LARUNG GAR, China — Atop a hill, a growling chain saw drowned out loudspeakers broadcasting a lama’s chants from a nearby temple.
The chain saw, wielded by workers demolishing a row of homes, signaled the imminent end of thousands of hand-built monastic dwellings here at Larung Gar, the world’s largest Buddhist institute.
Since its founding in 1980, Larung Gar has grown into an extraordinary and surreal sprawl — countless red-painted dwellings surrounding temples, stupas and large prayer wheels. The homes are spread over the walls of this remote Tibetan valley like strawberry jam slathered on a scone.
Larung Gar has become one of the most influential institutions in the Tibetan world, the teachings of its senior monks praised, debated and proselytized from here to the Himalayas. In recent years, disciples have popularized a “10 new virtues” movement based on Buddhist beliefs, spreading its message across the region.
Now Chinese officials are tightening control over the settlement, in what many Tibetans and their advocates call a severe blow to Tibetan religious practice.
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