Entry to Larung Gar
Apr. 20, 2017
Larung Gar is located in China’s Sichuan province at an elevation of 4,000 meters. It’s a sacred place for Tibetan Buddhists. On the slope of the valley, there are more than 10 thousand huts packed together. They’re home to monks. For the first time ever, a TV camera has been taken inside to record scenes throughout the area. But there was a condition: politics would not be discussed.
There are more than a thousand monks inside the temple of the monastery.
They chant, "We worship Buddha and Manjushri. Help us not to misunderstand our own power and grant us the virtue of wisdom.”
A crimson color unifies everyone and everything, from the monks to the buildings. In Tibetan Buddhism, it's a sacred color that separates the Buddhist realm from the secular world.
The monks follow strict precepts and master the way of the Buddha. One form of training is called “Dialogue" or "Questions and Answers".
In order to understand the difficult teachings of Buddhism, questions and answers are repeated until they’ve been memorized.
Tseten Thondup is a monk-in-training. He entered the world of Buddhism when he was 16 years old.
A monk-in-training begins his day before dawn by chanting sutras.
He chants a short prayer to Buddha seven thousand times to calm his mind.
Tseten says, "We separate ourselves from the secular world to learn about Buddhism. If we live out the teachings, we believe we can become ideal monks.”
Buddhism arrived in Tibet from India 1,400 years ago. However, Larung Gar is only about 4 decades old.
During China’s Cultural Revolution that began in the 1960s, several thousand temples were said to have been destroyed throughout Tibet.
Later, the Chinese Communist Party tempered its view on religion and allowed the Tibetan people more freedom to worship.
During this time, a high-level monk built a simple training hut on a wasteland. He was Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok.
Monks began to gather in large numbers in hopes of receiving his teachings, and Larung Gar grew into a kind of center for Tibetan Buddhism.
Tseten, the monk in training, goes to visit his younger brother.
Uga is also a monk and has advanced-stage tuberculosis. An X-ray of Uga’s lungs shows one is white, indicating it's filled with fluid.
The doctor told him that before lung surgery can be performed, he needs to recover his strength by eating protein-rich foods.
But Uga still eats only vegetables. He never eats meat. Like his brother, he vowed he would “never cause harm by taking another’s life.”
Tseten asks him, "Which is more important, your recovery or your vow?"
Uga replies, "My vow."
"This is about life," Tseten says. "When we eat meat or wear a fur, it means that we have killed an animal. Buddha says every life on earth has equal value. Even the life of a little insect is equal."
The Tibetan faith teaches that all life is equal, and that “life is but an illusion.”
Tibetan Buddhists also believe in reincarnation. That philosophy has led to a unique funeral ritual.
The dead undergo “sky burials,” in which their corpses are left for the vultures.
One man prepares for the ritual. He hands over a piece of bone to bereaved family members as a memento.
The "sky burial" begins. The bereaved watch their kin’s last deed, considered a pious act.
Larung Gar is a sacred place in Tibetan Buddhism. It’s where the teachings of Buddhism itself are renewed and kept alive for eternity.