The martial arts-trained devotees in the 26-year-old cloister are a rarity in a male-dominated religious culture.
The nuns began learning kung fu from a Vietnamese teacher in defiance of accepted gender codes in the Buddhist monastic system. But over time, they have harnessed the ancient Chinese martial art for meditation, community work, edgy campaigns against toxic waste, and for women’s empowerment and walkathons against the prevalence of plastic products in everyday life.
Now they are using their skills and energy in providing relief to victims of the earthquake that hit Nepal a week ago, killing more than 6,800 people. After assessing the structural damage to their sanctuary, the nuns quickly recovered and refocused when they saw the large-scale death anddestruction in the villages outside their walls.
“Community duty is also a form of spiritual exercise, and our strong limbs are now trained to work hard and for long hours,” said Konchok, who oversees the Internet and sound system at the nunnery.
“Kung fu is not meant to attack people or fight with them. It prepares you for enduring difficult situations, like this earthquake,” Lhamo said. “It is also a form of meditation because it helps us concentrate, keep our minds still and body nimble and light.”