Ester Bianchi: "Teaching Tibetan Buddhism in Chinese on behalf of Mañjuśrī: The case of the Larung gar Five Sciences Buddhist Academy in Sertar"
In the year 1987, Jigme Phuntsok, founder of the Larung gar Five Sciences Buddhist Academy in Sertar (Sichuan), led hundreds of disciples on pilgrimage to Mt. Wutai, suggesting that Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva himself had invited him to go there. Many Han Chinese then followed him back to Sertar, which became a place of retreat and a pilgrimage spot for thousands of Chinese devotees ever since. Works and textbooks produced at Larung gar are also employed to instruct Han Chinese practitioners in different Buddhist centres in China, Taiwan and abroad. The principal objective of the present study is to outline the spread of Larung gar dzok chen teachings among Chinese speaking practitioners both in Sertar and beyond. I will focus on the history of the Larung gar in Sertar, seen as a place of practice for Han Chinese followers, and will then analyse the contents and strategies of its teaching activities. Special attention shall be paid to the specific dzok chen doctrines and practices that are transmitted to Han Chinese monastics and lay Buddhists. To conclude, an attempt shall be made to understand reasons, backgrounds and implications of this growing contemporary phenomenon.
Ester Bianchi holds a Ph.D. in “Indian and East-Asian Civilization” from the University of Venice (co-tutorial Ph.D. received from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Section des Sciences Religieuses of Paris). Since June 2015 she is associate professor of Chinese Religions and Philosophy, Society and Culture of China, and Chinese Literature at the University of Perugia (Italy). She is presently external associated researcher of the Groupe Sociétés, Religions, Laïcités CNRS-EPHE (2012-) and, together with Daniela Campo, directs the research project “Vinaya Revival in 20th Century China and Taiwan” (funded by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, August 2015-). Her research interests are in the religions of China and she is the author of several articles on Sino-Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism and Daoism; her studies are currently focused on the contemporary spread of Tibetan Buddhism among Han Chinese, on Chinese Buddhist monasticism (regulations and religious lives), and on the revival of monastic discipline in modern and contemporary China.