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Thread: Kung Fu Nuns of the Drupka Order

  1. #16
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    Nice first person account

    I like the approach of this site's reporting.
    First Person: ‘I set up kung fu classes for nuns’
    As told to Jeremy Taylor by Gyalwang Drukpa


    His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa and kung fu nuns: “Their routine is quite spectacular”©Tereza Cerveňová

    I am the spiritual leader of the Drukpa school of Buddhism, the 12th reincarnation in a lineage that dates back more than 1,000 years. We approach modern-day problems using ancient Buddhist philosophy. I believe most people think nuns spend their lives in learning and quiet contemplation. In the region of the Himalayas where I live, their traditional role was always subservient. For centuries, they simply cooked and cleaned for their monk colleagues.

    They were also barred from taking part in martial arts but now I’ve helped change that. In 1992, I established the Druk Gawa Khilwa Abbey in Ladakh, India, and then six years ago I decided the time was right for the nuns there to start learning kung fu.

    When I first broached the idea of teaching nuns kung fu, my advisers didn’t like it at all. I had a difficult time persuading them because it was a break from tradition. They didn’t understand.

    Finally they agreed and one day in 2009 I put the word out that we were going to have kung fu lessons. I was in my mid-forties then and I hadn’t practised martial arts since I was a boy. However, as we didn’t have a proper teacher at the time, it was down to me to train them.

    I remember that day very well. I was extremely nervous and quite scared because I didn’t want my project to fail. Suddenly I found myself standing in front of 102 nuns, all of them dressed in their robes and waiting for me to show them what to do.

    I think we had a lot of fun. There was stretching and many arm movements but I soon realised that if the nuns were going to progress, they needed a proper kung fu master instead of me.

    Now we have a core group of 70 nuns practising four times a day. They get up at 3am and have their first lesson an hour later. It’s often still dark and you can hear their yelps as they kick and punch through their exercises together in the courtyard.

    It wasn’t long before word of the kung fu nuns got out and people wanted to come and see them train. We decided it would be good to send the nuns out into the world, to give displays and spread the message to other women.

    Their routine is quite spectacular to watch and has drawn large crowds. They swirl flags and spears, making their high kicks in unison. They also perform the dragon dance, which is extremely difficult and usually reserved for monks.

    Some of the nuns can break several bricks with a single strike from their hand or head. Another part of the show involves a nun sitting with a 25kg slab of concrete on her knees. It is then broken in half with the swing of a sledgehammer.

    In the past few years the nuns have visited Hong Kong, Malaysia, London and most of Europe. They were invited to America but it was cancelled because we couldn’t get them visas.

    I think it is marvellous for them because some of the nuns come from very difficult backgrounds. Some of them were orphans and others were homeless. They had very low self-esteem but kung fu has helped boost their confidence. Their spiritual practice is obviously very important but physical exercise like this can only do good.

    Some of the nuns left good careers to join the nunnery in Ladakh. One was about to start a job in marketing and another was a counter-terrorism agent. The nunnery is so popular now that we actually have a waiting list.

    I’m hoping that this is just the start for the Drukpa nuns. I have a lot of innovative ideas, including setting up a tennis team. Who knows where that will lead? Maybe one day you will have a nun as Wimbledon champion too.

    Photograph: Tereza Cerveňová
    Gene Ching
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  2. #17
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    The Nepal Nuns are standing firm

    These nuns kick ASS.

    Kathmandu's Kung Fu Nuns Have Refused To Be Evacuated - They're Staying Back To Help Victims
    Kunal Anand
    April 30, 2015



    300 women have refused to be flown by plane and chopper out of an earthquake ravaged Nepal. Clearly, they aren't ordinary women - they are nuns of the Ladakh-based Drupka order.


    buddistdoor

    Or, as the world calls them, 'Kung-Fu Nuns'. These women have grown up learning kung fu and meditation their entire life from a Kathmandu nunnery, and now they're planning to stay back and use their strength to help earthquake victims here.


    buddhistdoor

    In fact, their leader, the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa expected them to be shaken, like the rest of Nepal. He told the Daily Mail: “I was expecting the nuns over there to be under trauma. Many people were saying that they should be evacuated but they decided to stay back and help others."


    balticreview

    "It’s raining continuously, earthquakes are repeatedly happening, the walls are falling and none of them can go back to their rooms so they have had to camp in the garden.


    huffpost

    Despite all these problems, they are willing to help.”


    simondetreywhite

    According to him, these disasters show nature’s unhappiness with mankind's greed.: “From a spiritual point of view, we should not blame God but, instead, work with nature and respect it. Some people say that the earth is a mother. I don’t necessarily say that one should worship.


    bccl

    Respect, instead, means not being destructive. Scientists also say that,” he says.



    What he says is correct - Nepal has been built like a dangerous maze of poorly constructed buildings without concern for earthquakes.
    Gene Ching
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  3. #18
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    Yet more on the nuns

    These ladies are truly my heroines.

    Meet the Kung Fu Nuns Fixing Nepal After Its Devastating Earthquakes
    By Natasha Noman May 12, 2015

    Nepal has been devastated in the past few weeks. More than 8,000 people died after the country was rocked on April 25 by a magnitude-7.9 earthquake, and on Tuesday it endured yet another major earthquake, this one of magnitude 7.3, resulting in more than a thousand injuries and dozens of deaths confirmed so far. Between the two quakes, aftershocks and heavy rainfall made recovery efforts difficult.

    But amid this tragedy, some unlikely heroes have emerged: the so-called "kung fu nuns." These Buddhist nuns of the Drukpa order live on the outskirts of Kathmandu at the Druk Amitabha Mountain nunnery, where they have incorporated the martial art into their Buddhist practice. Three hundred of these nuns refused to be evacuated after the April quake in order to stay and help with recovery efforts.

    When their nunnery began to crumble during that first earthquake, "the nuns jumped through shattered glass windows, smashed open rattling doors and dived over a collapsing staircase," the Washington Post reported. "They have been training for about four years to react with just such speed and agility."

    After tending to their monastery, the nuns have dedicated their time to helping others in nearby villages. They do everything from removing rubble to clearing paths. They distribute food, too, and help erect tents to provide shelter for the millions of Nepalis who are now homeless.


    Source: Prakash Mathema/Getty Images

    Wait... where did they come from? Traditionally, Buddhist nuns are trained in simplicity and expected to perform domestic chores in nunneries and monasteries. Roughly 26 years ago, taking issue with the inherently patriarchal and sexist Buddhist monastic framework, members of the 800-year-old Drukpa order rebelled to form the more feminist Druk Amitabha Mountain nunnery. They took that goal a step further in 2008, when their leader, Gyalwang Drukpa, introduced kung fu to the nunnery after being inspired by female martial arts in Vietnam.


    Source: Mic/YouTube
    In addition to martial arts, the Guardian reports, the Drukpa order teaches its nuns rudimentary business skills and how to lead prayers.

    The nuns have said the kung fu has both improved their self-confidence and made them better at meditation. They have used it for campaigns promoting community work and against toxic waste, not to mention women's empowerment, the Washington Post reports. Not only are these nuns helping their community, but they are also defying gender norms in a larger way, challenging what it means to be a woman in Nepal.


    Source: AFP/Getty Images

    To be a woman in Nepal: Nepal is not the worst country when it comes to gender parity, but it's by no means exemplary. Strides have been made in education, and enrollment rates for boys and girls in primary and secondary school are practically the same, according to the World Economic Forum's 2014 Gender Gap Index. But there remains a legacy of inequality, with only 47% of women literate, compared to 71% of men.

