Quite a lot is the short answer… Starting with its remote location, the difficulty of getting there and the sheer improbability of it all! Boiling it all down though if I had to pick just a couple of things it would have to be the place itself and the people. 

Photographing Larung Gar

Photographing Larung Gar

The fact that so many people have gravitated to this remote valley high up on the Tibetan Plateau tells you a lot about what Jigme Phuntsok and his followers have established. And clearly there is something very powerful about traditional Dzogchen meditation and Nyingma Buddhism!

Oviously the conditions the majority of the attendees at Larung Gar live in are quite basic. But it did not appear to matter that much. At least on the day I was there – although I suppose it might be a bit different on a bitterly cold winters day.

From a purely western and materialistic perspective it is easy to associate basic living conditions with dissatisfaction. After all, much of what we imbibe on television, movies and social media, condition us to want more.

But I also did not see any TV antennas or satellite dishes at all at Larung Gar. And again the distinct impression I had was that it just did not matter!

To me this intensity of purpose that almost everybody I saw at Larung Gar seemed to have made the people really interesting. Their colorful robes and the amazing backdrop made them even more so.

Photographing Larung Gar – In Summary…

My trip to Larung Gar was worth all the trouble and difficulty of getting there. The only issue really though was one day was nowhere near enough time! I had every intention to go back there and stay for at least a few days, but trying to get information on how to book accommodation there was really tough.

Then word filtered out about a local government crackdown on the institute with strict instructions to reduce the number of students to no more than 5,000. With 3,500 of those to be nuns and 1,500 to be  monks. Then it seems that the whole area was closed completely to all foreigners… So I never made it back, but if Larung Gar does open again to foreigners I will definitely go back – it’s that special!

Photographing Larung Gar