The Sera Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet is a very magical and enriching place. As one of three famous monasteries in Lhasa, there is a wealth of history and culture that can be observed when visiting. The Sera Monastery was constructed in 1419 and is homage to the Gelugpa branch of Tibetan Buddhism. Among all of the sights that the monastery has, one is particularly special, the debates of the monks. These debates take place on a regular schedule and are open to the public for viewing.
Debates about Buddhist doctrines between monks are a very important part of the learning process in the Sera Monastery. It is believed that these debates create a deeper knowledge of the Buddhist philosophy and will allow the monks to reach a higher level of understanding of the doctrines. These debates between monks happen in front of their teachers and there are rules as to how the questioner and defender are to behave. As you are watching these debates, you might notice a set of physical gestures. Each of these gestures has a specific meaning. For instance, a monk clapping their hands loudly demonstrates the confidence he has in his argument. Another example of these gestures is when one monk disagrees with the statement of his opponent, he will gesture three circles around his opponent’s head with his hands followed by very loud shouting. The victor of the debate is the monk who was able to entrap his opponent into arguing ineffectively. To skillfully win a debate demonstrates ones wisdom as a Buddhist.
If you ever plan on visiting the Sera Monastery, definitely try to witness one of these debates!
Lhasa is a mythical and beautiful city in the clouds located in the heart of Tibet. The name of this historic city literally means, “Land of the Gods”. While visiting, you will be charmed by sights of robe-wearing Monks spinning prayer wheels with the grandeur of the Himalayas in the background. From the ancient aura of the Tibetan city to the more modernized “Chinese” section, you will find that this city of gold is full of riches!
Getting around in Lhasa and Tibet can be a bit of a challenge. The trip can be made easier by arranging for group travel permits to Tibet. Everyone except for Chinese nationals must have this special permit. Agents in Kathmandu can help arrange this as they can obtain the necessary travel permits and Chinese visas very quickly. Flying is recommended over driving because driving tours may not allow travelers ample time to get used to the drastic change in altitude and altitude sickness is very possible. Driving tours have been known to leave sick travelers behind without a refund.
Once you finally make it to the beautiful mountain paradise, you will find that the journey was worth it! Lhasa is a destination that is great for a variety of travel budgets. For instance, in the Barkhor district you can find less expensive accommodations and shopping. There are also delicious restaurants that have Chinese, Tibetan, Nepali and Western cuisines. Teaming up with other travelers or organizing group tours can also help save you some money when exploring Lhasa.
A must-see while visiting Tibet is the Potala Palace. This palace has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage list and for good reason. Over the years, the Potala Palace has been built, rebuilt, and repaired by various Dalai Lamas throughout their lives. This amazing place has over 1000 rooms that served as the living quarters for the Dalai Lamas throughout their lives. Visitors are in for a rare treat, as it’s possible to see where they lived and worshipped. A tour allows for about an hour inside of the palace, so make sure you are prepared to explore most of the 14 stories of this palace.
For other intriguing glimpses into Lhasa’s past, you might want to consider traveling to the Jokhang Temple, Norbulingka Summer Palace, Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery. You will also definitely want to explore the Barkhor Market where you will be able to will be able to bargain with merchants for rare souvenirs and walk on the same roads that Buddhist pilgrims have for centuries.
Lhasa is a city of gold that is carved into the mountains. It holds sights that you will never forget and experiences that are unparalleled throughout the rest of the world.