Upon arriving in Pharping, I tried to figure out where the school might be, since I knew it wasn't in Pharping village itself. On one of our walks up to the Asura cave I asked our Khenpo if he knew the school. He did, pointing to a red building on the opposite side of the valley, close to a big white temple built by Karma Chagme Rinpoche.
A week later, on a walk towards Dollu – a neighbouring village about 15 minutes away by foot – Jurek, Aaron, and I were on our way to visit the temple in which Thinley Norbu Rinpoche gave empowerments last year. We found it closed, and we wondered what to do next. I suggested a visit to the Arya Tara school. Jurek and Aaron agreed, and 30 Minutes later, after viewing the incredibly rich and detailed wall paintings in the temple of Karma Chagme, we arrived at the gates of Arya Tara.
Besides the nuns playing in the courtyard, we were greeted by two dogs. One welcomed us happily, but his playmate wouldn't stop barking at us. Unfortunately our Nepali language skills are very poor; we never discovered the source of his grievance. After a brief look around we were about to leave when one of the young nuns asked if we wanted a tour of the whole building. We happily agreed.
The nun, Ani Diki Drolma, was a Nepalese girl about 12 years old. As she guided us through the building, she told us, in English, that around 60 nuns – only 2 of which are Tibetan – live and study in the school. The youngest nun was 6 and the oldest was 35. They sleep in dormitory-style accommodation, sharing with at least 5 other nuns. We saw a cosy and well equipped library, a vegetable garden outside, about 4 classrooms, and a shrine room with a picture of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche at its centre. Here the nuns practice Zabtik Drolchok, a practice of Tara, every day.
We were also shown some works of the school's flourishing art program. There were some very impressive drawings of Gandhi, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, and some assorted animals. Nuns who are interested can also learn the traditional art of Thangka painting.
All the nuns were open-hearted, joyful, and full of ease. It was a wonderful experience to visit the Arya Tara school, and see how the nuns live and study.
written by Stefan and Aaron