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More Tibetan Buddhist nun awarded geshema degrees in Bodh Gaya

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(TibetanReview.net, Nov30’23) – Seven Tibetan Buddhist nuns have been awarded their geshema degrees, the highest academic achievement in the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, at a convocation ceremony held in Bodh Gaya, India, on Nov 27. These nuns became the sixth cohort of geshemas, bringing to 60 the number of such awardees since 2016, after it was formally instituted in 2012, noted buddhistdoor.net Nov 30.

The first Geshema degree was stated to have been awarded in 2011 to a German nun, Kelsang Wangmo, who spent 21 years in India training and studying toward the degree.

The Geshema examination process takes a total of four years – one round per year.

Geshema candidates are examined on the entirety of their 17-year course of study of the five major canonical texts covering the Abhidharma (higher knowledge), Prajnaparamita (the perfection of wisdom), Madhyamaka (Middle Way), Pramana (logic), and the Vinaya (moral and ethical conduct). Candidates must score at least 75% to be considered eligible to sit for the Geshema examinations.

The exams include written tests and oral examinations in the form of traditional Tibetan Buddhist debate. The latest geshema exams began over the summer, with a record 132 nuns in attendance, which was 38 more than last year’s 94.

The historic decision to confer the geshema degree to Tibetan Buddhist nuns was announced in 2012 by the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration, following a meeting of representatives from six major nunneries, the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, and the Tibetan Nuns Project, the report noted.

The first cohort of 20 nuns were awarded the Geshema degrees by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Dec 22, 2016 at a special graduation ceremony held at Drepung Monastery in Mundgod, South India.

The geshema degree, like the geshe degree for monks, is considered comparable to a doctorate in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy.

The Geshema degree enables these dedicated women eligible to assume various leadership roles in their monastic and lay communities reserved for degree holders and hence previously not open to women, the report noted.


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