    And, as is often the case in poor countries, women and girls suffer in a multitude of other ways. Women have had to bear the brunt of earthquake damages, keeping families together and participating in recovery efforts, as a substantial number of men are abroad earning remittances, Public Radio International notes. Women and girls are also particularly vulnerable to exploitation by human traffickers, who may target Nepal in the chaos.

    This makes populations like the Druk Amitabha Mountain nunnery particularly important. Their ethos of female empowerment, and their role in recovery efforts, offers a symbol of hope for women and girls across the country.


    Source: Prakash Mathema/Getty Images

    Natasha Noman
    Natasha is a Live News Staff Writer who focuses on global politics. Before joining Mic she reported on regional affairs from Pakistan, where in reality she spent the majority of her time there exhaustively researching the avant-garde online dating scene. She studied at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London and Columbia University. It dawned on her recently that she may be the subject of Chapter Four of Edward Said's "Orientalism."

    Gene Ching
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  4. #19
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    In Newsweek Europe

    Crouching tiger, hidden nun: the kung fu sisters of Nepal training to help their country
    By Christine Toomey 6/12/15 at 11:45 AM


    Gawa Khilwa and its nuns: "Love is not failing to defend against attack," says the head of their Buddhist order
    Christine Toomey

    Filed Under: Culture

    At the Druk Gawa Khilwa nunnery in Nepal, nestled in mountains an hour's drive from Kathmandu, each day begins at 3am with the sound of a bell. Dawn will not seep across the highest Himalayan peaks for several more hours. As the young nuns stir from sleep, only a dim glow filters through the dormitory windows from lit pathways beyond.

    No words are spoken and no glances exchanged as the young women slip from their beds and wrap their slender frames in burgundy and saffron robes. First, an underskirt and shirt without sleeves, worn even on the coldest of days. Over this, a wide lower robe is folded and tucked at the waist. Finally, a long shawl, a zen, is tossed around the shoulders to keep out the chill.

    After smoothing out sheets and blankets, each woman steps up onto the firm mattress of her bed and sits cross-legged facing the wall against which her pillow rests. Each then turns within, entering the realm of meditation.

    While most of the sisters spend the next two hours treading their own inner path, repeating secret mantras and recitations, alternating groups of nuns follow a very different form of practice. Instead of monastic robes, they lift a quite other set of clothes from the storage boxes under their beds: loose brown trousers and long-sleeved martial-arts jackets cinched at the waist with a cloth sash. Tying the laces of white canvas shoes, they pass quietly from their dormitories into the night air.

    It is mid-October when I join them and together we snake up a stairway that leads along a steep incline, bordered on either side by scented flowers and shrubs. Today, it is warm enough to practise outside, so I follow the women as they climb three further flights of stairs onto the roof and space themselves out with a few low whispers. As their instructor brings the group to order they draw their feet together, pull two clenched fists back towards their waists and stand waiting.

    At the opening command they raise their arms to shoulder height, thrust their right fist into their left palm and spring into such sharp action that it seems a temporary affront to the calm devotions of those meditating below. In the background, the only sound is a gentle symphony of cicadas, but high on the nunnery roof the peace is now pierced by shouted instructions in the practice of kung fu.


    Christine Toomey

    With each position counted out, the nuns move through a series of steps that flow from graceful hand gestures through fierce air punches and swinging chops to soaring kicks and acts of fighting.

    Most of the exercises are carried out individually, either with bare hands or the long fighting sticks known as bo staffs. The most startlingly beautiful are performed with blood-red fans swirled above the head and around the waist. At times the fans are spun open, at others flipped closed, the effect more dance than martial art. Other exercises involve two nuns sparring, circling each other with clenched fists, thrusting, shoving, grabbing the other's neck in the crook of their arms and pushing their opponent to the ground.

    What I am witnessing in this striking pre-dawn display is more than 1,000 years of tradition being turned on its head. For more than a millennium this kung fu was reserved only for monks, its roots lying far to the north in the legendary Chinese monastery of Shaolin.

    It was there in the fifth century that kung fu was said to have originated, after Bodhidarma, an Indian prince turned Buddhist monk, set out to take the teachings of the Buddha to China. On finding temples there vulnerable to attack by thieves, and many monks struggling with the rigours of monastic life, Bodhidarma devised a system of fitness and defence that drew heavily on the ancient traditions of Indian yoga.

    Like yoga, Shaolin kung fu developed from observation of the way animals move. Over the centuries the Shaolin monks incorporated many different animal postures into their practice until eventually the mastery of many styles developed into a form represented by the Chinese dragon, a powerful spiritual creature.

    It is telling, then, that the nuns of Gawa Khilwa belong to the Drukpa order of Tibetan Buddhism, druk being the Tibetan word for both "dragon" and "thunder". Each day that passes, I make a request to meet the head of the Drukpa order, the Gyalwang Drukpa, whose introduction of the nuns to kung fu is only one aspect of a highly unusual degree of support he shows the women in his care. On the morning of my sixth day, I am granted an audience.

    The décor inside the room in which he receives me is full of established Buddhist imagery. But as we begin to speak I quickly gain an impression of a man whose robes mask a forward thinker impatient with some of the constraints of tradition. Early on, he shows me a picture of his mother and I come to understand that her absence when he was a boy perhaps provides some key to his unorthodox views. After being recognised as a reincarnation of a previous holder of the title, at the age of four he was taken from the care of his Tibetan parents to a monastery near Darjeeling, in India. He admits openly to the hardship involved.

    During his training, the Gyalwang Drukpa rarely saw his parents and enjoyed little female influence. The few nuns he encountered were regarded as inferior to monks and were invariably treated badly.

    "By nature women embody the wisdom of the Buddhist teachings. They are more loving and compassionate than men because of their mothering instinct," he says. It seems quite a leap from this nurturing vision of womanhood to introducing his nuns to kung fu – a move that has been criticised in more conservative Buddhist circles.

    The idea came to him, he explains, after seeing nuns in Vietnam being taught the martial art by police officers who had learned combat skills to fight the Vietcong. "Some people say kung fu, knocking somebody down, is the opposite of love. And I too wondered if I was doing the right thing, introducing my nuns to the practice," he says. "But love comes in many forms. Love is not accepting failure and it is not failing to defend against attack.

    "I want the nuns that I teach to be strong and confident. Becoming a monk or a nun is not a comfortable experience, but it is good training for the skills they will need in life."

    The essence of Buddhism, he continues, is a process for improving the quality of one's own life and that of others.

    "Buddhism is not a religion. It is not an 'ism' at all," he says. "You can call it a philosophy of life. But there are many people who misunderstand this term too, thinking of it as something academic. I'm talking about a philosophy of how you stand, sit, drink tea and do everything in life with awareness."

    Far from envisioning his nunneries as sanctuaries from everyday reality, his intention is that they should act as training grounds for spiritual warriors. And there are now more women queuing up for the privilege of this training than any of his nunneries are able to accommodate.

    Gawa Khilwa, for instance, at the time of my visit, has a waiting list of between 50 and 60 women. "We need women now more than ever," says the Gyalwang Drukpa, as our meeting concludes. "The answer to many questions being asked in modern society is that more empowerment of women is needed."

    His intention is that the nuns at Gawa Khilwa, and other nunneries over which he presides in India, will eventually go out into society to carry out practical work. "The nuns must see these nunneries as schools from which they will one day emerge, putting their strong female energy to good use."

    Since Christine visited Nepal, the country was struck by the terrible earthquake of 25 April. The nuns of Gawa Khilwa refused to be airlifted to safety and used the strength derived from kung fu to help their community, administering medical treatment, constructing shelters and carrying more than 100,000 sacks of food to remote villages. This piece was excerpted from The Saffron Road: A Journey with Buddha's Daughters (€20, Portobello).

    Field Guide

    How to get there: Gawa Khilwa nunnery is generally open to visitors on Saturday. The nunnery is part of the Druk Amitabha Mountain monastic complex of His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa. It is an hour's taxi ride north-west of the capital. Access is via a narrow mountain road with ever more hairpin bends and increasingly perpendicular inclines. Druk Amitabha has limited guest quarters but overnight stays can be arranged in advance with the nunnery's office.

    What to read: The Gyalwang Drukpa's most recent publications are Everyday Enlightenment and Happiness Is a State of Mind.
    Might have to check out both of these books.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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  5. #20
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    The 'Kung Fu Nuns' Of Kathmandu

    Luv these ladies. Some day, I hope we can do an in-depth story on them.

    The 'Kung Fu Nuns' Of Kathmandu Are The Most Badass Women On The Planet
    Kung Fu Nuns Of Kathmandu

    By Shantanu Prasher, Wednesday, 23 Sep 2015



    It’s a widely known fact that Buddhist nuns across the world are considered inferior to the monks. But at the Amitabha Drukpa Nunnery in Kathmandu, Nepal, these nuns do things a little differently. They throw punches and kick just as hard as their monk brothers. Meet the world's first order of ‘Kung Fu nuns’ of Kathmandu.



    Atop the Amitabha Mountain on the outskirts of Kathmandu, sits a silent abode of nuns called the Amitabha Drukpa Nunnery.
    Kung Fu Nuns Of Kathmandu

    Every day after completing their lessons of religious studies and saying their prayers, these nuns aged between 9-52 undergo a more than an hour-long session of hand chops, punches, shrieks and soaring high kicks. In short, they train in Kung Fu.



    Going against the grain, these nuns are the world’s first to ever step into learning Kung-fu. Traditionally, Buddhist nuns in the Himalayas are kept away from physically demanding exercises like martial arts, and their role is limited to doing menial household tasks. Like the scarce facilities provided to monks, Himalayan nuns have been kept away from even basic education for long.




    But the leader of the Amitabha Drukpa Nunnery, His Holiness The Gyalwang Drukpa, impressed with the fighting skills of the nuns in Vietnam, dared to go against the tide and invited female Vietnamese fighters to teach them. In addition to this, nuns are also taught to lead prayers and given knowledge of basic business skills. They run and maintain a guest house and coffee shop, and also drive jeeps to Kathmandu to get supplies. All this is forbidden for Himalayan nuns.



    Kung Fu was inducted as part of the nuns’ yoga routine in late 2011, and today, they are demonstrating their skills to thousands of pilgrims in Nepal and are actively touring India and Britain.



    Widely unknown, these ‘Kung Fu’ nuns refused to evacuate when a devastating earthquake struck Nepal earlier this year. Instead, they used their training to help the affected people, in search and rescue operations, and in food distribution and moving dead bodies. They consider community duty as a spiritual exercise. These nuns defy the rules of the rarefied male-governed world of monastic life, and are only growing better and stronger while they sculpt a better future. Salute!

    Gene Ching
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  6. #21
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    There are some pix if you follow the link

    ...but they are embedded and I'm not up to picking through the source code to extract them right now...

    Kathmandu to New Delhi with women empowerment message

    Arvind Chauhan | TNN | Jan 3, 2016, 07.09 PM IST

    From left to right: In third seat, Gyalwa Dhokhampa (male) the head of the Drupka Lineage Gyalwang Drukpa (male) along with his team.

    AGRA: Around 235 nuns of the Drukpa Buddhist monastic order, famous as 'Kung Fu nuns' who commenced an arduous cycle yatra from Kathmandu across the Indian states of Bihar and UP to create awareness for women empowerment and environmental conservation, came to Agra.
    The nuns of Druk Amitabha Mountain nunnery based in the hills of Kathmandu and Naro Photang in Ladakh, have so far covered around 2,000 km and are now headed for the last stop, Delhi under the leadership of His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa.
    The cycle expedition began from Kathmandu on November 18, passed through Gorakhpur, Patna, Rajgir, Gaya, Varanasi, Allahabad, Kanpur, Saifai and Agra before it concludes on January 9 in New Delhi. The cyclists in the group are from Ladakh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Nepal.
    Highlighting various aspects of the Cycle Yatra and the route, Konehok Lhamo a woman cyclist said, "The expedition or the yatra of 235 women is to create awareness about women empowerment and environment consciousness." "We are thankful to UP government for providing safe passage for our voluntaries in the pre-planned route," she added.

    Nuns visit Taj Mahal.

    His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa, spiritual head of the Drukpa Order, environmentalist, an active proponent of gender equality and United Nations MDG Award Honoree said, "The condition of women in India is not good as compare to other nations. During our cycle expedition, we have promote the message of respecting women and giving them equivalence power with men."

    Group of around 235 nuns passing by Saifai.

    Speaking on his experience during the tour, Gyalwang Drukpa who founded 'Live to Love' foundation said, "People of various villages and towns provided us milk, vegetables and eatables for free of cost of cyclists and even arranged shelters for night stay."
    Before heading for New Delhi, Gyalwang said, "Next year the group will ride 5000 km for the similar cause."
    Gene Ching
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  7. #22
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    Kung Fu nuns mountain biking

    There's a vid too, if you follow the link.

    Nepal’s ‘Kung Fu nuns’ are pedalling their way to empowerment
    Shamita Harsh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi | Updated: Jan 13, 2016 19:22 IST


    The Kung Fu nuns belong to the 800-year-old Drukpa order, which rebelled against the monastic Buddhist framework and founded the liberal Druk Amitabha Mountain Nunnery in Kathmandu. (Handout photo)

    On January 8, an unusual group of mountain bikers reached New Delhi, after a gruelling 2500 km journey from Kathmandu. Wearing black suits and red windcheaters, armoured with helmets, riding gloves and knee caps, they looked like any other cycling tour. Except that the entire contingent was made up of Nepal’s famous ‘kung fu nuns’.
    These Buddhist nuns first came into spotlight during the Nepal earthquake in April 2015, when they refused to be evacuated, instead choosing to stay back and help. The nuns volunteered for everything - from physically clearing heavy pieces of rubble to providing shelter to the homeless.
    The Kung Fu nuns belong to the 800-year-old Drukpa order, which rebelled against the monastic Buddhist framework and founded the liberal Druk Amitabha Mountain Nunnery in Kathmandu. The present Drukpa leader Gyalwang Drukpa also decided to lift the ban that prevented women from practising the ancient Chinese martial art of kung fu, giving them equal status as Drukpa monks.
    In most Buddhist orders, monks can lead prayers and occupy powerful positions, while nuns are assigned the menial jobs of cooking and cleaning. But at the Druk Amitabha nunnery in Kathmandu’s Ramkot village, the nuns learn the same skills as the monks, in defiance of traditional monastic mores.
    The nuns’ daily routine is packed with action and activity. Their day begins at 3 am in the morning before the Himalayan sun is out. After the prayers and meditation, the nunnery buzzes with activity, from kung fu routines to English classes, as well as classes in managerial skills and leading prayers. The chores are distributed equally and by 10pm, they usually retire to their beds.
    The nuns also actively engage in community work, leading from the front. The cycling tour from Kathmandu to New Delhi is one of their initiatives to promote environmental awareness and women empowerment.
    “We just wanted to show people that we are capable of doing more than just sitting in the monasteries and meditating,” says Jigme Yudron, who is part of the tour. Led by their head Gyalwang Drukpa, a team of 250 nuns from Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Darjeeling, and Nepal have come together to cycle.


