1 Seda facing south

By Chensiyuan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Jigme PhuntsokAbout Larung Gar

Larung Gar, or “The Encampment of the Larung Valley”, is a magical, incredible place.  Located in the remote high-altitude grasslands in the region of Golok in the far east of Tibet, outside of the Chinese demarcated Tibetan Autonomous Region in the province of Sichuan, it is has become home to the world’s largest Buddhist institute of study and practice. It is a striking place.  Founded in the late 1800s by Dudjom Lingpa, the predecessor of Dudjom Rinpoche, it is most famous today for the community that grew around the incredible master Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche (1933-2004).

It is now filled with tens of thousands of Tibetan and Chinese.  There are monks, nuns, yogis and yoginis, and many lay people studying Mahayana and Vajrayana, and there are people from all the Tibetan schools there.  It has, with some ups and downs, been able to thrive and stay out of politics, focusing only on the Four Pursuits which Khenpo Sodargye describes as “to unite Buddhists in harmony; to uphold pure precepts; to study, reflect upon, and practice the sacred Dharma; and to propagate the Dharma and benefit all beings.”

The students of Jigme Phuntsok are having a huge impact on the spread of Dharma well beyond these remote grasslands.  Here is a profile of some of the teachers:

Voices from Larung Gar is the first collection of talks and writings by the leading voices of Larung Gar, the largest Buddhist institution on the Tibetan plateau. The book offers a compelling vision for Buddhism in the twenty-first century by some of the most erudite, creative, and influential Tibetan Buddhist luminaries today. In everyday language, these leaders delve into an array of contemporary issues, including science, ethics, gender equity, and animal welfare.

This collection features contributions from a range of prominent figures who are forging dynamic, modern paths forward for an ancient tradition. Included are the internationally renowned Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, founder of Larung Gar, his distinguished successors Khenpos Sodargye and Tsultrim Lodro, and erudite nuns holding the scholarly title Khenmo, who are becoming known for their impressive publishing projects. Larung Gar is thus one of Tibetan Buddhism’s most vital communities, actively balancing cultural preservation and innovation.

I am deeply honoured and grateful for the opportunity to remark on the writings of the eminent teachers of Larung Gar, especially the heart sons of the great and formidable Kyabje Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche. My observations of both Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro and Khenpo Sodargye over the years have turned gradually to admiration and then to real veneration. Their “walk the talk” approach to the dharma they teach gives great hope to all followers of the Buddhadharma. And so, I want to express my joy that having their words now in printed form will provide at least a glimpse of the unfathomable and infinite activity of these great teachers from Larung Gar.
—Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

A  Symposium on Voices from Larung Gar. 

Panel 1: Larung Gar, Its Impact and Founding Figures featuring Anam Thubten, David Germano, and Antonio Terrone, moderated by Holly Gayley.

Panel 2: Voices of Second Generation at Larung Gar on Buddhist engagement with animal rights, gender equality, and science, moderated by Michael Sheehy, with Padma 'tsho, Geoff Barstow, Sarah Jacoby, and Catherine Hardie.

khenchen tsultrim

Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro

Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro, one of the main contributors to Voices from Larung Gar above, is one of the leading teachers at Larung Gar and also has many thousands of students.  Shambhala was very honored to have a visit from him in 2014 where we discussed Buddhist publishing and Dharma in the west.

Khenpo  Sodargye

Khenpo SodargyeKhenpo is also one of the more visible teachers from Larung Gar with tens of thousands of students, Tibetan, Chinese, and Western.  Known as an extremely profound and skillful teacher himself, he edited a collection of teachings from Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche entitled Always Present: The Luminous Wisdom of Jigme Phuntsok. 

From his preface to Always Present:

On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of His Holiness’s parinirvana, I began an exhaustive search through the recordings of the teachings he gave both at home and abroad. From these, I selected some teachings and translated them as an offering to all who have an affinity with His Holiness. As the First Dodrupchen Jigme Trinle Özer prophesied over two hundred years ago, any being that forms a connection with His Holiness Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche can be reborn in a pure land of great bliss. It is therefore auspicious that His Holiness’s teachings are now being shared in this book.

Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche

Orgyen ChowangRinpoche is the founder of the Pristine Mind Foundation was one of the first group of Khenpos trained by Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche.  Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche released his first book, Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness in the spring of 2016 to very enthusiastic reviews from both long-time practitioners and people completely new to Buddhism – a rare pairing.  In the foreword, he briefly describes his experience at Larung Gar:

"At the age of fourteen I received the rare opportunity to become a  stu­dent of one of the greatest enlightened masters of the twentieth century, Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche. I left home and started my studies at Larung Gar, my teacher’s famous retreat center. The living conditions at Larung Gar at that time were harsh, with very cold winters, scanty food, and few comforts. For the first year I lived on my uncle’s porch, with only a cur­tain protecting me from the snow. After that, my parents built me a small house, where I stayed for the next eight years of my training. Even though the living conditions continued to be challenging, they never felt too dif­ficult to bear. In fact, this was a time in my life when I experienced tre­mendous joy.

 

"During these nine years, my focus was on studying the canon of Bud­dhist literature, particularly the advanced teachings known in Tibet as Vajrayana and Dzogchen. But my studies were not just dry reading and test taking, as you might imagine. I found great inspiration and joy through singing “vajra songs”—poems that have arisen in the minds of enlight­ened masters out of their meditation experiences. These poems express extraordinary wisdom. After each day of class and study, I went back to my little house and sang many vajra songs, particularly those of the great masters Longchenpa (fourteenth century) and Mipham Rinpoche (nine­teenth century).

"After many years of study, I was given the title Khenpo, the rough equivalent of a Ph.D. It indicates having a full understanding of the Bud­dhist literature and also means having achieved some degree of meditation experience, so that I was qualified to give teachings and guide others in their practice as well. Overall, the training I received during these years gave me the knowledge and practical tools I needed in order to lead a life of fulfillment and transformation, for both myself and others."

khenpo jamyang tenzin

Khenpo Karma Jamyang Gyaltsen recently visited Shambhala and discussed the Kagyu tradition's curriculum that takes place there.  We are pleased to make the entire talk available online.   Please enjoy a Reader's Guide to the works he discusses in his talk as well.

There are many other excellent teachers mwho frequently visit or live in the west who were disciples of Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche including Tulku Tenzin Gyatso Rinpoche, California-based Chakung Jigme WangdrakKhentrul Lodrö Thayé Rinpoche, Tulku Rigsang, Lama Drimed Rinpoche, and many more.

One other resource is the Lotsawa House’s small collection of translations by Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche.

See Khenpo Jamyang's talk on the Kagyu  curriculum at Larung Gar.