The Culture: Holding the Light

All the teachings of the Buddha are designed to remove the suffering of ourselves and others by revealing our natural qualities of love, compassion, and wisdom.

The teachings of the Buddha can be summarized into 84,000 stanzas, which include nine levels of study and practice designed to fully blossom these qualities within ourselves. This is how we can be of ever-greater help to others.

The teachings of the Buddha were brought in their entirety to Tibet by the enlightened master Guru Padmasambhava. Over the centuries, these teachings were preserved in Tibet as eight Practice Lineages. Among these distinct lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, the Nyingma school is the lineage that was first brought from India to Tibet in the 8th century.

All of the teachings of the Buddha can be divided into study and practice, or scripture and realization. Study helps us to better understand the intellectual meaning of wisdom and compassion, while practice enables us to absorb these teachings into our hearts so we actually become more compassionate and wise. In the Nyingma school, study and practice are divided into nine progressive levels, each of which is more clear, detailed, and complete, since the higher levels include all the more fundamental teachings and practices.

Traditionally, Buddhist study includes learning five major and five minor sciences (fine arts, medicine, linguistics, philosophy, Buddhist inner sciences, as well as poetics, synonymy, prosody, drama, and astrology), and four systems of philosophy (Vaibashika, Sautrantika, Mind Only, and Madhyamaka). Study involves memorizing and contemplating traditional and contemporary texts, discussion and debate, and taking oral and written tests.


Buddhist practice includes contemplating and meditating on the meaning of your studies, while integrating various rituals to enhance your knowledge and realization. These ritual practices include torma making, learning various instruments, chanting traditional melodies and songs, detailed painting, lama dancing, architectural design, costume design, and constructing ritual buildings such as temples and stupas.

Together, traditional Buddhist study and practice, when integrated with modern classes in math, science, and local languages, provides a comprehensive educational system. As the nuns of Orgyen Samye Chökhor ling nunnery continue their studies over the years, they will be well prepared to preserve and spread their ancient lineage culture and philosophy, while being empowered as the next generation of teachers and leaders for both their local and indigenous communities.

Even though the Buddha’s teachings have now spread from India and Tibet all around the world, there are relatively few institutions that provide the necessary support and training for people to thoroughly learn this cultural heritage, and thus become teachers for upcoming generations. Orgyen Samye Chökhor Ling Nunnery is one of these rare places.