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Lhasa Travel Blog

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Sera prayer hall

Our original idea for today was to visit the Drepung and Sera monasteries, both very close to the centre of Lhasa but Kalsang tells us that Drepung is undegoing renovation so we decide instead to take a trip to the museum in Lhasa.  I'm not much of a museum goer these days but despite some fairly heavy propaganda the museum is very good - very informative and well presented.  Kalsang has either been many times before or is not that taken with it as he sits down and waits for us to finish. 

Sera is a busy monastery about 5km north of the city and has about 700 monks in residence.  In fact the monastery is more of a small village as the living buildings for the monks take up a quite an area.

Debating in full flow
  On the walk up to the main prayer halls we visit 2 side buildings.  One is a print workshop where they are handprinting Tibetan versions of Buddist scriptures and the other houses a sand mandela.  The mandela is made in preparation for a festival and then left for worshippers for the rest of the year.

One of the most important Sera chapels here is to a "protector god" which Kalsanf tells us is normally visited by children who are having difficulty sleeping.  If the children make an offering they are given a black spot on the end of their nose by the monks.  We notice a number of the visiting tourists with black noses - seems there are quite a few people here who can't sleep well. 

The main reason we have come here though is to watch the "debating".  This starts every day at about 3pm in a garden just outside the prayer hall.  Here novice monks sit and are challenged by more senior monks to answer questions about the teachings.  The challenges are presented with a bold outstretched clap and are delivered in a rapid-fire approach.  To watch 50 or 60 such "challenges" happening at the same time with all the accompanying shouts and clapping makes it quite an experience.  I'm surprised they let tourists watch.  The debating lasts about an hour after which the monks sit in a semicircle and gather in prayer for the victims of the recent earthquake.

   

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Sera prayer hall
Sera prayer hall
Debating in full flow
Debating in full flow
Sera Thanka wall
Sera Thanka wall
Monks at work Sera
Monks at work Sera
Lhasa
photo by: mountaingirl