Canada’s Great Wisdom Buddhist Institute Wins Residential Building Approval After Opposition

Canada’s Great Wisdom Buddhist Institute Wins Residential Building Approval After Opposition

The Great Wisdom Buddhist Institute (GWBI) in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island (PEI) received official approval on 14 June to build a large dormitory building. Representatives from the town council of Three Rivers, which oversees the community of Brudenell where GWBI is located, voted unanimously to approve the building permit. The decision follows years of planning, sporadic opposition from the local community, and a denied application last fall.*

The new dorm will have 175 beds to permanently house a growing population of nuns at the institute. At last count, there were approximately 500 GWBI nuns living on PEI, but many have lived outside of the Brudenell community due to a lack of onsite living facilities. The Buddhists plan to eventually have some 1,400 nuns living on its 120-hectare monastery.

The newly approved construction permit allows for a two-story building with a basement, approximately 1,300 square meters in size at a cost of some C$8 million (US$6.5 million). The building will provide housing as well as classrooms, washrooms, laundry facilities, a kitchen, and dining areas.

Ven. Yvonne Tsai of GWBI said that the nuns were grateful for the news: “It was a great learning journey for all of us. It reminded us how important communication is and then how important it is to work with the local community hand in hand.” (CBC News)



How did they get 500 nuns into Canada? I’m very confused, is the article mistaken? Can someone shed some light on this?

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Mahayana nuns? Or Theravada nuns?

They look Mahayana to me, although if I’m not mistaken, this group also has a collaborative project with the Dhammayuttika Nikaya in Cambodia which has been publishing bhikkhuni resources in Khmer.

But there is still so much about this that is confusing and makes no sense.

The organization’s website provides a lot of information:

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From the website, it appears that they are Dharmaguptakas practising in the Tibetan or Vajrayana tradition, so yes, Mahayana.

All the iconography is Tibetan, the books they show are in Tibetan, the core curriculum are texts by Tsongkhapa (the revered master of the Tiebtan Gelug school), there’s a video of a nun doing Tibetan style prostrations, and they also talk about the nun studying debate (very Tibetan). So this seems to be a fusion of Chinese Mahayana and Tibetan Vajrayana.

I know, right? Most monasteries can barely get visas for 2 or 3 monastics. Looks like they currently have 450 residents, with 1,300 planned for the future. Total speculation, but if they have family members with Canadian citizenship, it would be much easier for them to get visas/PR. There is a huge Chinese population in Canada, so much so that in BC they are no longer granted legal minority status.

This looked interesting:

Recitation, the ability to memorize texts word for word, not only improves one’s memory but also trains one’s mind to quiet down and concentrate. GWBI has twenty-year-old novice nuns who can memorize up to 400,000 words, which means they carry roughly 15 books in their heads wherever they go. Reciting aloud all that has been memorized requires three full days with no breaks in between.
Education – GWBI

They are Chinese nuns taught Tibetan Buddhism by a lay woman teacher. Sounds like an eclectic mix. Apparently the nuns have a very rigorous curriculum.