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Curbing Buddhist Influence

By Tenzin Samten  /  April 19, 2017;

Destruction of monastic dwellings in Larung Gar
Photo: RFA

The forced eviction of nuns and monks from Larung Gar Buddhist academy has come to end with the final batch of 250 nuns who were sent home on April 6, according to a local source from the region. Larung Gar – the largest Tibetan Buddhist centre in the world, which is located in Serta County in Sichuan province, last year faced the demolition of many of the monastic dwellings and expulsion of half its residents by the Chinese authorities.

The expelled nuns were all from the neighbouring Qinghai province and were sent back to different places there to join local monasteries. “Among them, some went to Golog [in Chinese, Guoluo] prefecture in Qinghai, where they are being allowed to stay at Tsida monastery, which is led by Khenpo Rigdar,” said the source, speaking to Radio Free Asia (RFA). The source added that the arrangement was carried out with the help of the Larung Gar management committee.

A group of Chinese officials led by Sichuan provincial governor Yin Li arrived at Larung Gar on March 30 to observe the ongoing state-ordered demolition of monastic dwellings, according to another RFA source who spoke on condition of anonymity. “He also convened a meeting of Larung Gar’s management committee and reminded them that the reduction in numbers of monks and nuns living there and destruction of their homes had been ordered by higher authorities,” the source continued. The officials also stressed that anyone working against the state order will be breaking the law. “He also pointed out that the houses remaining to be torn down would not be limited to the smaller dwellings, but would include some of the larger structures as well,” he added.

Pilgrims tents outside Yarchen Gar
Photo: RFA

Nearly 5,000 monks and nuns were expelled from Larung Gar. The academy was founded in 1980 by the late, highly respected, religious head Khenpo Jigme Phuntso, who died on January 7, 2004. Larung Gar was home to over 10,000 monks, nuns and lay people studying Buddhism when it was ordered to cut down the number of its residents to its half.

Yarchen Gar – another large Buddhist centre in Sichuan province – also faces strict restrictions from Chinese officials. A report published by RFA on April 13 said that at least 200 tents set up near Yarchen Gar by pilgrims who came there to receive teachings were destroyed, and the pilgrims ordered to clear up the area.

Chinese surveillance and tightened security measures at Yarchen Gar have become causes of concern for the centre’s resident monks and nuns. “It is difficult for news about Yachen Gar to reach the outside world now,” said the source [due to communications restrictions in place in that area].

The demolitions and expulsions at Larung Gar and Yachen Gar appear to be part of an unfolding political strategy involving more aggressive measures to curb and manage the growing influence and number of monks and nuns at these important monastic centres, said Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet’s report Shadow of Dust Across the Sun which was published on March 13.

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