Monks and Nuns of Kilung
Monastic life thrived in Tibet for over a thousand years and still today, monasteries and nunneries are found everywhere, in valleys, on steep mountainsides, often hidden from view. Some are imposing structures with golden roofs, others simple modest structures, all dedicated to Buddhism and housing lamas, monks and nuns. In the surrounding communities and villages, householder lamas and ordinary people practice with joyful fervor. Stupas, prayer wheels and flags adorn the landscape. Frequently, retirees join monastic communities for dedicated practice when they’ve finished with their secular life duties.
Kilung Monastery, founded in the 1700s, had vibrant powerful energy, attracting yogis, yoginis, monks, nuns and lay practitioners from diverse areas of Tibet. For over two centuries, the monastery accommodated hundreds of practitioners, and was renowned for producing many enlightened beings. It is said that the very air and streams were filled with sound of the Vajrakilaya mantra.
Since the late 1980s, Kilung Jigme Rinpoche has devoted himself to reestablishing this vital tradition at Kilung Monastery, and gradually, monks and nuns are returning and young people entering monastic life.
The lives of monks and nuns at Kilung are focused on practice and study. Young monks typically enter Kilung Monastic College for years of intensive study. Older monks engage not only in personal practice and study, but also in regular and special group practices when the need arises, in situations of life crises, illness, or death. (see Pujas and Prayers) They also have the opportunity for special studies, to learn specific skills, to make pilgrimages, or enter a short or long retreat.
Kilung monks rotate through various roles over the years. Responsibilities range from discipline master to vajra performer to chant leader. Other roles are temple attendant, offerings manager, and general managers of the monastery and shedra.
The nunnery is an important part of the spiritual landscape in Kilung Valley. In existence since the inception of Kilung Monastery, it had the inspired support of Lama Lungtok, a revered, enlightened Kilung lama of the 20th century. He strongly supported women practitioners, educating his daughter in the dharma from birth. Currently most Kilung nuns, about 40, are on long-term retreat at the encampment of Achuk Rinpoche, a renowned master. A small handful reside at Kilung Nunnery under the capable direction of Lama Lungtok’s daughter, Jetsunma Palden Chotso, a recognized tulku. They have recently constructed a beautiful new temple with the generous help of a supporter from Thailand and her organization, Thousand Stars.