Mahayana Nuns Invited to the International Shravasti Varsa

(Rains Retreat, Yarne)

His Holiness Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang Rinpoche, Thinle Lhundrup, Supreme Co-Head of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage, invited the Mahayana Bhikshuni Sangha to return to Shravasti, India in 2023 for the first time in 2000 years. The main purpose of this program was to bring together Mahayana Bhikshunis in the Dharmaguptaka lineage from different traditions to live harmoniously for one half-Varsa, to learn from each other, and to vitalize the power of Dharma in this new monastery for the good of future monastics and laity. It was a rare opportunity to share knowledge and experiences on the path of Dharma. 

His Holiness established the Great Shravasti International Buddhist Temple in Shravasti, India, with suitable places for meditation, study, and Sima for Bhikshuni practice. Shravasti is one of the four avijahitatthanam – ‘unchangeable spots’ – in the lives of all Samma Sambuddhas. This is the holy place where Buddha taught 800 Sutras and spent 25 Varsas, or summer rain retreats. The remains of Jetavana are one kilometer from the Great Shravasti Buddhist Temple.  

The program hosted Bhikshunis and novices from countries holding the Dharmaguptaka ordination lineage and those in the Tibetan tradition. This included Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan, Bhutan, Nepal, Mainland China, and US/Europe/Australia. 

The retreat contributed to Sangha education, diligent practice, and openhearted intra-faith sharing and explored: Precepts, Samadhi, Wisdom, Community. 

The international organizing committee co-created the curriculum for the retreat and invited senior teachers from the participating monasteries/traditions to be on the faculty. The faculty and leaders within each of the represented communities led reflection on 21st-century monasticism and on applying the Dharma to the current needs of the world. Interspersed with the Vinaya teachings were Samadhi retreats and community discussion. Community was a thread throughout the retreat.  

Every effort was made to document the retreat by capturing audio of the teachings so the wisdom can be shared and can benefit the greater Sangha in a long-lasting manner. Ven. Khenmo Trinlay, a Drikung editor, is currently working on a book of our proceedings. We believe this plan will allow us to share the jewels of our practice traditions as well as our community’s wisdom with each other. 

The Mahayana Varsa was in the planning stages for many years, in consultation with many brilliant nuns.  Khenmo Drolma of Vajra Dakini Nunnery formed an advisory committee early in 2019 with senior nuns including Ven. Heng Ching of Taiwan, Ven. Thubten Chonyi of Sravasti Abbey, Ven. Guo Kai and Ven. Chang Hwa of Dharma Drum Lineage, and Ven. Jenkir of the Luminary Institute of Taiwan. We were privileged to meet with Ven. Wu Yin in Taipei and were joined by H.H. Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche. Covid interrupted this wonderful early evolution.  

Post-Covid, a new committee formed, building upon earlier work. Ven. Guo Goang of Dharma Drum and Ven. Thubten Chodron served as senior advisors for the 2023 Mahayana Varsa.  

Schedule Details

July 28  Transportation from Lucknow to Shravasti

July 29 – 31  Orientation and Sangha visit to Jetavana; Assembled Sangha begins rehearsals for ceremonies and music in English


August 1  Public Welcome Ceremony followed by Bhikshuni Requesting Reliance Ritual from the Bhikshu Sangha

August 2  Stick Ceremony and Evening Posada Ceremony

August 3  Ceremony to enter Varsa


September 14  Bhikshuni delegation reports to Bhikshu Sangha

September 15  Pravarana Ceremony, procession from Jetavana, public celebration, and lunch dana

September 16  Departure

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