Sera Monastery


Se means Rosebush and Ra means surrounded by. Sera monastery was built in the year 1419 by the great scholar Jamchen Choeje Shakya Yeshi with a request from his great master Je Tsongkhapa. The monastery is located in the north of Lhasa city.

History of Sera Monastery 

The founder of the Gelukpa school in Buddhism in Tibet was Je Tsongkhapa. Je Tsongkhapa was born in the year 1357 in eastern Tibet Amdo Tsongkha. He traveled to central Tibet during his teenage to learn Buddhism. 

After learning Buddhism with more than 100 great masters, he had become a wandering Yogi having perfected both Sutra and Tantra. It is said that sometimes disciples can't find him for many days when he was at the retreat in the mountains above Sera.

They are two retreat areas above the Sera monastery known as Sera Utse and Choeding Gang retreat area.  Je Tsongkhapa spent many years in these retreat areas meditating, composing Dharma, and teaching the Dharma to the disciples. 

Photo: Sera monastery

Je Tsongkhapa has many great disciples.

The five popular disciples of Je Tsongkhapa are:

  1. Je Gyaltsap Dharma Rinchen ( first holder of Ganden Tripa Golden throne ) Je Dharma Rinchen was born in the Shigatse Tsang area. 
  2. Je Kedrup Gelek Palsang ( second holder of Ganden Tripa Golden throne ) Je Kedrup Gelek Palsang was born in the Shigatse Tsang area.
  3. Je Gendhun Drupa ( first Dalai Lama ) Je Gendhun Drupa was born in the Shigatse Tsang area.
  4. Je Jamyang Choeje Tashi Palden ( Built Drepung monastery ) Je Jamyang Choeje Tashi Palden was born in the Samye Tsetang area.
  5. Je Jamchen Choeje Shakya Yeshi ( Built Sera monastery ) 

Je Jamchen Choeje Shakya Yeshi

One of the main disciples of Je Tsongkhapa. Je Jamchen Choeje was also the steward ( In charge of grand lamas tea and food ) of Je Lama Tsongkhapa. 

Je means lord.

Jamchen means great compassion.

Choeje means the Dharma King.

Je Jamchen Choeje was born in Tsal Gungtang village near Lhasa.  His father was the founder of the Tselpa Kagyu school in Tibetan Buddhism. He became a monk at the age of seven under the great master Jamyang Shakya Gyaltsen. 

Je Tsongkhapa was invited to China by the great emperor of the Ming Dynasty to flourish the Buddha Dharma. During that time, Je Tsongkhapa plays a great role in the flourishing of Buddha-dharma in Tibet so Je Tsongkhapa let his disciple Je Jamchen Choeje travel to Ming Dynasty by teaching the Buddha Dharma. 

The emperor of the Ming Dynasty was very impressed with the Dharma teachings from Je Jamchen Choeje so the Ming Dynasty emperor offered many precious gifts including the sandalwood statues of sixteen Arhats, silk fabric, and the black crown hat to show his respect to the great master Je Jamchen Choeje. Nowadays we can witness the beauties of this black crown hat at the Tantric college in the Sera monastery. 

After traveling to Ming Dynasty once again. Je Jamchen Choeje was again offered many precious gifts from the emperor. While traveling back to central Tibet, he passed away in the Kham area. 

Photo: Sera monastery Lingkor

 Colleges in Sera monastery

They are 32 sections in Sera monastery with three main colleges.

  1. Je Dratsang College.  (Sutra College) 
  2. Mey Dratsang College.    (Sutra College) 
  3. Ngapa Dratsang College.  (Tantric College) 

The students will learn the essence of five major basic texts rooted in Buddha Shakyamuni in the Je Dratsang and Mey Dratsang. The students will learn the essence of the four sections of tantric teachings rooted in Buddha Vajradhara.

Buddha Vajradhara is the tantric form of Buddha Shakyamuni. This shows the great compassion of Buddha Shakyamuni.

