Anoja Guruma : An inspiring Buddhist nun in Nepal

Razen Manandhar

She was born as the second daughter to Hari Narayan Manandhar and Ratna Maya Manandar’s home in Banepa, Kabhre district on 17th July 1960. Since childhood, she was very social, gentle member of the family. Education was not a priority in her home. Still, she completed grade 5 and had to discontinue going to the school. She developed a sense of detachment to married and family life. As she grew up, naturally, she met with many marriage proposals and she straightly rejected all of them. Her name was Sharada Manandhar.

She renounced her home secretly in October 24th, 1970 and stayed at residence of Dharmananda Bhante in Kathmandu for eight days. And around a month later, she went to Banarasa with Sangharakshita Guruma and Dharmananda Bhante. There, she received ordination by U. Kittima and she was named Khema. Later, she was again given another name Anoja by Prajnanada Bhate, with which she earned name in her life.

She came back to Kathmandu and went to stay at Sugatpur Vihara in Trishuli. Her parents, particularly her father was against her decision. He tried to get her back to family life and when failed, he continuously showed his dismay for ten years. Later, Dhammachari Guruma form Kimdol Vihara rescued her in 1976. Again, after several years, living in Kimdol Vihara also turned out to be difficult for her and Dhammachari Guruma requested Dhammavati Guruma to give her a shelter in Dharmakirti Vihara.

With U. Nyo, she went to Myanmar for further studies in 1981. Daw Amma sponsored her accommodation and studies there. She joined three-month-meditation retreat and later she studied Abhidhamma at Khemarama Satantai for nine months. But, before she could complete her course, she was sent back to Nepal because the Myanmar government made a rule that no foreign student could stay there. She went to Banaras with him and joined Kashi Hindu University. Later she shifted herself to Sampurnananda University and finally completed her doctorate on Abhidhammavatarpurantika in 1998.

She now asserts that the biggest hurdles in her life are always made by monks. The monks in general, except a few, only tried to defame and sabotage her. Once she was forced by some monks to beg pardon by a circle of monks just because she failed to pay respect to the monks and she wanted equality between monks and nuns.

Major activities or contribution of Anoja Guruma can be summarized as it follows:

  • Sulakshan Kirti Vihara was constructed in Chobhar, Kirtipur with a 38-feet-statue of Siddhartha in it
  • Nepal chapter of Buddhist Light International Association (BLIA) in 2003.
  • Since 1987, she has been conducting pilgrimage programmes for Buddhist housewives and others to Buddhist sites of Nepal and other neighboring countries.
  • Conducted pariyatti education classes and Winter Holiday Camps Children’s art competition, English language classes in the vihara.
  • Created a women’s wing to conduct activities that help enhance awareness of the local people
  • Organizes rishini pravajja programme for adolescent girls
  • She organizes Buddhist Teaching Camps in different villages like Kirtipur, Panga, Nagaon and other villages in Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. as wells other villages like Myadi, Tanahu, Makawanpur, Nuwakot, Lamjung etc.
  • Health camps are organized in the vihara very often. Regular eekly health clinic and special health services from the expert and specialists are also conducted in the vihara.
  • She has envisioned construction of Shanti Suddhammavasa, an old-age home for elders, and Sulakshan Charitable Hospital.

[An excerpt of the author’s Masters’ thesis]