Larung Gar is a town in Serthar County of Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in the traditional Tibetan region of Kham, China. The population of 40,000 comprises primarily monks and nuns, and is based around the Serthar Institute founded by Jigme Phuntsok.
Serthar Buddhist Institute
In 1980, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok founded Serthar Institute, known as Buddhist Academy, in the Larung Valley near the town of Sêrtar, Garzê Prefecture, Sichuan Province. The purpose of the Institute has been to provide an ecumenical training in Tibetan Buddhism and to meet the need for renewal of meditation and scholarship all over Tibet in the wake of China’s Cultural Revolution of 1966-76.
Despite its remote location, it grew from a handful of disciples gathering in Khenpo's home to be one of the largest and most influential centers for the study of Tibetan Buddhism in the world, numbering to nearly 10,000 monks, nuns, and lay disciples by the year 2000.
Overall, the student body of Serthar Institute was made up of monks, nuns, lay "vow -holders" of both Tibetan and Chinese origins, and tantric practitioners. They studied under four major religious divisions in the Institute: Ngarig Nangten Lobling, International Religious Committee, Pema Khandro Duling Nunnery, and Lektso Charbeb Ling. Ngarig Nangten Lobling consisted of 2,500 Tibetan monks. Lektso Charbeb Ling is the section that trained over 1,000 lay Tibetan "vow-holders" and tantric practitioners from Sêrtar and other regions of Tibet.
Pema Khandro Duling Nunnery was the home for study to approximately 3,500-4,000 nuns from all regions of Tibet. More than half of those who came to Serthar were women and the curriculum allowed nuns to achieve a coveted Khenpo degree for the first time in Tibetan history. Entry into the relatively small number of nunneries that exist in other areas of Tibet is limited, but Serthar was open to virtually anyone who genuinely sought to become a student of Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok’s ecumenical vision. Khenpo’s niece, Jetsunma Mumso, was recognized as a tulku and heads the order of nuns. The term is descriptive of certain teachers in Tibet who are thought to reincarnate over a number of generations.
Roughly ten percent of the nearly 10,000 students attending Serthar were ethnic Han people. They attended separate classes taught in Standard Chinese while larger classes were taught in Standard Tibetan. The International Religious Committee oversaw 1,000 disciples from regions of the People’s Republic of China and students from other Asian countries.
Serthar Institute has operated with a standing executive committee of seven learned lamas , but major decisions were confirmed and implemented only after consultation with Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok. Serthar Institute has been home to over 500 khenpos—holders of Bachelor's degrees in divinity—and widely renowned for the high quality of both its religious and secular education. English, Chinese, and Tibetan languages and modern computer studies have been taught alongside traditional non-sectarian Buddhist curriculum.