Perched high on the emerald green slopes of Kathmandu Valley, the hermitage, Nagi Gompa — a subsidiary of Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery — resounds every day with the intonation of drums, cymbals, horns and the rhythmic devotional chants.
Consecrated in 1962 by the head of the Tibetan Buddhist Kagyu School, His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, Nagi Gompa consists of 12 acres of forested land within the Shivapuri Wildlife Preserve. Karmapa installed the renowned Dzogchen master, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, as its abbot. Until his parinirvana in 1996, Tulku Urgyen spent more than 30 years in retreat at Nagi Gompa.
With profound clarity and conviction, Tulku Urgyen recognized the inherent equality of men and women and their innate potential for awakening to their own enlightened nature. Therefore, Nagi Gompa has long endeavored to provide inspired women with a full range of liturgical training and religious education amid a cloistered environment. Many women of high spiritual caliber unfolded their spiritual wings under Tulku Urgyen's guidance and, later on, under the supervision of his descendants.
More than 100 nuns, ranging in age from 9 to 90, occupy clusters of simple one-room living quarters at Nagi Gompa. Most nuns come from poor displaced Tibetan refugee families living in exile in Nepal or from remote indigent Nepalese villages high in the snowy Himalayas.
To perpetuate the Buddhist teachings, Tulku Urgyen placed a strong emphasis on combining meditation practice and scriptural study. Therefore, after completing their daily sacramental rituals and meditation practices in both the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions, the nuns at Nagi Gompa methodically engage in a guided study of the classic Buddhist scriptures.
For women with an inclination toward intensive practice, isolated dwellings are provided to facilitate traditional three-year meditative retreat. In recent years, more than 40 nuns residing at Nagi Gompa have successfully completed their three-year retreat; some have made this retreat more than once.
Experienced nuns specialize in the esoteric vajrayana practice known as 'chöd' which, in Tibetan, means "severing". What is being severed? Utilizing the special techniques of chöd, the practitioner cuts through his or her personal demons — neurotic self-cherishing and its accompanying painful negative emotions. Chöd has a threefold purpose — to transform harmful mental states, such as fear and hatred, into states of courage and selfless love, to actualize the perfection of wisdom extolled by the Buddha in the Sutras and, ultimately, to engender realization of the practitioner's own intrinsic buddha-nature.
Based on such unique advantages, more and more dedicated Tibetan and Nepalese women arrive each year seeking a vocation at Nagi Gompa. As the welfare and education of these women is of primary concern, each year an attempt is made to upgrade the nuns' general living standards. Present facilities are constantly undergoing expansion and renovation to accommodate the flourishing community.
No matter how skilled in spiritual matters many of these nuns may be, most come from destitute families powerless to provide their daughters with even the most rudimentary education and financial support. Therefore, most of the expense of providing food, clothing, shelter, education, and medical care for the nuns has been borne exclusively by Tulku Urgyen's successors.
The yearly schedule of Nagi Gompa. accords with the Tibetan lunar calendar:
1st Month – 1st to 3rd Losar
3rd Month – 30th Nyung-ney begins for 16 days
4th Month - 16th Nyung-ney ends (Saga Dawa)
6th Month – 15th Yarney (Summer Retreat) begins
7th Month – 30th Yarney (Summer Retreat) ends
8th Month – 13th to 14th 2-day Nyung-ney
12th Month – Ngakso Drubchen
Monthly Schedule of Pujas at Nagi Gompa:
8th day: Ngakso
10th day: Rigdzin Düpa
15th day: Tsekar or Künzang
25th day: Chö Tsok Black Moon