    A team of 250 nuns, belonging to the 800-year-old Buddhist Drukpa order, are part of the cycling tour . (Handout photo)

    Their journey in India has already taken them through the cities of Gorakhpur, Gaya, Patna, Rajgir, Varanasi, Allahbad, Kanpur and Agra before they hit the brakes at Delhi. Locals have been generously offering shelter and food to the nuns as they spread their message of gender equality.
    Of course, the kung fu nuns themselves are the best advertisement for their campaign. As they ride single-file one after the other, it is hard not to admire their discipline and precision. The stamina and strength needed to cycle for long distances is possible only because of their extensive training in martial arts.
    “Kung fu gives us both physical and mental strength. The exercises we practice daily have come handy in helping us cycle this far. In many ways, the strain that kung fu puts on our muscles is quite similar to that of cycling for long periods of time,” explains Jigme Kunchug Lhamo, who is from Himachal Pradesh.
    Kunchung joined the nunnery in 2006. She says that there are plans to expand the cycling tour further. “Next year, His Holiness is planning to rope in more girls and nuns into the tour. There were only 250 nuns this year, I think he wants to nearly double the amount. Maybe 500 or 600 nuns can take part in the cycle yatra. That way we can carry a stronger message to the people,” she says.
    While the gutsy nuns are not daunted by anything, the state of traffic on the Indian roads has been a minor hurdle.
    “One night on the highway, we had a mishap. One of our colleagues met with an accident with a truck. Her cycle was completely smashed but by God’s grace, she escaped any sort of injury,” says Jigme Tenzin Zhamo from Ladakh.
    While they have managed to cover the Kathmandu to New Delhi stretch in 52 days, according to Gyalwang Drukpa, that is only half their journey. The cycle tour still has to cover another 1600 km stretch on their bikes to Shravasti and Lumbini before it reaches Kathmandu.
    “It started off as a symbol for environmental preservation, which the cycle symbolises. But our aim was to speak to people in the villages of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar about women’s rights, to make them aware of the opportunities that can be given to women,” says spiritual leader Gyalwang Drukpa .
    Gene Ching
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  8. #23
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    More on the bicycling Kung Fu nuns

    These Kung Fu Nuns Are Saving the World by Bike

    More than 200 nuns from Kathmandu rode across India to promote gender equality and environmental conservationBY MOLLY HURFORD JANUARY 15, 2016


    THESE NUNS PRACTICE KUNG FU FOR SELF-DEFENSE AND AS A METHOD OF MEDITATION.Image Courtesy Of Flying Nuns

    What do you call 235 nuns on bicycles? It’s not the start of a terrible joke: It was an actual question in India last week as hundreds of nuns finished an epic ride for the Live to Love Foundation.

    Nuns from the Drukpa Buddhist monastic order—better known now as the Kung Fu Nuns—travelled from their nunnery in Kathmandu to Delhi over the course of nearly two months 2,200 kilometers—about 1,370 miles. As they rode, the nuns stopped in a few cities to preach gender equality and environmental conservation. During the day, they split into 10 groups for group riding and cooking.

    “The cycle yatra [pilgrimage] points to the independent and collective willpower of women and their equivalence with men,” the head of their order, Gyalwang Drukpa, told local news organization the Northlines. Drupka was also responsible for teaching the women the art of kung fu, both for self-defense and to help them develop self-confidence.

    Drukpa also told NDTV that the trip by bicycle “sends a strong message of conservation and environment friendliness.”

    The nuns aren’t stopping at 2,200km though: A plan is already in place for a 5,000km ride next year.

    Check out this video for a closer look into their lives:
    I really must do a story on them myself. They are really inspirational.
    Gene Ching
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  9. #24
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    Ride on, Kung Fu Nuns. Ride on!

    The Kung Fu Nuns: Traveling Across South Asia to Promote Environmental, Gender Issues
    These martial arts practicing nuns are redefining what it means to be a nun—and bringing awareness to great causes along the way.
    By Ammu Zachariah on February 19, 2016 at 12:37 AMEmail


    [Photo Source: Screenshot via YouTube]

    Nuns are known for their contemplative and service-centered lifestyle. Most often, they hardly leave the proximity of their communities, dutifully serving the needy around them.
    On the other hand, there are The Kung Fu Nuns—and true to their name, these peaceful ladies are trained in the ancient craft of martial arts! The Kung Fu Nuns were recently in the spotlight for their bike trip from Nepal to India. Pedaling their way through a grueling stretch from Kathmandu, they reached New Delhi in 52 days, covering about 1,370 miles for a mission—they wanted to spread awareness about environmental and gender equality issues.
    Dressed from head to toe in biker gear—armored in black suits, helmets, riding gloves, and knee caps—this team of 250 nuns proved they are serious about the mission they have undertaken. As they traveled, the group stopped at various cities and during the day, split into groups to be able to go around starting conversations about the environment as well as gender stereotypes and inequalities. They have traveled through Gorakhpur, Gaya, Patna, Rajgir, Varanasi, Allahabad, Kanpur, and Agra.



    The nuns first came into the spotlight during the Kathmandu earthquake in April 2015. While many local monks fled the city into the villages, these nuns refused to leave and stayed at the monastery helping those around them. It was not just their culinary skills that proved inevitable; they even cleared the concrete rubbles and provided shelter for the homeless.
    The Kung Fu nuns belong to the 800-year-old Drukpa order. Their current Gyalwang Drukpa, the title for the head of the Drukpa lineage, was a game changer. He brought pivotal changes to the traditional monastic lifestyle. In 2008, he introduced the nuns to the world of Kung Fu, which was considered only for men. He believed that women should not just cook and serve while men do administrative work and various other physical labor tasks. His rationale became a turning point in the future of Drukpa order.
    Today, the nuns are self-reliant; from cooking, cleaning, plumbing, administrative and electrical works, everything is done by the nuns. Being self-sufficient, they are proving to the world that just because they nuns, they aren’t meant to stay in monasteries and meditate—they can do anything. Their typical day begins at 3 a.m. and after prayer, practice and assigned work, they call it a day at 10 p.m. According to their teachings, which prompts them to skip one meal a day, the nuns generally skip dinner, believing that food can make one lazy and sleepy.
    According to Gyalwang Drukpa, the nuns are only halfway through their journey. They have to cover another 1600 km through Shravasti and Lumbini before reaching back to Kathmandu. And, that’s not all. Next year, they plan to do a 5000 km ride!
    K-k-k-k-k-k Katmandu
    I think that's really where I'm going to
    If I ever get out of here
    I'm going to Katmandu
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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  10. #25
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    “In Search of Buddha’s Daughters” by Christine Toomey

    Kung Fu Nuns Martial art becomes a means of spiritual empowerment for the Buddhist nuns of Druk Gawa Khilwa nunnery in Nepal.
    By Christine Toomey
    May 2016


    Prayer flags flutter in the wind in Kathmandu, Nepal's capital and largest city, about an hour away from the Druk Gawa Khilwa nunnery.
    Fotolia/anyaberkut


    “In Search of Buddha’s Daughters” by Christine Toomey shares the hidden lives of women who dedicate their lives to Buddhism. Toomey presents a beautiful travelogue and an inspiring investigation of meditation, Buddhism, and the status of women in today’s world.
    Cover courtesy The Experiment Publishing

    In Search of Buddha’s Daughters: A Modern Journey Down Ancient Roads (The Experiment Publishing, 2015) by Christine Toomey shares the hidden world of women who dedicate their lives to Buddhism. Toomey’s journey across three continents brings to light the stories of those who have redefined strength, perseverance and peace in the face of opposition, imprisonment, and exile. The following excerpt introduces the devoted nuns of Druk Gawa Khilwa nunnery, including their unconventional practice of martial art.

