Larung Gar was far away
(Golok Serta, 2003 autumn)

[click for larger photo]

I tried to visit Larung Gar Monastery where I visited three years ago. It is a huge Tibetan Buddhist academy established by the great master Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok. I reached Wangda town, 70km north from Tranggo which is on the Sichuan-Tibet highway. Larung Gar is another 70km from Wanggda. It should take only three or four hours. So I hitched a ride on a truck without careful thought. I was packed into the back of a truck without hood. I enjoyed the trip with Tibetan pilgrims for a while.

When I started to feel exciting because Larung Gar was nearby, the truck stopped. A terrible landslide blocked up the road. A power shovel and a bulldozer were working for repairing, but long time passed away. Sun went down without any sign of reopen, we had to spend one night on the back of the truck. I really felt happy that we had no wind that night. And the morning came and the noon came there... After all, the truck started to drive. We had waited there for 23hours.
<- Landslide. The monastery at the top of cliff is maybe Horshe monastery.

We reached the check post at the entrance of the valley of Larung Gar only 2 hours later. A policeman looking around us and request a Tibetan businessman sitting beside me to show his ID card. Nothing happened after all. The truck went up to the main hall of the monastery.

<- Grassland around the Larung Gar

Larung Gar monastery had housed 8000 or 10000 monks and nuns before 2001 when the authority ordered the monastery to decrease the numbers. Actually I found less monks' houses than before. But the valley was still fully covered with many buildings. It is really a Buddhist Metropolis. I stayed at the house of a young reincarnate lama whose younger brother was together with me on the truck. He was once driven out by the regulation, but now returned there.

the main chorten on the top of hill

pilgrims circumambulating around the chorten

In the evening, I found monks were debating in Tibetan style at the courtyard of the main chapel. We had tukpa, noodle soup at the restaurant run by Chinese family in the monastery town. I felt sad that a nun's house were deported. I once stayed there several years ago.

<-Monks debating in the courtyard of the main chapel, heavily decorated in unique sense of beauty.

I had a pleasant time at a master's room. He was teaching how to read the Buddhism sutras to his young students who visited him until late evening.

<- Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok's room is at the top in the center. Three months after my visit, the great Master passed away for the next incarnation.

Frankly speaking, I am not sure about the value of Buddhism teachings many monks and nuns are studying. But I can say that Larung Gar must be a big and important center to preserve the Tibetan tradition to the future. The size itself is not always important, but energy and power must be so important to maintain the quality of culture. I will keep my eyes on the future of Larung Gar carefully, looking forward to the reincarnation of the great Khenpo.

Mourning for the great master Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok