Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in Serthar, Tibet

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Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, also known as Serthar Buddhist Institute, sits in the Larung Valley at an elevation of 4,000 meters, about 15 km from the town Sêrtar, in Sertar County, Garze Prefecture in the traditional Tibetan region of Kham. The academy was founded in 1980 in an entirely uninhabited valley by Jigme Phuntsok, an influential lama of the Nyingma tradition. Despite its remote location, Larung Gar grew from a handful of disciples to be one of the largest and most influential centers for the study of Tibetan Buddhism in the world. Today it is home to over 40,000 monks, nuns and lay-students.

The campus of Larung Gar is enormous. Houses for monks and nuns sprawl all over the valley and up the surrounding mountains. A huge wall through the middle of Larung Gar separates the monk side from the nun side. Monks and nuns are not allowed out of their designated areas except in front of the main monastery assembly hall which is common to both nuns and monks. The houses are all built in a wood style that is traditionally found in this region, and built so close together that they appear almost on top of each other.

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One of the most surprising elements of Serthar is that more than half of those who come to study are women.  Entry into the relatively small number of nunneries that exist in other areas of Tibet is limited, but Serthar was open to virtually anyone who genuinely sought to become a student of Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok’s ecumenical vision. Another surprise at Serthar is that it attracts ethnic Chinese students as well as students from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia, who attend separate classes taught in Mandarin, while larger classes are taught in Tibetan.

Reaching Larung Gar is not an easy task. It is quite remote and the nearest large city is Chengdu, which is 650 kilometers away and takes 13 to 15 hours to reach by vehicle. Sertar is also a sensitive area that is often closed to foreign travelers.

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Nuns wash clothes at the Serthar Wuming Buddhist Study Institute on November 4, 2006 in Serthar County of Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, China. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

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A nun holds sutras and a portable stereo as she prepares to listen to the lecture of a master at the Serthar Wuming Buddhist Study Institute on November 4, 2006 in Serthar County of Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, China. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

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Lamas listen to a master as they study sutra at the Serthar Wuming Buddhist Study Institute on November 11, 2007 in the Tibetan autonomous region of China. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

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A nun puts her shoes on a shelf before she enters a Buddhist hall at the Serthar Wuming Buddhist Study Institute on November 11, 2007 in the Tibetan autonomous region of China. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

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Nuns buy goods outside a store at the Serthar Wuming Buddhist Study Institute on November 11, 2007 in Serthar County of Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, China. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

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Sources: China Trekking, The Land of Snow, Avax News

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5 comments:

  1. Beautiful scenic views. Always opens my eyes and mind to all the different ways people dress, live and behave around the world.

    It would be nice if posts showed a little map to get perspective on where they are, as i had to wonder if this lovely enclave is still within the midst of intolerant chinese govt jurisdiction, or if truly this is a haven of safe harbor from global political trauma.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! A little map helps us to imagine more clearly.

      Delete
  2. I like this monastery and this monastery is where my Guru lives https://www.facebook.com/tst.buddhist.centre/media_set?set=a.181763941939959.39141.100003190649257&type=3 Btw,does this monastery offers nun ordination training? I would like to become a nun.

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  3. Wow great photos!
    During all these years it changed slowly but still an amazing place!

    http://www.sichuanfun.com/sertar-larung-gar/

    ReplyDelete

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