Photo: Sera monastery Inside Mey College 

The specialty of Sera monastery

  1. Sera Tamdrin ( Horsehead Buddha ) 
  2. Sera Jegjay ( Bullhead Buddha )
  3. Thukjey Lhakang Temple 
  4. Assembly hall 
  5. Sera monks debate 
  6. Sera Stupa 
  7. Sera Book Shop
  8. Sera Lingkor 
  9. Sera Utse and Sera Choeding Gang retreat area 
  10. Sera Monastery Teahouse 

Photo: Sera Tamdrin Horsehead Buddha

Sera Tamdrin ( Horsehead Buddha ) 

Also known as Hayagriva in Sanskrit is the emanation of the compassion Buddha Chenrezig in the furious form. The history of Sera Tamdrin Buddha can be traced back to the Je Kunkyen. Je Kunkyen is the disciple of Je Jamyang Choeje. ( Founder of Drepung monastery )

Je Kunkyen's parents were great devotees of Tamdrin Buddha in the Nyingma school of Buddhism in Tibet. His parents request him to worship the Tamdrin Buddha as his main diety even if he follows the teachings from other schools in Buddhism in Tibet.  Later Je Kunkyen built Tamdrin Buddha in the  Je College at Sera monastery.

Sera Tamdrin Buddha is one of the three precious Tamdrin statues in Tibet.  Two other Tamdrin are at Samye monastery and Von Tamdrin near Tsetang. 

Je Kunkyen saw a few brown Crows dissolve in the Rosebushes as a sign of Tamdrin Buddha giving him a blessing. Later Je Kunkyen built the Tamdrin Buddha temple at the Rosebushes area to bless the sentient beings so Sera Tamdrin Buddha is very precious. Sera Tamdrin Buddha is the main shrine of Je College. 

Sera Jegjay ( Yamantaka Buddha )

Yamantaka in Sanskrit is one of the three main deities of the Geluk school. Yamantaka is the emanation of Wisdom Buddha Manjushri in a furious form. The Jegjay Buddha in the Sera monastery is said to have some warmness in the heart as a sign of being inseparable from the Buddha Yamantaka.

The statue was built with pea-size mud by Je Jamchen Choeje. Each pea-size mud contains 100 thousand mantras of Yamantaka. The statue has been blessed by the great Je Tsongkhapa himself.  Sera Yamantaka Buddha is one of the main shrines of Tantric College. 

Thukjey Lhakang Temple

Thukjey Lhakang is the Compassion Buddha Temple on the second floor of the Assembly Hall.  The statue was precious because the statue was the main deity of JowoJe Atisha Dipamkara. ( Founder of Kadampa School ) Compassion Buddha is known as Chenrezig in Tibetan. The Temple is known as a wish-fulfilling temple in Sera monastery.  

Photo: future Buddha Maitreya

Assembly hall 

The Assembly Hall was built by King Lhasang from Mongolia in the 17th century. The main shrine of the Assembly hall is two huge statues of future Buddha Maitreya. The Assembly contains many beautiful wall paintings with shrines of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. 

Sera Monks Debate

Sera monastery is the best place in Lhasa to witness the beauties of monks' debates. The debate starts in the afternoon from 3 pm to 5 pm every Monday to Saturday. The monk's debate is one of the greatest ways to practice patience and increase wisdom.

Sera Stupa 

They are two big stupas in the Sera monastery. The stupas are normally built to remember the Buddha's Dharma and to acquire merit. Merit plays one of the biggest roles in Buddhism. 

Sera Book Shop

Sera Bookshop sells many books from ancestors at a very low cost. The books are in the Tibetan language. 

Sera Lingkor 

Sera Lingkor is a great way to see the landscape of Sera Monastery and Lhasa City. Sera Lingkor hike is around 4 km.

Sera Utse and Sera Choeding Gang retreat area 

Located above the Sera monastery on the hill. Once a retreat area of many great Tibetan masters including Je Tsongkhapa and his two great disciples Kedrup Je and Gyaltsap Je. 

Photo: Sera Monastery Monks Debate 

Sera Monastery Teahouse 

The tea and the food are quite good at lower prices. It is not as clean as the fancy restaurant. Sera Monastery tea house is a great way to meet the local Tibetans.


2019 is the 600 years anniversary of the Sera monastery. Sera monastery is one of the three main monasteries of Geluk school in central Tibet Lhasa. Sera monastery is one of the popular places in Lhasa to witness the monk's debate. Photos are not allowed inside the Temple. 

Sera monastery is the three main important sightseeing inside Lhasa after Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple. Sera monastery is full of blessings from many great Tibetan masters. For traveling to Sera monastery, Email us at 

Written By :Tenzin

Apr 12, 2023


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