Sera Monastery

Main Assembly Hall of Sera Monastery - J.H. Wittke

The courtyard in front of the Main Assembly Hall of the Sera Monastry is paved with large flagstones (left). A sound of deep chanting issues from within. From the roof of the hall, we can see the Potala, rearing skyward above Lhasa on Red Mountain. The front of the building is decorated with paintings of the digpalas, Guardians of the Four Directions, warriors dedicated to protecting Buddha against earthly threats and, more generally, the world against demonic attack. Each of the kings commands mythical armies has his own distinct color and symbol. Dhritarastra, the white king of the East, is lord over the Gandharvas, celestial musicians, and holds a musical instrument. He is considered the chief king. Virudhaka, blue guardian of the South, holds a sword. He is king of the Kunbhandas, dwarves with faces of buffaloes. Virupaksa, red guardian of the West, is lord of the Nagas and holds a stupa or a dorje, a thunderbolt scepter. The Nagas are snakes, considered rain gods, but also protectors of the Dharma. The dorje is a symbol of the male principle that represents the path or method. Virupaksa is also the defender of Buddist relicts. Finally, Jambhala, the orange guardian of the North, is king of the Yakshas, terrible natural spirits. He holds an umbrella and is also considered the god of wealth and prosperity.

Pilgrim on Sera Kora & Yamataka - J.H. Wittke


Like the Drepung Monastery, the Sera Monastery is nestled against the mountains and the granitic slopes behind it are graced by numerous beautiful examples of painted rock art. A man is circumambulating the kora, or pilgrims' way, around the monastery. He has just lit a bundle of spruce incense in a burner before one of the paintings.

Green Tara at Sera Monastery - J.H. Wittke


Another boulder displays an image of the protectress bodhisattva Tara surrounded by attending deities (right). Before the image is a small pile of round stones placed as offerings. There are 21 different aspects of Tara. The three main ones are Green Tara, White Tara, and Red Tara.

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