BACK TO TIBET PAGE
Halfway between Pathankot and Dharmsala, in the mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh, in northern India, lies the sacred cave of Tilokpur. The road crosses a deep, boulder strewn ravine to a string of tea shops where the bus makes a halfway stop. Here, next to the river is the limestone cave in which the Mahasiddha Tilopa, guru to Naropa and founder of the Kargyudpa Lineage, whose Sacred Oral Teaching, Tilopa is said to have received in the "Higher Way" from the Celestial Buddha, Dorje Chang or Vajradhara. It was from Naropa the disciple of Tilopa that the Teachings passed via Marpa into Tibet.
Here, under the direction of the late Ven Karma Khechog Palmo, known to all as Sister Palmo, and to many as "Mummy La" in 1968 a small convent was founded to house the homeless nuns living in the Dalhousie district. 35 Nuns of the Karma Korgyu Lineage are now living at Tilokpur, one of only three "ani gonpas" or Monasteries for nuns of the Lineage outside of Tibet. The original Abbot was Ven Karma Thinley Rinpoche who eventually left to set up Centres in the West. The present Abbess Ven Karma Hosey is a graduate of the Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath.
Construction of the "ani gonpa" was undertaken on a very limited budget and thus the quality of the craftmanship was poor. Consequently the nunnery is in a state of disrepair. Dampness is the main problem causing mould to grow both inside and outside the wells causing the electrical system to short circuit creating "live" walls. During the wet season the rooms are damp and clammy, causing much sickness. One nun presently has T.B. Termites are also very active and most of the original, (untreated) timber has had to be replaced.
Tilokpur is also in a malarial area, and during the summer, lack of proper ventilation due to poor design brings much illness during the hot months. Flyscreens and fans are thus also necessary.
Apart from major complicated and expensive rectifications to the existing construction, finance is also needed to complete the unfinished plans of Sister Palmo. A guest house is almost completed (it was in an incomplete state for the past eight years) and it is hoped that these rooms will be rented to Westerners wishing to practice Dharma at this holy place and thus helping as a humble source of income to the nuns.
Another plan to raise funds for the "ani gonpa" entails the construction of a workshop. Friends of the Tibetan Friendship Group in Delhi have offered to share their valuable experience in "self-help" programmes to set up this project.
But it must be remembered that many of these nuns, like the Christian convents, are committed to perpetual prayer and spiritual practice. Some compromise will have to be reached, os constant "hand-outs" from the West is also not a creative policy. The idea of obtaining pen friends for the individual nuns would also be of help.
While these nuns pray for the welfare of all sentient beings it is unfortunate that they should find their own conditions of living so difficult. It is hoped that one day "Mummy's dream" for them will be fulfilled.
This report has been compiled with the help of John and Elizabeth Neish who have been living at Tilokpur and working with the nuns. Elizabeth has had seven years association with the Tibetan Friendship Group in Australia.