One of Lhasa's “great three” monasteries, Sera is a Gelug university monastery where monks enter training to expand their philosophical knowledge. Set in the hills just north of the city, Sera was once home to over 5000 monks but after the 1959 revolt and the departure of the Dalai Lama, Sera suffered great damage and a great number of monks fled to Mysore in India. Here they have been able to set up a parallel monastery with two colleges and a Great Assembly Hall similar to the original. The monastery today is home to about 10% of the original population. The monastery is best known for the daily debates (not at the weekend) that take place in the debating courtyard between the resident monks. It is a ritual that is considered integral to the learning and understanding of Buddhist doctrine. Each point a monk makes is supplemented by strong gestures, such as claps, pushes and even screams – it is a unique sight to behold. The monastery itself is also well worth a look around, the hallways resplendent with scriptures, statues and murals.
What better way to experience it than on a Wendy Wu tour?