Sera Monastery History: Stories and Historical Events behind This Towering Gelupga Monaste
Sera Monastery, composed of three main colleges and a main hall as well as 32 kamcuns, is one of the great seats of learning in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition established in 1419, Chinese Ming Dynasty.
Primarily, there are two Sera Monasteries. The original Sera is very near Lhasa in Tibet, and another is the Sera Monastery established in exile in Bylakuppe, India. The Lhasa site once held a population of something like 5000 monks. Although this number has reduced now, it’s still an important religious center in Tibet for monks to learn and cultivate.
Legends of Sera Monastery
About the name of the Sera Monastery, there are two versions of legends widely spread. The first is that when laid a foundation of monastery there came a fiercely hailstone. Hailstone in the Tibetan language pronounce as a "sera", so after the completion of monastery it named "Sera", meaning "hail monastery"; Second is that the monastery was built in the middle of a blooming multiflora, hence the name "Sera Monastery," and the multiflora in the Tibetan language also pronounce "sera". The full name is Sera Mahayana Monastery.
, there are two versions of legends widely spread. The first is that when laid a foundation of monastery there came a fiercely hailstone. Hailstone in the Tibetan language pronounce as a "sera", so after the completion of monastery it named "Sera", meaning "hail monastery"; Second is that the monastery was built in the middle of a blooming multiflora, hence the name "Sera Monastery," and the multiflora in the Tibetan language also pronounce "sera". The full name is Sera Mahayana Monastery.
Distant view of Sera Monastery
History about Sera Monastery
Sera was founded in 1419 by Sakya Yeshe, a disciple of Tsongkhapa, also known by the honorific title Jamchen Choje. Before Sera was built, Master Tsongkhapa sermoned in a small monastery on the east of the location of nowadays Sera. He vyakarana here will form a monastery carry forward thought of Madhyamika in Mahayana Buddhism, so he ordered Shekya Yeshe to build a monastery here.
Sayka Yeshe is one of the great disciples of Tsongkhapa and an important figure during Gelug period. In 1409, Tsongkhapa established Gandan Monastery in Lhasa and held a ceremony for the first time, representing the founding of Gelug sect. Emperor Yongle, the king of Ming Dynasty, was a Buddhism believer. Hearing about this thing, he dispatched four ministers to Tibet to invite the master to Beijing for religious rites. But because of the busy business, Tsongkhapa failed to accept his invitation.
In 1414, Sayka Yeshe entered Beijing for replacement of his master Tsongkhapa and was entitled national Guoshi by Emperor Yongle (state preceptor) in the next year. In AD 1434, Ming emperor Xuande conferred him the title of Great Dharma (Jamchen Chojey in Tibet), since then people regarded him as Jamchen Chojey. As the first people who has built the Gelug monasteries in mainland China, he initiated the relationship between Ming Dynasty and Gelug sect.
Sera Monastery is one of a representatives of Gelug architecture
In 1419, Sayka Yeshe began to build Sera Monastery in accordance with the order of Tsongkhapa. When it was initially built up, there are only a main hall and two colleges. Invaluable Tibetan scripture Kangyur, wood carved Buddha statues and some other precious treasures bestowed by Emperor Yongle are all preserved in the monastery. Nowadays, they have already become the state-level precious cultural relics. In the following 47 years after the establishment of Sera, four colleges are gradually formed with each one equipped with a mentor, greatly propelled the development of monastery.
Sera Monastery in Present Days
Since China has entered an new era after reform and opening up, new national and religious policies have been implemented. Temples under the control of different sects have been repaired and renovated. The restoration and construction of Sera Monastery have also progressed year by year. Elderly life of aged monks has been guaranteed to free them from worries, and their wishes to practice cultivation is also met. Young monks also obtained favorable opportunities to learn cultural and Buddhist knowledge in the monastery. Sera Monastery has been injected with new vitality.