My very dear Venerable,
Thank you very much your kind letter, and numberless thanks that you became a nun.
Now, why are you thinking to take the gelongma vows? We do have some nuns who have taken these vows because an abbot in Taiwan started to ordain Western nuns, but I think there are only a few [Western] nuns and Tibetan nuns from Dharamsala. I doubt they are from Gelugpa; I don’t think there is even one who got ordained.
I think there are 365 vows—more than fully ordained monks in the Tibetan lineage—but I don’t see those Western nuns who have taken the gelongma vows really keeping the vows. There were two Western nuns who lived in Dharamsala for some years and were always going together. I think they were ordained by the same master in Taiwan (maybe). However some of the nuns who have taken gelongma vows, somehow I don’t see them keeping the gelongma vows and I don’t know why they have taken the gelongma vows.
His Holiness asked me to check the lineage of gelongma vows, whether it is an unbroken lineage from the Buddha or not. In Singapore the abbess from one small nunnery told me that one monk came from China and did a Manjushri retreat for a long time, then he decided to grant gelongma vows. However, you don’t normally hear that publicly.
Of course, if one takes the vows and keeps them with Dharma motivation, even though there is no unbroken lineage, you might have the benefit of keeping the vows with a Dharma motivation, not the eight worldly dharmas. If the motivation is the eight worldly dharmas, then the action of keeping the vows does not become Dharma.
There are getsul vows one can keep purely, as much as possible. There is this possibility. Then on top of that there are bodhisattva vows—to abstain from the eighteen root downfalls and forty-six vices. Then there are tantric vows—[to abstain from] the fourteen root downfalls and vices of mother tantra and samaya.
I think there is a lot to practice. I don’t think there is a shortage, therefore one thing is to check your motivation, why you want to take these vows.
Thank you very much. I hope to see you soon.
With much love and prayers...