A highly respected Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, passed away at approximately 9:40 am on January 7, 2004, at a military hospital in Chengdu, China.
Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok had been hospitalized on December 29th due to a heart ailment, according to the Dharmsala-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy. His body is already being transported to Serthar Buddhist Institute near Serthar town, Karze Prefecture in Eastern Tibet in Sichuan Province.
Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok founded the Serthar Buddhist Institute in 1980, which, at one time, housed more than 8,000 religious practitioners, including ordained and lay students of diverse nationalities, and also a large number of Chinese students. The Institute became one of the largest and most popular Buddhist learning centers in Tibet or China.
The Chinese Government began to crack down on the institute in 1998 and ordered a reduction in its numbers of students and demanded its adherence to China’s “patriotic re-education” campaign. In June 2001, Chinese armed police overran the Institute, expelled more than 6,000 students, and demolished more than 3,000 of the makeshift homes the students had recently built around the Institute.
In June 2002, after being held incommunicado by Chinese authorities for a year in Chengdu, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, was allowed to return to the Sertar Institute he had founded.
The Dalai Lama’s Special Envoy to the United States, Lodi Gyari, said to VOA that the passing of Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok was a great loss for both Tibet and China. He added that Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, through his Buddhist teachings to Chinese students, promoted better understanding and warm relations between the people of China and Tibet.