The Monastery of Sera – History and foundation

ethnic china

The Monastery of Sera – History and foundation

Sera Monastery, located on the outskirts of Lhasa, is one of the largest monasteries in Tibet, and one of the most important centers of learning. Still today many young Tibetans come to the monastery to be trained in the mysteries of Tibetan philosophy and religion, and on visits to this monastery, included in most tours, it is normal to have the opportunity to see monks discussing aspects of doctrine, or some of the printing press rooms that once made this center of learning famous.

Here we have selected part of the article that the Hindu Tibetologist Sarad Chandra Das wrote in 1905 about the monasteries of Tibet (Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.).

The monastery of Sera (literally, wild rose) was founded by  Cham-chen-choije Sakya Yeceg in 1418, the year of Tsongkhapa’s  death.

The Governor Nehu-pa who patronized Tsongkhapa and his disciples frequently used to invite them to Sera-tse, a retired hermitage on the top of the hill overhanging Sera. On these occasions, Choije devotedly served the reformer, in consequence of which Tsongkhapa predicted a great future for a monastery which Choije would found in that neighbourhood. A saintly Lama while sitting in meditation, cast his eyes on a spot lower down the hermitage which was filled with wild rose plants in blossom. He predicted that someday there would be a monastery there.

Visit to Beijing

Emperor Yongle of the Ming dynasty had sent an invitation to Tsongkhapa to visit Peking; but the great reformer, finding Choije’s time fully occupied with the more important work of religious reformation, sent Cakya Yeces as his representative. Yongle did honour to the Yellow-cap Church by showing every consideration to this disciple of the reformer on his arrival at Peking where Choige’s first act was to bring about the recovery of the Emperor from a serious illness by the efficacy of his religious services. The temple of Maitreya, then recently built by the Emperor, was placed in his charge and he was given the name of Chyam-chen Choije. Under the Imperial auspices, Choije founded the monastery of Hwang-si (Yellow-temple) in one of the imperial gardens of Peking situated a few miles to its north. For diffusing the reformed creed of Tsongkhapa in China he had taken with him several of Tsongkhapa’s works and a set of block-print Kahgyar [113] scriptures. After converting the Lamas of Peking to the reformed Yellow-cap Church he returned to Tibet. On the way, he paid his reverence to Tsongkhapa making rich presents to him. Subsequently, he founded the monastery of Sera Theg-chen-ling, which now contains 5,500 monks and exercises much influence in the secular and religious administration of the country.

Sera University

He established a university in it with four Tva-tshang or colleges. Of these Gya-Tva-tshang belonged to the upper division of Sera and the remaining three, i.e., Thoisam, Norpuiling, Chyipa Khamang Tva-tshang, and Nag-pa Tra-tshang belonged to Sera Mah, (sma) z.e., lower division of Sera. In the middle of the eighteenth century, two of the colleges were established. It still continues to be a favourite resort of learned men of Tibet and Mongolia. The monks of Sera belong to respectable families of Tibet proper, Amdo, Kham, Nyagrong, Mongolia, and Western China.

Main art treasures

There are in the Dukhang (grand hall of the congregation) the images of —

  1. Buddha vanquishing Mara the evil one and a host of demons.
  2. The sixteen Sthavira (Neh-tan Chu-rig!) brought from China.
  3. Several life-like images constructed by the famous artist Nehu Chang-wa.

In the Gonkhang (the temple assigned to the Tantrik deities) there are—

  1. The image of the six-armed Bhairava, constructed by Leg-an of Shwau.
  2. Gon-po Choigyal with four arms.
  3. The goddess Paldem Lhamo (Kali) on horseback, her legs being tied by a chain, probably as a punishment for her wicked conduct.

In the front wall, there are painted representations of the invasion of U by the Tsang army and their defeat by the Tartars in 1643, the scenes of war, and the images of fearful spirits, such as Gon-po De-mar, the genius (Chyarog-dong-chan, he with a raven’s head), etc. On the western wall are painted the likenesses of the successive high priests of Sera, etc.

In the western corner of the upper congregation hall (Duk-hang Gong-ma), are the images of Amitabha Buddha, the eleven-armed Avalokitesvara and the four-armed Gon-po, Maitreya made of silver, the Bodhisattva (Cakya) as a citizen, and the eight spiritual sons of Buddha and also the Kah-gyur and Tangyur collections, all written in gold and silver.

In the temple of Chyam-chen Shal-reh Lhakhang, the image of Atisha with a Chintamani wishing-gem in his hand is conspicuous.

In the Go-chye-khang there are images of Buddha and a silver Chorten. In the further niché of the Dukhang there is a golden image of the coming Buddha. In the front hall of the ukhang there are the Dharma Pala. The most remarkable object in the passage of circumambulation round the monastery is a small Chattya (said to be one of the 84,000 chattya constructed by Emperor Asoka) which was brought from Magadha. There is also a Tantrik image of Hayagriba with the goddess Vajra Varéhi in his clasp.

jinuo book

Last posts

Wonderful- yaks most precious treasure is their manure
Wonderful- yaks most precious treasure is their manure

Wonderful- yaks most precious treasure is their manure                 Most of the travelers who visited Tibet in former times noticed the importance that, for the maintenance of the living of the Tibetan nomads and travellers, had the Yak manure, known among the...

Life of Milarepa, the hermit poet
Life of Milarepa, the hermit poet

Life of Milarepa, the hermit poet. MiIarepa is one of the most beloved religious leaders of Tibet. His story, full of unique facts, has been told again and again over the centuries, and if the publishers did not warn that this is the autobiography written by the holy...

The first description of the Religion of the Yi
The first description of the Religion of the Yi

The first description of the Religion of the Yi By Father François Louis Crabouillet in 1872. The religion of the Lolos[i] is that of sorcerers: it consists only of conjurations of evil spirits, according to them, the only authors of evil. Without being devout like...

Tibetans, the people who descend from the monkey
Tibetans, the people who descend from the monkey

Tibetans, the people who descend from the monkey According to an ancient myth, the Tibetans originated from the union of an ogress (raksasi) and a monkey. The monkey was sent by Avalokitesvara, Mother Buddha, to sow the seed of Buddhism in these lands. One day, an...

The sung funeral of the Kucong of China
The sung funeral of the Kucong of China

The sung funeral of the Kucong Among the Kucong, one of the peoples who have most persistently maintained their isolation in the mountainous areas on the border of China and Laos, the different stages of the funeral are celebrated through music, which gives the...

The magical world of Yao painting. Jean Pierre Cormerais
The magical world of Yao painting. Jean Pierre Cormerais

The magical world of Yao painting. Jean Pierre Cormerais The Yao ceremonial paintings, the masterworks of the Yao people, nowadays are spread across much of Southeast Asia, increasingly fascinated art lovers worldwide after the apparition of the first paintings in...

Pin It on Pinterest