By Choekyi Lhamo
Khenpo Sodargye (ICT) (Tashitso)
DHARAMSHALA, JAN 3: Tibetan Buddhist centres linked to Larung Gar have been shut down under suspected Chinese pressure. A Chinese disciple of Khenpo Sodargye residing in the West told the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) that Sodargye and the other abbot of Larung Gar, Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro, were separately interrogated by Chinese authorities in Nov and the closure is related to these interrogations.
One of the leading Tibetan Buddhist centres within the People’s Republic of China (PRC) made an announcement about the closure of all international centres of his Bodhi Institute of Compassion and Wisdom. The largest Tibet support group ICT has learned that some of Khenpo Sodargye’s followers suspect there is more to the closure than the reason he cited in his announcement on Dec 30.
The announcement read that some people have “undertaken different activities in the name of the Institute,” adding that Sodargye finds it disheartening that some of them have engaged in “illegal activities.” The source said that while the announcement of the closure is true; the reasons were ‘clearly’ written by Sodargye under the direction of Chinese authorities. Both the abbots were the disciple of the same teacher Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, the founder of Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, formally known as the Serthar Larung Gar Buddhist Institute. Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok passed away in 2004 and the institute has been looked after by a team of abbots including Sodaegye and Tsultrim Lodro.
The Larung Gar institute has attracted both Tibetan and Chinese students who study Tibetan Buddhism in China’s Sichuan province. Being one of the largest and most influential centres over the last five years, Chinese authorities have
repeatedly targeted it for demolition forcing monks and nuns to leave and destroying living quarters in an effort to severely reduce the size of the centre. Larung Gar also survived previous attempts by Chinese authorities to demolish sections of it in 2001.
Both the abbots have been making international travels in the past years giving talks on Tibetan Buddhism and philosophy. The closure of Sodargye’s international centres may represent an effort to restrict his religious and moral influence which has grown in recent years. In 2014, Sodargye featured on the cover of Chinese magazine Renwu Zhoukan
(People Weekly). This was likely the first time a Buddhist monk or a Tibetan had been featured on the magazine cover.
The announcement made by Sodhargye about the closure of all the Buddhist centres had 3 points that stated that the institute will take following actions:1. I disband the Bodhi Institute of Compassion and Wisdom and all its offices. As a result, regional dharma centers, committees and institutions related to and established in the name of [the] Bodhi Institute will be disbanded. I would like to reiterate that all activities undertaken by these institutions will be suspended, and websites related to them will also be disbanded.
2. Henceforth, if you come across any kind of announcement made in the name of Bodhi Institute, they are fake. Any type of donation sought in the name of Bodhi Institute has nothing to do with me, and one shouldn’t fall prey to it. If in case such act happens, I will take legal action to identify the culprit whosoever is responsible.
3. 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.