    To find more books that pique our interest, visit the Utne Reader Bookshelf

    Turning Tradition Upside Down

    At the Druk Gawa Khilwa nunnery, nestled in mountains an hour’s drive from Kathmandu, each day begins at 3 a.m. with the sound of a bell. Dawn will not seep across the highest Himalayan peaks for sev*eral more hours. As the young nuns stir from sleep, only a dim light filters through the dormitory windows from lit pathways beyond.

    No words are spoken and no glances exchanged as the young women slip from their beds and wrap their slender frames in burgundy and saffron robes. First, an underskirt and shirt without sleeves, worn even on the coldest of days. Over this, a wide lower robe is folded and tucked at the waist. Finally, a long shawl, a zen, is tossed around the shoulders to keep out the chill. After smoothing out sheets and blankets, each woman steps up onto the firm mattress of her bed and sits cross-legged facing the wall against which her pil*low rests. Each then turns within, entering the realm of meditation.

    While most of the sisters spend the next two hours treading their own inner path, repeating secret mantras and recitations given to them individually by the head of the Buddhist order to which they belong, alternate groups of nuns take it in turns to follow a very dif*ferent form of practice. Instead of monastic robes, they lift a different set of clothes from the storage boxes under their beds: loose brown trousers and long-sleeved martial-arts jackets cinched at the waist with a cloth sash. Tying the laces of white canvas shoes, they pass quietly from their dormitories into the night air.

    It is mid-October when I join them and together we snake up a stairway that leads from their residential complex, along a steep incline bordered on either side by scented flowers and shrubs. The stairs lead to a large hall in front of which stands a giant gilded statue of the Buddha. If the weather is too cold, the nuns take up formation inside the hall. But today, as it is warm enough to practice outside, I follow the women as they climb three further flights of stairs onto the roof and space themselves out with a few low whispers. As their instructor brings the group to order they draw their feet together, pull two clenched fists back towards their waists and stand waiting.

    At the opening command they raise their arms to shoulder height, thrust their right fist into their left palm and spring into such sharp action that it seems a temporary affront to the calm devotions of those meditating below. In the background, the only sound is a gentle symphony of cicadas, but high on the nunnery roof the peace is now pierced by the shouted instructions in the practice of kung fu. With each position counted out, the nuns move through a series of steps that flow from graceful hand gestures through fierce air punches and swinging chops to soaring kicks and acts of fighting.

    Most of the exercises are carried out with each nun going through the motions individually, either with bare hands or with the long fighting sticks known as bo staffs. The most startlingly beautiful are performed with blood-red fans swirled above the head and around the nuns’ waists. At times the fans are spun open, at others flipped closed, the effect more dance than martial art. Other exercises involve two nuns sparring, circling each other with clenched fists, thrusting, shoving, grabbing the other’s neck in the crook of their arms and pushing their opponent to the ground. Some of the moves are conducted with the fighting sticks held in both hands and used as both shield and weapon. As each series of maneuvers comes to an end, the nuns again draw their fist into their palm then push their open hands slowly down by their sides. It is only this subtle closing movement that returns to the women the gentle demeanor of their monastic calling. What I am witnessing in this striking predawn display is more than 1,000 years of tradition being turned on its head.

    For more than a millennium this practice of kung fu was reserved only for monks, its roots lying far to the north in the legendary Chinese monastery of Shaolin. It was here in the fifth century that kung fu was said to have originated, after Bodhidarma, an Indian prince turned Buddhist monk, set out to take the teachings of the Buddha to China. On finding temples there vulnerable to attack by thieves, and many of the monks struggling with the rigors of mon*astic life, the monk devised a system of fitness and defense that drew heavily on the ancient traditions of Indian yoga. Like yoga, Shaolin kung fu developed from an observation of the way animals move. Over the centuries the Shaolin monks incorporated many different animal postures into their practice until eventually the mastery of many of these styles developed into a form represented by a dragon. Unlike the fire-breathing dragon of western mythology, the Chinese dragon is a powerful spiritual creature.

    It is telling, then, that the nuns of Gawa Khilwa belong to the Drukpa order of Tibetan Buddhism, druk being the Tibetan word for both ‘dragon’ and ‘thunder’.

    As the first blush of sunlight bleeds over the horizon, the nuns draw their morning kung-fu practice to a close. A deep rumble of drums can be heard in the distance and high on the roof of the nunnery’s main temple I see the silhouettes of two figures blowing hard into gold-and-jewel-encrusted conch shells. This piercing bugle call is the Buddhist call to prayer. It is barely 5 a.m. and two hours of elaborate ritual and worship in the temple will follow before the nuns and I sit down to breakfast.

    The ferocity of these morning exercises at Gawa Khilwa seems the antithesis of spiritual endeavor. But this practice I am privileged to have observed not only builds the women’s physical and mental strength, it also instills in them a growing sense of confidence. This is an entirely new experience for Buddhist nuns, who, through the centuries, have often been neglected and overlooked.

    Origins of Buddhism

    From the moment I began planning this journey, I wanted to start here, on this rooftop in Nepal. Seeing young nuns engaging in kung fu seemed to offer the perfect introduction to a story of spiritual empowerment. That it was happening so close to the place where the Buddha was born more than 2,000 years ago added to its symbolism. But this is not a straightforward tale, nor was it to be an easy one to follow, as I began to realize on the tortuous route to Gawa Khilwa.

    When I descended through the smog to Kathmandu airport in the autumn of 2012, I knew little about Nepal. I knew that today it is one of the poorest countries in the world, beset by the aftermath of ten years of Maoist insurrection. This conflict only petered out in 2006, when the King of Nepal agreed to restore parliamentary dem*ocracy. Two years later, a Maoist-led parliament reduced the king’s status to that of a figurehead and declared the country a republic. But it was not the self-declared Maoists who dealt the Nepali royal family its harshest blow: rather, the bloody vengeance of a lovelorn prince. In 2001, fueled, many believe, by rage at his parents’ disapproval of the woman he wanted to marry, Crown Prince Dipendra had gone on a bloody rampage in Kathmandu’s Narayanhity Palace, gunning down almost every member of the royal family before committing suicide. To rid Nepal of the murdered royals’ ghosts, a high-caste priest volunteered to take on the negative karma of the tragedy by donning the king’s golden suit, shoes and sunglasses and riding an elephant out of the Kathmandu Valley into symbolic exile.
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
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  11. #26
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    Continued from previous post

    But as I arrive in Kathmandu it feels as if the departed spirits of these murdered royals still breathe misfortune on those who remain in their former kingdom. When I leave the airport, I discover a place sunk in chaos. The city’s roads are dug up, its buildings are crumbling, the streets are full of hawkers and beggars, and it has the unenviable reputation of being one of the most polluted cities in Asia.

