Earlier this month more than 200 Buddhist nuns of the Drukpa order, also known as the “Kung fu Nuns,” cycled a grueling 2,200km (1,370 miles) from Kathmandu to New Delhi as a way to promote gender equality and environmental preservation.
The Drukpa nuns are part of the Druk Gawa Khilwa Abbey in Kathmandu, where approximately 300 nuns reside and practice. They come from remote places in Tibet, Ladakh, Lahaul, Bhutan and Sikkim.
While the nuns take part in traditional prayers and meditation, they are also committed to living an active lifestyle. “Just because we are nuns, we aren’t only supposed to be sitting in monasteries and meditate. We want to come out and show people that we are also physically capable,” explains one of the nuns in this video from Mint.
Among their many activities, the women are proficient in kung fu, which they learned after the current Drukpa leader Gyalwang Drukpa, an advocate of gender equality, lifted a ban that prevented the nuns from learning the martial art. “Kung fu gives us both physical and mental strength. The exercises we practice daily have come handy in helping us cycle this far,” one nun says.
Unlike most Buddhist monasteries where the nuns are relegated to cooking and cleaning, the nuns of Druk Gawa Khilwa lead prayers, learn English and are taught many other skills. They run the guest house and coffee shop at the Abbey and make valuable contributions to their community. “We do everything. Our nuns are electricians, administration office, everything,” 21-year-old Jigme Konchok Lhamo explains.
Throughout the 52 day ride the nuns stopped in villages to share their message of conservation and to talk about women’s rights. Gyalwang Drukpa sums it up perfectly, “The Dukpa Kung fu nuns are global messengers spreading a positive message that everyone can participate in tackling the world’s challenges.”