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Carola Roloff

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Carola Roloff (born 1959 in Holzminden, Germany) is a German Buddhist nun. Her monastic name is Bhiksuni Jampa Tsedroen. An active teacher, translator, author, and speaker, she is instrumental in campaigning for equal rights for Buddhist nuns.

Early and religious life

Born in Holzminden, Germany to a Protestant family, Roloff was active in her local Christian youth group. When she was 18 years old, the suicide of a friend's family member caused Roloff to question God and life. Doubting the source of suffering, Roloff recalls that she "couldn't get any satisfactory answers from Christian ministers."[1] As a result, she turned to the Buddhist philosophy and began her Buddhist studies and life in 1980, aged 21. She travelled to Dharamsala, India in order to study Vajrayana Buddhism and the Tibetan language, before becoming a novice at the age of 22[2]—one the first Tibetan Buddhist nuns in Germany.[1] Her ordination as a novice was performed by Geshe Thubten Ngawang, on 22 September, 1981, at the Tibetan Centre Hamburg.[3] Geshe Thubten was also her spiritual director and teacher for several years, whom she followed to Taiwan. On 6 December, 1985, Roloff received her full ordination into the Dharmagupta lineage at the Miao-tung monastery in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and took the name Jampa Tsedroen.[3] In Tibetan, Jampa means "metta", or "loving kindness" and "Tsedroen" means "lamp of life". Roloff now practises the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya tradition, instead of the Dharmagupta tradition she was ordained into.[1]

Following her ordination, Roloff became active in translation, in the management of the Tibetan Centre in Hamburg, and in campaigning for equal opportunities for nuns. As well as English and her native German, she is fluent in Tibetan, Sanskrit, and Pali.[4] With the help of her teacher Geshe Thubten, Roloff translated the sojong vows for bhiksunis into English, thereby greatly aiding Western Tibetan nuns in the ritual.[5] Further aiding the research and study of students around the world, Roloff helped digitise scripture and other Buddhist texts.[6] Roloff is also a Tibetologist and is working on her Ph.D. thesis at the University of Hamburg.[7] In keeping with Buddhist practices, she helps refugees at the Tibetan Centre Hamburg and guides and teaches Buddhist students.[8]

A nun now for over two decades, Roloff's busy and hectic schedule leaves her little time to nurture her own sprititual life. In an interview with Vasana Chinvarakorn of the Bangkok Post, she stated, "I feel I haven't practised enough. I've accumulated merits and increased a little bit of wisdom, but still my time for meditation and retreat is not enough." Serving the community, however, is faithful to her bodhisattva vow and is Roloff's priority over her own personal development.[8]

Female ordination in Buddhism

Ordaining female nuns, or bhiksunis, in the Tibetan tradition has been met with resistance from many Tibetan monks. Roloff is determined to change this reluctance to allow women into the tradition. As well as campaigning for a change of opinion, she is instrumental in helping to determine how females can best be accommodated, both in the tradition itself and in sanghas (mutually supportive communities). Fortunately for Roloff, this imposing challenge has been supported by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. At an international conference for Buddhist women in 1987, Roloff recalls him saying to her, "...'You women have to fight for it [bhikkhuni ordination]. You cannot expect the monks to serve it to you.'..." As well as lecturing and writing on the subject, Roloff conducts research with other monks and nuns to help strengthen their position. The Vinaya scriptures, for example, show that the Lord Buddha accepted the role of women as nuns in search of enlightenment, and Roloff therefore often quotes this text.[8]

Management and advisory board activities

Since 1981, Roloff has served in several committees and has sat on the boards of directors of a few organisations. Her current roles include being a member of the Committee of Western Bhikshunis, a member of the Bhikkhuni Ordination Committee for the Central Tibetan Administration, and she serves as an advisory board member at the Centre for Buddhist Studies, University of Hamburg.[4]

Literary works

Roloff has written several papers, given numerous lectures, and has two published works.[4] Relevance of Vinaya in Modern Circumstances was published in 1991 and A Brief Survey of the Vinaya: Its Origin, Transmission, and Arrangement from the Tibetan Point of View with Comparisons to the Theravāda and Dharmagupta Traditions in 1992.[9][10]


In conjunction with the United Nation's International Women's Day, the International Congress for Buddhist Women presented Roloff with the Outstanding Women in Buddhism award, on 7 March 2007, at the United Nations centre in Bangkok.[3][11]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Chaisatien, Aree (1 April 2007). "Lighting the Way: A Western bhikkhuni is spearheading the first international congress on the ordination of women in Buddhism". The Nation. Nation Multimedia Group. Retrieved 2009-05-03. 
  2. "2007 Award Recipients". Hall of Outstanding Women in Buddhism. The Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards. 2007. Retrieved 2009-05-03. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Press release 2/21/2007: Carola Roloff receives international award". International Congress on Buddhist Women's Role in the Sangha Bhikshuni Vinaya and Ordination Lineages. University of Hamburg. 21 February 2007. Retrieved 2009-05-03. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Carola Roloff". Biography. Retrieved 2009-05-03. 
  5. Khadro, Sangye. "Sojong-Purifying and Restoring our Vows". International Mahayana Institute. Foundation of the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition. Retrieved 2009-05-03. 
  6. Martin, Dan (May 2006). "A Bronze Portrait Image of Lo-ras-pa's Disciple: Tibetological Remarks on an Item in a Recent Asian Art Catalog". Art and Exhibitions. The Tibetan Mongolian Museum Society. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  7. "Female teachers". Sakyadhita in Europe. Sakyadhita International. 2007. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Chinvarakorn, Vasana (25 March 2007). "An equal chance at enlightenment". Bangkok Post. The Buddhist Channel.,3867,0,0,1,0. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  9. Tsedroen, Jampa (1991). Relevance of Vinaya in Modern Circumstances. Thammasat University. 
  10. Tsedroen, Jampa (1992). A Brief Survey of the Vinaya: Its Origin, Transmission, and Arrangement from the Tibetan Point of View with Comparisons to the Theravāda and Dharmagupta Traditions. Foundation for Tibetan Buddhism. ISBN 9783927862159. 
  11. Roloff, Carola (7 March 2007). "Acceptance Speech by Bhiksuni Jampa Tsedroen". International Congress on Buddhist Women's Role in the Sangha Bhikshuni Vinaya and Ordination Lineages. University of Hamburg. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 

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