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Lhasa Sera Monastery

sara-monastery01 Sera Monastery is one of the 'Three Great Monasteries' of the Yellow Hat Sect. It is located at the foot of Tatipu Hill, some 3 kilometers (about 1.86 miles) north of Potala Palace.

sara-monasteryThe monastery was originally constructed in 1419 by Sakya Yeshe, one of the disciples of Tsong Khapa who was sent to meet Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) on behalf of Tsong Khapa, and was entitled Dharma King of Great Mercy. Emperor Yongle also awarded him many sutras, statues of Buddha, frocks, silk, gold, and silver, by which Sakya Yeshe was able to build the Sera Monastery.

Sera, one of the three largest monasteries of Gelugpa, sits at the foothills of Tatipu. It is as prestigious as Drepung and Ganden, which both have longer histories. Sera, in Tibetan, means "Wild Rose Garden." Opulent wild rose woods once grew around it. A legend says that Tsong Khapa and his two disciples traveled in the area, spreading their religion. One day, they heard a horse whinnying underground when they were taking a walk in the rose woods. They dug up a statue of Hynagriva (a horse-headed demon-god) and Tsong Khapa began construction of a monastery to enshrine Hynagriva. However, the truth is that in 1414, Jamchen Chojey (or Sakya Yeshe), one of Tsong Khapa's disciples, visited Emperor Chengzu as Tsong Khapa's emissary. The Emperor Chengzu granted him a title of Dharma King of Great Mercy, sutras, and a set of sandalwood Arhats. In order to preserve them, Tsong Khapa instructed Jamchen Chojey to build a monastery to house the treasures. The Sera monastery was completed in 1419.

Sera is designed around a Main Assembly Hall, or Tshomchen in Tibetan, which is the grandest hall of Sera, occupying a floor space of 1,000 square meters. The four-storied hall has four chapels in which Arhats, Manjushri, Tsong Khapa, and Chenrezi are enshrined. Later, a huge Maitreya was enshrined in the hall during the reign of the Seventh Dalai Lama. The valuable Buddhist sutras that Jamchen Chojey brought back from Beijing are kept in a sutra pigeonhole adjacent to the hall.