Larung Gar, the valley that is home to thousands of Buddhist monks
More than 40,000 Buddhist monks – men and women – live in this academy that fills an entire valley in a Chinese province.
If we think about the monastic life it is very probable that we think about solitude, seclusion, silence and a few other qualities whose common denominator is the appropriate isolation for mediation and the service to elevated causes. In the West as in the East, religious life is associated with a kind of “collective isolation” in which the individual forms part of a small community of others who, like him or her, have chosen the way of reclusiveness and spirituality.
Perhaps as a result the existence of a massive community of monks is a little unexpected. However, that is the daily reality in the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garzê, in China’s Sichuan province.
There, since the 1980s, tens of thousands of Buddhist monks have gone to study the religion in the majority of its variants, complying with the ecumenical purpose of its founder, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, who still runs the academy in collaboration with seven lamas.
The importance and size of the school is evident in aerial photographs of the place, and which resembles a red carpet covering Larung Gar valley. The roofs and walls of that color belong to the houses that the monks themselves have built as the religious and student population of the academy has grown and which also demonstrates the deep solidarity among those who live there.
One of the ideals of the monastic life is that its precepts and objectives are not limited to life in the temple and a handful of people who live together daily, but that they are taken farther, to the world itself, where they are truly necessary.
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