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THL Title Text
An Introduction to Sera’s Colleges
by José Ignacio Cabezón
January 30, 2006
Section 2 of 4

The Rise and Evolution of Sera’s (se ra) Colleges

The Early History of SeraSe ra’s Colleges

A statue of Gungru Gyeltsen ZangpoGung ru rgyal mtshan bzang po (1383-1450), from a photo in Tshe dbang rin chen, ed., Se ra theg chen gling.9

Although the historical sources are inconsistent, it would appear that it was Gungru Gyeltsen ZangpoGung ru rgyal mtshan bzang po, the third holder of the SeraSe ra throne, who was responsible for instituting the college structure at SeraSe ra. GungruwaGung ru ba (1383-1450) created four colleges. He kept one of these colleges as his personal seat, and placed three of his senior students at the head of the other three colleges, as follows:

  • GungruwaGung ru ba: Stod or “Upper” College
  • Jangchup BumpaByang chub ’bum pa: Smad or “Lower” College
  • Jamyang Pakpa’Jam dbyangs ’phags pa: GyaRgya College
  • RangjungwaRang byung ba (per PurchokPhur lcog) or Sanggyé TsültrimSangs rgyas tshul khrims (per PenchenPaṇ chen and DesiSde srid): Dromteng’Brom steng or Drongteng’Brong steng College

Künkhyen Jangchup BumpaKun mkhyen byang chub ’bum pa (ca. fifteenth century) is to this day reckoned as the founder of the Mé College (Dratsang Mégrwa tshang smad), one of three still extant colleges of SeraSe ra. The colleges (dratsanggrwa tshang) GyaRgya and Dromteng’Brom steng eventually merged into the Töpa College (Dratsang Töpagrwa tshang stod pa) under another of GungruwaGung ru ba’s students, Sherap GyamtsoShes rab rgya mtsho or ShergyampaSher rgyam pa. Within a short time the Tö College itself was absorbed into a newly founded college called Byes. The Jé College (Dratsang Jégrwa tshang byes) was founded by KünkhyenpaKun mkhyen pa or Müsepa Lodrö Rinchen SenggéMus srad pa blo gros rin chen seng ge (ca. fifteenth century). Thus it would appear that by the middle of the fifteenth century, there were only two active colleges at SeraSe ra: Byes and Smad. Both of these were philosophical colleges (tsennyi dratsangmtshan nyid grwa tshang).

The four abbots of SeraSe ra, from a photo taken by F. Spencer Chapman in 1936-7. In Clare Harris and Tsering Shakya, Seeing Lhasa.10

The historical texts do not tell us when or why the colleges were consolidated. We can surmise, however, that at least two factors were involved. As is the case with most institutions, the success of a college probably had a lot to do with the charisma of its leader. The fact that the Tö College absorbed GyaRgya and Dromteng’Brom steng, and that Stod was itself absorbed into Byes, may have to do with the popularity of GungruwaGung ru ba (the founding lamabla ma of Stod) and of KünkhyenpaKun mkhyen pa (the founding lamabla ma of Byes) as scholars and saints. But there may also have been institutional factors at work. For example, the college consolidations may have coincided with the rise of the regional house (khangtsenkhang mtshan) as the formal subunits of colleges. As these smaller units of the colleges were institutionalized, they might have taken the place of the college as the locus of a monk’s main affiliation and as the site of his instruction. This, in turn, might have permitted the colleges to grow in size, and to absorb other colleges that were, for whatever reason, floundering. This, in any case, is one possible scenario explaining the process of college consolidation.

The third of SeraSe ra’s colleges, the Tantric College (Ngakpa Dratsangsngags pa grwa tshang), was not founded until the eighteenth century. The Tantric College is a ritual college whose perceived mission was and is the preservation of TsongkhapaTsong kha pa’s tantric tradition through the enactment of a yearlong liturgical cycle of tantric rites that focus on several different deities.

Thus, from the early eighteenth century on, SeraSe ra has had three colleges: Byes, Smad, and NgakpaSngags pa. The abbotship of the defunct Töpa College (Dratsang Töpagrwa tshang stod pa)11 continued on as an honorary position up to 1959. Thus, SeraSe ra had four abbots, even though one of them, as the monks were fond of saying, “had no college and no monks.”

The Colleges of SeraSe ra in Tibet and in India Today

In Tibet, SeraSe ra and its colleges were shut down shortly after the uprising of 1959. All three colleges of SeraSe ra were, however, reestablished in Tibet after the liberalization of religion in the early 1980s. Their assembly halls were, for the most part, intact, and most of the images and murals in the college temples were preserved.

The Interior of the Jé College assembly hall, SeraSe ra-Tibet.