    For centuries the country’s strategic position, caught in a pincer between China and India, meant that trading caravans laden with silk, wool and salt traversed high mountain passes here, bestowing great wealth on Nepal. As Kathmandu grew rich, many gilded pagodas and ornate temples, both Buddhist and Hindu, were built in the city. But those who pass through Kathmandu today leave a slurry of waste. Rubbish is piled high along the city’s roads and throughout the countryside beyond. Nepal’s greatest good fortune now is that its mountainous north contains ten of the world’s four*teen tallest mountains, including the highest point on earth, Mount Everest. With an appetite for adventure, hordes of foreign trekkers and mountaineers descend on Nepal each year in ever-growing numbers. Yet even the base camps around these high peaks are now strewn with the detritus of a throwaway modern society.

    This seems an incongruous location to seek the origins of Buddhism. But it was here, in the far south of modern Nepal, in a ramshackle town called Lumbini, that the man who came to be known as the Buddha, or ‘Awakened One’, was born. At the time of the Buddha’s birth, around 480 BCE, Lumbini lay in a small north Indian kingdom ruled from Kapilavastu, the capital, by a tribe of kins*men known as the Sakya. For this reason the Buddha is sometimes referred to as Buddha Sakyamuni, or ‘Sage of the Sakyas’.

    Buddha’s Life

    There are many versions told of the Buddha’s life, though few details exist of the time before he became a wandering monk. Certainly his youth must have been more complex than the later poetic tales suggest, but for the purposes of this book their version of events will suffice. According to legend, the Buddha was born into great privilege, as a prince named Siddhartha Gautama, whom sages immediately predicted would one day become either a great ruler or a revered holy man. To ensure that his son succeeded him on the throne, King Suddhodana virtually imprisoned him within the walls of a royal compound and, in order that he should never want to leave, made his life one of luxury and ease. As a young prince, Siddhartha was provided with three palaces for the three seasons of the year and was surrounded by beautiful courtesans. His marriage to a cousin, Yasodhara, resulted in the birth of a son, Rahula. But by the time his son was born, Siddhartha was twenty-nine and over*come by curiosity about the world.

    During secret night-time journeys beyond the palace walls, he is said to have come across four sights – of a sick man, an old man, a decaying corpse and an ascetic – none of which he had ever been allowed to see in his life of indulgence. When he turned to his char*ioteer to ask if sickness and death would eventually be part of his life too, the answer, that they would, is thought to mark Siddhartha’s awakening from innocence and prompted him to seek an alternative existence. After gazing tenderly at his wife and child as they slept, he set out secretly one night from the palace and for the rest of his life lived as a simple monk, wandering widely through the Ganges plains of northern India.

    Following years of extreme asceticism, he is said to have sat down one day beneath a bodhi tree where, after weeks of intense medita*tion, he came to a series of realizations. His enlightenment embraced a deep understanding of the true nature of human suffering and a way of being released from it, into a state sometimes referred to sim*ply as nirvana, principally by banishing ignorance and craving. These realizations formed the basis for teachings that spread so widely across the globe that today more than half of the current global population is said to reside in parts of the world where Buddhism was once a dominant force.

    At the start of my journey, I understand little of the rich and complex world of Buddhist teachings. I know that 2,500 years ago the Buddha summed up the reality of human existence in what came to be known as the Four Noble Truths. The first truth is a clear rec*ognition that in life there is suffering, and the second that we suffer because everything is impermanent, but because we don’t want to accept that fact, we cling to what we think will make us happy and our attachment only makes us suffer more. The third and fourth truths recognize that there is an end to suffering and this can be achieved through a way of life summed up as the Noble Eightfold Path, namely: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right con*centration. The endless cycle of clinging and suffering, referred to in Buddhist teachings as samsara, is the condition in which humans everywhere are said to find themselves. Acknowledging this is as relevant today as it was in antiquity.

    A Different World

    For the jet-lagged traveler, the journey from Kathmandu to Gawa Khilwa nunnery is itself an initiation into the sorrows of mankind. After leaving the polluted city’s choked thoroughfares behind, the steep, deeply pitted road leading into the mountains is precarious and prone to frequent landslides. More than once I clamber out of the taxi to lighten its load as its wheels spin, trying to gain purchase on loose gravel, unnervingly close to the edge of a precipice.

    From some distance away, as the taxi twists and turns, I begin to glimpse a striking white edifice that towers above the valley. As we draw closer I get a sense of the size of the nunnery: not just one building but a complex of many, adorned with traditional designs of brightly colored tiles around the eaves. The tall steel gates of the nunnery remain firmly shut as we draw up to the main entrance. One of the persistent power cuts that besiege Nepal has disabled the elec*tric lock. Beyond the metal grille, I watch a portly nun disappear into the bowels of a gatehouse with a wrench in her hand. Minutes later she emerges, rearranging her robes and smiling broadly. A generator growls to life, the gates swing open and I enter a different world.

    By now it is already early evening and after being shown to my room in the nunnery’s guest quarters, I am left to my own devices. Most of the nuns are busy with their duties, so I take a stroll alone through the grounds towards a large hall.

    In front of the hall, close to the towering gilded Buddha, are a number of smaller dragon statues. This is one external sign that Gawa Khilwa is a seat of the Drukpa, or Dragon, order, a branch of one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism, known as the Karma Kagyu, or ‘Red Hat’ tradition, the titular head of which is the Seventeenth Karmapa, regarded by some as a possible spiritual successor to the Dalai Lama. The Drukpa order was founded eight centuries ago and over the course of hundreds of years, many of its followers became adepts at a powerful form of spiritual practice believed to lead to enlightenment within a single lifetime.

    I have only just begun to unravel the complex threads of different Buddhist lineages, but I am struck that the head of the Drukpa order, known as the Twelfth Gyalwang Drukpa, chooses to live for most of the year here at Gawa Khilwa nunnery rather than in a monastery like most other senior male lamas. His encouragement of the nuns in practicing kung fu is only one aspect of a highly unusual degree of support he shows the women in his care. Most significant of all is his direct teaching of the nuns. This breaks with Buddhist tradition, which, throughout much of history, has held nuns to be inferior to monks. So much so that in the past many were treated as little more than domestic servants in monastic settings.

    Reprinted with permission from In Search of Buddha's Daughters: A Modern Journey Down Ancient Roads by Christine Toomey and published by The Experiment Publishing, 2015.
    This looks like a good read.
    In Search of Buddha’s Daughters
    A Modern Journey Down Ancient Roads

    by Christine Toomey
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  12. #27
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    2,500 km = 1553 miles

    Thursday, July 14, 2016 4:57:28 PM (IST)

    Monks, 'kung fu' nuns on cyclethon for environmental conservation


    New Delhi, July 14 (IANS): Around 500 monks and 'kung fu' nuns of the Drukpa Buddhist order, who commenced a 2,500 km arduous cyclethon from Kathmandu in Nepal and will culminate in the famed Hemis Monastery in Leh, entered the Indian state of Uttarakhand on Thursday.

