Author Topic: Life inside one of the world's biggest Buddhist monasteries  (Read 11012 times)


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Wow! Have you seen this stunning monastery, home to over 10,000 monks and nuns!

Yarchen Gar is home to over 10,000 devotees, making it one of the largest congregation of monks and nuns.

by  Douglas Hook

Yarchen Gar, officially known as Yaqing Orgyan, is a Buddhist monastery that is made up almost entirely of nuns.

Living in rudimentary conditions, they are devoted to following the faith and entering a life of sacrament.

Established in 1985 by Lama Rinpoche, Yarchen Gar is located in Baiyu county in the Garze Tibetan autonomous prefecture. It is 4,000 metres above sea level - not easy to reach, but home to over 10,000 devotees and one of the largest congregation of Buddhist monks and nuns in the world.

The followers live in tough conditions to prove their devotion to the teachings of Lama Rinpoche, who stressed the enlightenment of meditation, hardship and atonement.

On a well-worn footpath that circles a hill nearby, the nuns and monks "kowtow", a form of prayer in which the disciple kneels and touches the ground with their forehead every two steps.

Latrines hang over the banks of the river and downstream, the water is collected for personal sanitation, washing clothes and food preparation, making the likelihood of typhoid a real threat.

Modernisation, however, does seem to be touching the lives of the nuns in more ways than one, with stores run by monks and nuns dotted around the perimeter, selling all manner of merchandise. Between meditations and kowtows, young and old go shopping for new robes, fashionable "sakyas" (traditional red hats) or "gelugs" (traditional yellow hats), shoes and electronic goods to name a few.

Many of the nuns seem to walk with headphones attached and smartphones in their hands. Modernisation has made its way to even the most remote of consecrated grounds.

Some 77 percent of the inhabitants in Garze Prefecture claim ethnic Tibetan heritage. In Yarchen Gar itself, the true number of inhabitants is not clear but the bulk of Sanghas are of Tibetan origin with very few able to speak the standardised national Chinese language of Putonghua.

What is known, however, is that numbers are growing due to the evictions from the larger monastery, Larung Gar, to the north.

Even with problems with the government over the last few years, there does not seem to be any decline in the pilgrims voyaging to the holy site.

In 2018, the restrictions have abated and entry for foreigners is now permitted under relatively lax police presents.

Chinese nationals and foreigners alike will have their IDs checked upon arrival, however.

What is going to be intriguing is how the relationship between government and worshippers will develop in the coming years, particularly with the evicted Larung Gar talapoins emigrating to Yarchen Gar, swelling their numbers.


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Re: Life inside one of the world's biggest Buddhist monasteries
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2019, 10:42:44 PM »
10,000 monks and nuns in a monastery within China? This is huge and unbelievable especially their history is not very long as the monastery only established in 1985. I am very curious as to what makes this monastery grow into such a huge population within 34 years,  especially in a country that doesn't encourage religious practice. This is impressive.


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Re: Life inside one of the world's biggest Buddhist monasteries
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2019, 01:54:04 AM »
I think China will be the place where Buddhism will flourish once again. China has the most Buddhists in the world. The main traditions in China are Mahayana and Vajrayana. There are many ancient Buddhist monasteries and heritage in China that China has preserved so well.

It is not that China does not encourage religion practice but they want to make sure the teachings of the religion do not contradict with the constitution of the country. China is very concerned about the stability of the country. In the past, many people had used religion to create havoc in the country and cause many problems, this is something China wants to avoid.

Since the real Buddha teaching is about respect and harmony, it does not pose a threat to the government. Therefore, China will definitely allow the practice of Buddhism and will also encourage it. Besides, Buddhism has been practised by Chinese since almost 1900 years ago, it is almost becoming part of their culture.


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Re: Life inside one of the world's biggest Buddhist monasteries
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2019, 10:57:04 AM »
Thank you for sharing this information. It is nice to see there are still so many people especially women in China who want to renounce their layperson's life to become ordained. These people must have collected so much merit in their previous lives that they have realised samsara is a waste of time and it is better to train our mind than to chase after things that don't give us benefits after we die.

Most of us are conditioned to believe 'comfort' is what we want and what we have to work towards. Once we think we are comfortable, that is the time we should enjoy our lives and don't have to work so hard anymore. In actuality, comfort is an obstacle to spiritual practice. When we are comfortable, we don't work hard to improve ourselves or explore our potential.

In Buddhist belief, to be born in a perfect human form is not a given. When we have a perfect human form, we should make full use of our lives to develop good qualities and engage in spiritual practice for a higher purpose in life. The ultimate comfort or happiness is when we have achieved enlightenment and nothing can give us negative emotions anymore.