and for all of your spiritual aspirations to be easily fulfilled! They are beaming many tashi delek for the new lunar year of the Metal Ox!


The Gebchak nuns are sustained by the generosity of global supporters like you. Donations for their food, healthcare and other basic needs can be made online (or by bank transfer) from this link: http://gebchakgonpa.org/donate/food-health-care-fund/

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