    They are creating awareness about environmental conservation.

    "Recently the Himalayas faced several environmental disasters that caused unprecedented loss of life and upset the natural ecosystem," a statement quoting the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa, the spiritual head of the 1,000-year-old Drukpa Order, who is leading the cyclethon, said.

    He said the aim through this journey is to inspire people to be one with nature instead of being in a constant state of war with it.

    "The Himalayas and the earth were formed millions of years before we were and it is our duty to respect them," said the Gyalwang Drukpa, the 12th reincarnation of the head of the Drukpa Order.

    'Kung fu' nuns are Buddhist nuns who grow up learning the martial art. They belong to the Druk Amitabha Mountain nunnery based in the hills overlooking Kathmandu.

    Earlier, only the 'kung fu' nuns went on the 2,200 km cycle expedition from Kathmandu. After passing through the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, it ended in Delhi on January 9 this year.

    The Drukpa Order that originates from the Himalayan region of Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir has built a strong reputation of community action and citizen empowerment for many years.

    This expedition will culminate at the 17th century Hemis monastery of Drukpa lineage, the largest such in Ladakh, prior to the grand Naropa Festival, popularly known as the Kumbh Mela of the Himalayas, slated from September 13 to October 1.

    The Gyalwang Drukpa was honoured by the United Nations with the Millennium Development Goals Award in September 2010 for promoting environmental education and gender equality.
    No pic, but their cyclethon continues...
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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  13. #28
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    More cycle fu

    There is a pic, but my Mac isn't letting me cut&paste it here.
    Nepal's 'Kung fu nuns' return to India on annual cycle yatra, this time to Ladakh

    TNN | Jul 15, 2016, 08.00 PM IST

    Nepal’s ‘kung fu nuns’ on their annual cycle yatra.

    DEHRADUN: Armed with a will to show the world that women are no less in any field and a wish to spread awareness about the environmental conservation, Nepal's 'kung fu nuns' returned to India on their annual cycle yatra, this time to Ladakh through the borders of the Uttarakhand state on Thursday. The cycle yatra aimed at combating gender stereotypes and to promote collaborative action for the environment entered India through Banbassa checkpoint near the border area of Uttarakhand and was led by the Gyalwang Drukpa, of the Ladakh based Drukpa Order.
    It is learned that 300 monks and nuns bicycled into India at the Banbassa checkpoint (Uttarakhand) and few will be joining in coming days as a part of their 2,500km journey to Hemis Monastery in Ladakh. "The Drukpa Order, which has come to be known for its insistence on gender equality and celebration of diversity regularly organises such events to highlight issues of global significance. The Cycle Yatra commenced from Kathmandu on July 3 from one of the monasteries of the Drukpa lineage and has become an annual feature of Order's efforts to promote awareness about the environmental crises in the region and inspire collaborative action to resolve it" said Jigme Yeshe Lhamo, a nun, a "Kung-Fu" nun part of the cycle yatra.
    Adding to which, the 27-year-old nun said, "We have previously held 7 pad-yatras and this is the fourth cycle yatra for the same cause. I joined the order when I was 16 and have been to 2 cycle yatras before. This is held annually to spread word about the causes we support like breaking gender stereotypes and spreading awareness about environment conservation. People lovingly call us as the Kung Fu nuns and we love being addressed like that. We all know martial art-kung fu and as part of the cycle yatra we keep interacting with village women on our way about women empowerment" These bravehearts armed with trekking cycles/bikes and 2 trucks carrying their luggage, tents, food items travel at least 60-70km in the daytime before staying for the night in either open fields, monasteries, temples or schools. "We might reach Haridwar and later Dehradun in may be next 3-4 days or a week's time. We don't get disheartened or tired when we think about the motive of our journey despite the strain. In fact, we will culminate our journey at a very auspicious time of the Naropa festival which is held every 12 years and also is called the Himalayan Kumbh Mela, which makes it all the more special" said Lhamo.
    The two month long Yatra traverses through some of the most arduous routes in the Himalayan region and the journey nevertheless is undertaken amidst adverse conditions. From the quake-hit regions in Nepal, to the monsoon hit towns in Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Pathankot, Srinagar, Sonmargand Kargil (J&K)-The Yatra will culminate at Hemis Monastery, 45 kilometres from Leh where it is scheduled to arrive, prior to Naropa 2016 - a grand spiritual festival that is held once in every 12 years, celebrating the 1000th birth anniversary of the Indian Saint Naropa, patron of the Drukpa Lineage, which the participating nuns and monks say make it very special. "The Himalayas have been the home of the Drukpa Lineage for over 1000 years now.
    Recently, the region has faced several environmental disasters that caused unwanted and unprecedented loss of life and upset the natural ecosystem. Our aim through this journey is to inspire people to be one with nature instead of being in a constant state of war with it. The Himalayas and the earth were formed millions of years before we were and it is our duty to respect them," said the Gyalwang Drukpa - the 12threincarnation of the head of the Drukpa Order. In the entire 2-month cycle expedition, the message of respecting women and environment conservation will be spread by all possible means.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  14. #29
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    Still cycling

    Still impressive.

    'Kung-fu nuns’ stopover in city to spread message of gender equality, climate change
    Dressed in cycling gear and safety helmets, they all lined up behind the oldest of them all —54-year-old monk Gyalwang Drukpa — the head of the Ladakh-based Drukpa order.
    Written by Jagmeeta Thind Joy | Chandigarh | Published:July 28, 2016 1:37 pm


    The group in Chandigarh on Wednesday. Photo by Jaipal Singh

    At first sight, it looked like a large group of professional cyclists on an expedition.
    Dressed in cycling gear and safety helmets, they all lined up behind the oldest of them all —54-year-old monk Gyalwang Drukpa — the head of the Ladakh-based Drukpa order.
    Revered by the Buddhists as the 12th reincarnation of the Drukpa, Gyalwang is on a two-month cycling mission with his team of, what he calls, ‘Kung-fu nuns’.
    Gyalwang Drukpa, who arrived at the regional campus of the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development in Sector 12 on Wednesday, said: “Our aim is to spread the message of peace, gender equality and create awareness about environmental concerns. This is the our fourth cycling expedition.”
    Except the Drukpa head and a few male support staff, the rest in the team are all nuns and have been been trained in Kung-fu. “We particularly chose the nuns for the expedition to showcase women power and the fact that they are trained in self defence, which is the need of the hour today,” said the spiritual head.
    The 200 nuns, all in the age group of 15 and 45 years, belong to various nunneries of the Drukpa sect spread across India, Bhutan and Nepal. They started the expedition from Kathmandu on July 3 and would cover 2,500km before reaching Leh.
    Gyalwang Drukpa said: “We aim to reach Leh between September 8 and 10. The cycle yatra is timed with the Naropa spiritual festival that takes place at our Hemis Monastery in Leh. The festival takes place once in 12 years and this year we are celebrating the 1000th birth anniversary of the Indian saint Naropa, patron of the Drukpa lineage.”
    The cyclists have traversed through Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana and will now head to Amritsar from Chandigarh. After Amritsar, they will head to Jammu, Srinagar, Sonmarg, Kargil and end at Leh.
    Jigme Konchok, a 22-year-old nun, said: “It has been an amazing experience even though we had to battle extreme weather conditions.”
    For Jigme Tenzin Lhamo, a young nun from Himachal Pradesh, the expedition has been particularly tough, given the increasing traffic on the highways. “The traffic and pollution were dense in Uttar Pradesh and the highways were congested. We have been lucky to have the support of the state police. As a rule, we cycle in a single line and start our day early around 5.30 am and end at 6pm. We cover a distance of 70km to 80km a day,” said Lhamo.
    The nuns said most people are curious to find out more about them and the reason for the expedition. “We share our concerns for women safety and climate change. We also request people to take to cycling, as it is not only good for the environment, but also for health,” said Lhamo.
    Gyalwang Drukpa said the aim of the ‘Kung-fu nuns’ is to fight against gender stereotypes and environmental degradation.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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  15. #30
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    More on the Drukpa nuns

    I should really split them off into their own indie thread.

