Religion: Five women who became nuns for a week at Kila Goemba in Paro will complete the programme today.

They were the first group of laypeople to take advantage of Zhung Dratshang’s initiative to allow people outside religious bodies to allow them to practise the dharma and to experience life of practitioners.

Zhung Dratshang’s Leytshog Lopen conducted a ceremony on August 26 during which the women donned nun’s habit took vows and ordination meant for common people. They did not have to shave their heads, however. The women, who are all from Thimphu, will observe rituals and devote their time in prayers and meditation.

Zhung Dratshang issued a circular on June 11 that said laypeople can join shedras under it, take vows and ordination, and devote their time in prayers and meditation for from a week to few months.

The women, upon completion of the programme, will receive certificates from Zhung Dratshang.

Forty-four-year-old Passang Dem from Babesa decided to join the nunnery after she heard about the opportunity at a religious ceremony in Simtokha Dzong. She told her friends about it and settled on going to Kila Goemba.

The women say that it’s a good opportunity that Zhung Dratshang has created for the ordinary people to practise dharma.

“It’s a very good opportunity for people like us,” said Passang Dem. “I never thought this could be possible. I would like to encourage my friends to join the programme. Of course, there will be those who will oppose to the idea.”

The women got to Kila Goemba on August 25. They carried along their own mattresses, plates, and mugs.

Namgay Lham, 46, a lecturer at Faculty of Traditional Medicine, said she availed of leave to attend the programme.

“As we age, we tend to become more religious,” said the mother of two. “It is peaceful here, and we are able to pray and meditate in peace.”

Chuki, 43, is a housewife. She found nun’s habit a little uncomfortable in the beginning. “I am used to it now and rather like it,” she said. “Next time round, we will be back in a larger group.”

Kinga Dema, Paro