Ani Choying Dolma

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Gritty Ani Choying Drolma

You better hear this Singing Nun out

BY MAMATA POKHAREL

Soft-spoken yet argumentative, peace-loving but rebellious, well known yet modest. These are but a few of the contradictions that Ani Choying Drolma embodies in herself. A nun for life, Ani Choying socializes freely, as she believes she can only help people in the outside world by being in touch with and understanding them.

And helping others is what she is driven by. Don't assume her to be harmless just because she wears an orange habit and has a nun's shaved head. Ani Choying, subdued as she might be in demeanor, will take none of the patriarchal nonsense. "I strongly believe each individual has potential  regardless of sex," she says.To that end, she has worked hard to found the Arya Tara School, the establishment of which was her childhood dream. When she was a young nun at the Nagi Gompa at Shivapuri, she saw the vast differences in the opportunities available to monks and nuns. Nuns were taught only ritualistic activities and had no access to an academic education of the kind that empowered monks later to take up leadership and active service roles. Her sense of fairness questioned the practice and she remembers asking to herself, "Is it because we, the nuns, are stupid or what?"

This quietly courageous espouser of the female cause wants to see our society cleared of its concepts of patriarchy. And for that, she has started rebelling in the terrain she knows best - the monastic life.

Her school for nuns has visualized the future as a place where nuns can take up leadership roles and contribute to society through community projects. The 30 novices and nuns there range in age from tender eight to 30. But all of them learn their ABCDs here. Imparting a combination of secular and religious education, Ani Choying wants the students to be able to epitomize her philosophy of turning "compassion into action".

"When these nuns go out after realizing their potential, they'll be able to inspire the rest of the community and also be able to impart skills," she said.With Ani Choying, rebellion is the watchword. She drives, she socializes, she even listens to pop and modern songs and she loves to tango. But in the immediate foreground are her prayers and meditations of each day, her spiritual life, her devotion to God and his message of love and peace.

And Ani Choying sings! She sings reflective, spiritual hymns, which she says, have ancient healing powers.

"Whenever I sing, the audience have told me that they experienced calm and peace," she said. No wonder her concerts have had a worldwide audience, making Ani Choying a celebrity.

"Spiritual songs, when sung, create a moment without any negativity. The effect is a positive, uplifting experience," she said.

In fact, she hails spiritual songs as having the effect of meditation in personal healing. Her listeners hail her voice as evocative and divine.

As Harvard student Orofisola Fasehun, who heard her sing when she was invited at the college as a guest for the course, "Personal Choice and Global Transformation", remarks, "She sat silently with her eyes closed and almost unexpectedly came out this powerful and mellifluous voice."

Her role model and Guru at the Nagi Gompa, Tulku Ogyen Rinpoche, encouraged her in everything she did. And the monastery was where she learnt her hymns. Her Guru, who recognized the healing powers in her voice, gave her the go-ahead to have a CD released in the US. That was the beginning of the musical career that has made her a public figure.

She has used her worldwide concert tours to make her dream of a school for nuns financially feasible. When she started getting offers to sing, the invitations brought financial gain with which she established the Arya Tara School at Samakhusi. She has already raised a substantial amount for the construction of its own premises for the school at Pharping. To augment the funds raised, she is once more capturing her audience and spreading the message of peace and love through her powerful voice, accompanied by Nhyoo Bajracharya and Christopher Masand at The Bluestar Hotel on Saturday June 5.

With the new building, Ani Choying's future plans of imparting education to more nuns, giving them better facilities, introducing self-sustainable projects and to give long-term continuity to the dream of producing educated and inspirational nuns will be underway.

Source: Kantipur Online


 

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