    Why 500 ‘Kung Fu Nuns’ are cycling across the Himalayas
    On a mission to raise awareness about human trafficking, and with their radical athletic prowess, these Buddhist nuns are perfect purveyors of their sect’s teachings on gender equality
    BRIGIT KATZ 08.29.16


    BUDDHIST NUNS PRACTISE KUNG-FU AT THE AMITABHA DRUKPA NUNNERY ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF KATHMANDU. (PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/GETTYIMAGES)

    Since the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal in April of last year, killing thousands and tipping the country into chaos, the porous border between Nepal and India has become a hotbed for human trafficking. In the span of just three months following the disaster, 725 people were smuggled into India, where they were sold into forced labor and prostitution. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation, and the strained Nepalese government has, for the most part, been unable to protect them.

    Enter 500 bicycle-riding, kung-fu-fighting nuns.

    Throughout the months of July and August, the Drukpa Lineage nuns, who belong to an order of Himalayan Buddhism, have been cycling across the Himalayas to promote gender equality and address the region’s growing human trafficking crisis. Dressed in vibrant orange biking gear, they weave through traffic and pedal up mountain slopes, persevering through blistering heat and heavy rains. The nuns’ bicycle “yatra,” or pilgrimage, began in Kathmandu, where their nunnery is located. By the time they reach their final destination of Ladakh, India, they will have biked more than 2,500 kilometers.


    THROUGHOUT JULY AND AUGUST, MEMBERS OF THE DRUKPA LINEAGE NUNS HAVE BEEN CYCLING ACROSS THE HIMALAYAS.


    THESE QUIET AND CONTEMPLATIVE WOMEN CAN BIKE THOUSANDS OF MILES IN THE OPPRESSIVE HEAT AND RAINS.


    DURING STOPOVERS IN REMOTE VILLAGES, THE NUNS LEAD PRAYERS AND IMPART TEACHINGS OF PEACE AND RESPECT.

    During stopovers in remote villages, the nuns lead prayers and impart teachings of peace and respect. Part of their mission is to promote environmental awareness; because diesel fumes are melting Himalayan glaciers and causing respiratory diseases among residents, the nuns have been encouraging villagers to rely more heavily on bicycles. When the nuns visit areas plagued by violence — like Kashmir, for instance — they also deliver lectures on the importance of diversity and tolerance.

    Foremost on the nuns’ agenda, however, is the promotion of female empowerment.

    Though women and girls in the region became particularly susceptible to violence after the Nepal earthquake — with economically devastated families often handing their daughters over to traffickers who promise a better life abroad — gender inequality has long been a pervasive problem among the countries that envelop the Himalayas. India, Nepal, and Pakistan — all of which are destinations for the bicycling nuns — consistently rank on the bottom tier of indices measuring women’s access to education, political empowerment, and health.

    “We are spreading these messages: girls also have power, they are not weak,” said Yeshe Lhamo, a 27-year-old nun who is participating in the yatra. “In these regions, they listen to and respect religious teachings, so for a religious person to say that diversity and equality is important, maybe people can make this their spiritual practice too.”

    Leading the yatra is one of only a few men who have accompanied the nuns on their journey: His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa, a.k.a. Buddhism’s answer to the Rock Star Pope. During his tenure as the spiritual leader of the Drukpa Lineage, the Gyalwang Drukpa has emerged as a fierce promoter of women’s rights, reforming the status of women within the Lineage. Although the order has historically relegated nuns to cooking and cleaning tasks, the Gyalwang Drukpa encouraged female devotees to study esoteric teachings that were once reserved for monks. To further bolster the nuns’ self-esteem, he enlisted a Vietnamese martial arts expert to teach them kung fu.

    “There was a ban against exercise for nuns,” explained Carrie Lee, President of Live Love International, a network of non-profit organizations founded by the Gyalwang Drukpa. “They broke that ban. They learned kung fu. It’s instilled a lot of confidence in them.”

    With their radical, defiant athletic prowess, the “Kung Fu Nuns”are perfect purveyors of the Gyalwang Drukpa’s teachings on gender equality. These quiet and contemplative women can bike thousands of miles in the oppressive heat and rains. They can subdue physical threats with their knowledge of marital arts. They are living proof that women can be as strong as their male counterparts.

    “Many men, they meet us and say, ‘Oh, if I joined you [in the yatra], maybe I can’t do it,” Lhamo said with a laugh. “[Other] people, they don’t understand. They tell us, ‘Girls shouldn’t cycle like that.’ But we tell them, ‘Why? If a man can do it, why can’t a girl cycle? … We are human beings, and they are also human beings.”

    Lhamo was 17-years-old when she first encountered the Gyalwang Drukpa, who visited her village to deliver a lecture on compassion — which, he insisted, required action, not only prayer and good intentions. Lhamo was struck by his teachings and his poise. She immediately decided that she wanted to join the Drukpa nuns and devote her life to helping others.

    Because she was only in 11th grade at the time, Lhamo’s parents were reluctant to allow her to abandon her studies and relocate to the Druk Amitabha Mountain nunnery in western Kathmandu. But Lhamo would not be deterred. “I …told them that I will become a nun,”she said. “They were not happy, but after one year, when I go back to home, they were very happy to see me and they said if I wanted to become a nun and I’m happy, they don’t have any problem with that.”

    And so Lhamo settled into life at the nunnery. For much of the year, her days consist of meditating, praying, performing upkeep on the nunnery grounds, and working in its office. The nuns perform all of the tasks required to maintain the nunnery: some work as plumbers, some as electricians, still others field emails and manage accounts. They can attend business classes and, of course, study kung fu.

    The yatra, however, has thrust the nuns out of monastic life and onto the frontlines of the human trafficking crisis. A few weeks ago, as they prepared to cross into India, Lhamo and her fellow cyclists saw police detain a man who had been leading a group of young girls across the border. He claimed he was taking them to India to get medications that were not available in Nepal. Police told the nuns that this person was more likely seeking to sell the girls into prostitution.

    “We were very happy that police [were] asking many questions and the girls are getting saved,” Lhamo said. “We want to tell people more and more about [traffickers’ tactics].”

    In their mission to save the girls of the Himalayas, the nuns face steep obstacles: poverty, suffering, cultural norms that have long devalued females. Change, if it comes, will likely come slowly. Lhamo knows this, but she also believes in the nuns’ ability to plant the seed of gender parity in communities where women and girls are at risk — and, perhaps more importantly, to inspire women and girls to believe in their own worth.

    “Of course, one Bicycle yatra cannot change the world overnight,” she said. “But our message of diversity may inspire one person, one little girl, one mother. Sometimes one person can make a big difference. A mother can change her whole family. One little girl can do amazing things.”
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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