The Sera Monastery

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Monks live high up in this monastery Monks live way up there on the bare mountain side

Sera Monastery

The Sera Monastery is located about five kilometers north of the central city area. It is on the outskirts of Lhasa and is located right up against the mountains.

Before we entered the monastery we looked upwards into the mountain and could see a dark yellow/mustard coloured building located way, way up high in the rocks. Tiki said monks lived up there. Heaven knows how they climbed up and down. We couldn’t even see a trekking route.



Unusual shaped building Unusual shaped building at Sera

The monastery was founded in 1419 and it is considered a university monastery. At one stage 6000 monks lived there.

During the 1959 revolt much of the monastery was destroyed and hundreds of monks were killed. We were going there to see the monks debating.

Intricate mandalas were made from sand Mandalas made from coloured sand









A new building was being constructed at the entrance of the monastery and many other buildings within the complex were under reconstruction. It was a hive of building activity. Firstly we checked out a few temples.

Monks acting out their debating charades Monks "debating" under the shady trees

Then we came across some mandalas made from coloured sand. They were totally exquisite and so finely detailed. It was hard to envisage the amount of care needed to make something so intricate out of something so movable as grains of sand.

We stepped through a stone gateway and entered a shady outdoor area that was surrounded by brick walls. Inside was a path around the edge of the area and the central part was made from rocks and pebbles. Trees grew in amongst the stones and under those trees the monks performed their “debating”. It is not debating as we know it.


Building in the Sera Monastery One of many buildings in the Sera compound


One monk would act the part of the teacher and question his student who would be sitting on a cushion on the ground. If the student got the answer wrong the teacher would get all dramatic and slap his hands together with enormous gusto, flinging himself around at about a 180 degree angle at the same time.

It was quite entertaining to the dozens of people around the edges watching intently. After a while the student and teacher would swap roles. It was very different and far more dramatic than we were expecting.



Next page - Our last evening in Lhasa




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