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China’s hand seen in closure of Larung Gar abbot’s Buddhist centres worldwide

Larung Gar Tibetan Buddhist Academy in Serta.

(TibetanReview.net, Jan03’20) – The Bodhi Institute of Compassion and Wisdom, a worldwide network of Buddhist centres set up by the Larung Gar abbot Khenpo Sodargye has been declared closed, with the abbot announcing Dec 30 that “illegal activities” were being carried out in its name. However, Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) Jan 2 cited the abbot’s followers as saying that they suspected pressure from the Chinese government to be behind the move.

The announcement, written in Chinese and posted on Larung Gar’s website, was quoted as saying some people had “undertaken different activities in the name of the Institute,” with the abbot finding it disheartening that some of them were engaged in “illegal activities”.

ICT cited an unmade Chinese disciple of Sodargye residing in the West as saying the reasons provided for the closure were “clearly” written by the abbot under the direction of Chinese authorities.

The disciple has said that Sodargye and the other abbot of Larung Gar, Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro, had been separately interrogated by Chinese authorities in Nov 2019 and that the closure was related to these interrogations.

Both Sodargye and Tsultrim Lodro were stated to have been making international travels in recent years, giving talks on Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy.

Khenpo Sodargye. (Photo courtesy: khenposodargye.org)

The two abbots have been described as the primary disciples of Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, the founder of Larung Gar Tibetan Buddhist Academy in Serta (Chinese: Seda) County of what is now part Sichuan Province. Jigme Phuntsok passed away in 2004 and the institute has been looked after by a team of abbots which included Sodargye and Tsultrim Lodro.

Reportedly founded under the patronage of the late 10th Panchen Lama in 1980, Larung Gar rose to become one of the largest and most influential centres for the study of Tibetan Buddhism, attracting both Tibetan and Chinese students. However, over the last five years, Chinese authorities have carried out repeated demolitions of buildings and living quarters and expulsions of monks and nuns, greatly reducing its size and strength.

Sodargye’s sweeping statement is stated to order the closing down of the Bodhi Institute of Compassion and Wisdom and all its offices, including the regional dharma centres, committees and institutions related to and established in its name, and their websites.

The announcement is stated to conclude by saying in familiar Chinese government-dictated terms, “I will continue to love the nation as well as the religion and be in the service of faithful public. I hope faithful public will remain honest and be law abiding.”

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