Tibetan Buddhist monastery, once all nuns, makes room for monks

by | Apr 26, 2023 | Religion

NEWPORT, Wash. (FāVS News) — By some they’ve been fondly called the “nuns from Newport.”For years, a group of women with clean-shaven heads wearing traditional Tibetan monastic red robes have been running a 240-acre abbey tucked in the woods just outside of Newport, a town of fewer than 3,000 near the Washington-Idaho border.
But Sravasti Abbey, among the first Tibetan Buddhist monasteries for Western adherents in the U.S., was never intended to be a women-only monastic training ground.
Over the past eight years, Sravasti Abbey has grown apace, ordaining six nuns and two monks and adding three previously ordained nuns to its community.

Most recently, Geshe Dadul Namgyal, an esteemed Buddhist scholar, joined the abbey as the first male resident teacher. He will lead the growing monk community at Sravasti.
Geshe Dadul Namgyal at Sravasti Abbey in Newport, Washington. Photo courtesy of Sravasti Abbey
He joins Sravasti’s founder and abbess, Venerable Thubten Chodron, and author Venerable Sangye Khadro as a senior teacher guiding and instructing the monastery’s now 20 monastics.
“After all these years of being mostly nuns, we now have a burgeoning community of men,” said Venerable Thubten Chonyi, a bhikshuni (fully ordained nun) who oversees publicity at the abbey.
Venerable Thubten Losang became the first monk at Sravasti in 2015 after participating in a Sharing the Dharma Day there two years earlier. Then, in 2022, the abbey ordained its second monk.
Two more men, who are currently in anagarika training, are scheduled to take their novice ordination vows in May, bringing the abbey’s monk population to five.
Namgyal, called “Geshe-la,” an honorific for a spiritual teacher, has been a monk in the Tibetan tradition for more than 40 years. He chose to reside at Sravasti after recently retiring from Emory University’s Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics.
For the past 13 years, he has also served as senior resident teacher at Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta and was senior translator and interpreter with the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, a branch of CCSCBE at Emory, where he helped develop a science curriculum for Tibetan monks and nuns.
Venerable Thubten Ngawang, who joined the abbey as its second monk last year, said he was initially surprised and grateful when he learned Namgyal was joining Sravasti.
“And it’s an ongoing recognition, a continual acknowledgment, like wow, this is so precious,” Ngawang said.
Venerable Thubten Ngawang speaks at Sravasti Abbey in Newport, Washington. Photo courtesy of Sravasti Abbey
Namgyal explained he first visited the abbey in 2008 for a workshop and since then had been visiting annually. Each time, the nuns invit …

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