Larung Gar Five Sciences Buddhist Academy, also known as Serthar Institute, sits two miles above sea level in the remote hills of Larung Gar Valley on the eastern Tibetan plateau. One of the largest and most influential Tibetan Buddhist academies in the world, Larung Gar was founded in the then uninhabited area in 1980 by Nyingma master Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok (1933–2004) with the mission of reviving the Tibetan Buddhist educational tradition following the devastations of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). Like most monastic institutions of Tibet, the academy was established when its teacher, followed by a handful of disciples, constructed a simple home on the hill. The community built around the temple, erected later, now houses a population of monks and nuns whose number, due to a recent surge in enrollment, is difficult to approximate. Figures range from 10,000 to upward of 40,000. The popularity of the institution among Tibetans and Han Chinese alike attracted the attention of the Chinese government in 2001, when officials partially destroyed the village and dispersed its students. The community has since recovered and thrives today under the tutelage of Khenpo Sodargye Rinpoche, who has introduced online courses.
—Alex Caring-Lobel, Associate Editor
Shinya Itahana/Bancroft India/Landov Media