Initially, the monks who were responsible for reestablishing the monastery attempted to revive the colleges. However, because the number of monks was much smaller than it once was, in the 1990s the two philosophical colleges – Byes and Smad – decided to consolidate their educational and ritual programming. Debate sessions, for example, now take place jointly in the Jé College debate ground, and only one set of textbooks – that of the Jé College– are used. The two philosophical colleges also no longer have their own abbots, and instead share a common abbot, today mostly an honorary position. There is also no separate administration at the college level, since a monastery-wide governing board runs most of the day-to-day affairs of SeraSe ra. Instead of meeting separately in their respective college assembly halls, the monks now meet together in the Great Assembly Hall. There is one exception to this rule, however. Both colleges still observe the famous intensive, weeklong prayer assemblies that take place in the winter term. For one week the monks of Byes and smad will meet in their respective assembly halls for this “festival,” but this is the only time in the year when the monks meet in their own college assembly halls. The Tantric College, however, continues to preserve its liturgical tradition, and its monks continue to meet in their own assembly hall throughout the entire year.

The Mé College (Dratsang Mégrwa tsangs smad) and Byes were also reestablished in exile in 1970, at the time of the reestablishment of SeraSe ra in the Bylakuppe settlement (Karnataka-India). In India the colleges have maintained their separate identities. They preserve their own unique educational and ritual traditions, use their own textbooks, and have their own administrative bodies. Both colleges continue to prepare monks for the geshédge bshes degree (the geshédge bshes degree is no longer granted in Tibet). Although the Tantric College was not initially reestablished in exile, it has recently been re-founded in one of the nearby refugee settlements in south India.

Click on each of the colleges to find out more about them.

The Jé College (Dratsang Jégrwa tshang byes)

KünkhyenpaKun mkhyen pa, founder of the Jé College (Dratsang Jégrwa tshang byes); a statue in the Jé College assembly hall, SeraSe ra-Tibet

The Jé College is the larger of SeraSe ra’s two philosophical colleges (tsennyi dratsangmtshan nyid grwa tshang). Shortly after the founding of the monastery, Künkhyenpa Lodrö Rinchen SenggéKun mkhyen pa blo gros rin chen seng ge, originally a monk of Drepung’Bras spungs Monastery, abandoned that institution with one hundred or so of his followers. Adopting SeraSe ra as their new home, KünkhyenpaKun mkhyen pa and his followers established a new college that became known as byes. The word byes means “traveler,” and the college came to be known by this name because KünkhyenpaKun mkhyen pa and his followers originally arrived as “travelers” from Drepung’Bras spungs. The full, official name of the college is “Sera Jé College of Renowned Scholars (Sera Jé Khenyen Dratsangse ra byes mkhas snyan grwa tshang).”

KünkhyenpaKun mkhyen pa was himself a great scholar (especially renowned for his mastery of madhyamaka), but he was also a visionary. When KünkhyenpaKun mkhyen pa arrived at SeraSe ra he had several visions that confirmed to him that this was the place where he and his followers should settle. For example, when he made his first visit to the Assembly Hall, one of the Sixteen Arhat statues is said to have come to life and spoken to him, saying:

The travelers have arrived from their travels. This is good!

The great KünkhyenpaKun mkhyen pa has arrived. This is good!

He will raise up the banner of the teachings. This is good!12

One of the Sixteen Arhats, a statue in the Jé College assembly hall, SeraSe ra-Tibet

Later, he had a vision of a series of crows, one melting into the next until the last crow melted into a wild rose bush. He took this as an indication that this was the precise site where he should build the chapel of his tutelary deity, Hayagrīva.

Under KünkhyenpaKun mkhyen pa’s leadership, the Jé College quickly flourished as a center for the study of the great texts and their various “layers” of commentaries. In addition to the classical commentaries, another kind of work, the so-called “textbooks” (yikchayig cha) became an important part of the curriculum. Although there were many textbooks by different authors in use in the college during its early days (including textbooks composed by KünkhyenpaKun mkhyen pa himself), in time most of these were banned because they were seen as containing views that were at odds with those of TsongkhapaTsong kha pa, the founder of the order. Eventually, the textbooks written by Sera Jetsün Chöki GyaltsénSe ra rje bstun chos kyi rgyal msthan (1469-1544) became the core textbooks of the Jé College.

From the earliest days it would appear that monks lived together in informal living arrangements based on the area of the country from which they came. As the college grew, these informal units became institutionalized as the so-called “regional houses” (khangtsénkhang tshan). The Jé College was divided into eighteen regional houses that ranged in size from fifty to thousand monks.

Hamdong KhangtsenHar gdong khang tshan, the largest regional house of the Jé College, located in the northern edge of the monastery, SeraSe ra-Tibet.

Monks from different parts of Tibet would usually enter one or another of these houses depending upon the geographical region of the country from which they hailed. Here is the list of the Jé College regional houses. Click on the regional house name to see a short description of that regional house, and pictures of its headquarters in Tibet (where still extant). In that same window, next to “Regional House Affiliation,” click on the regional house name to go to a separate data-window with demographic and other information about that particular regional house.

  1. HamdongHar gdong
  2. TrehorTre hor
  3. DakpoDwags po
  4. NgariMnga’ ris
  5. EpaE pa
  6. LhopaLho pa
  7. JadrelBya bral
  8. PatiSpa ti or sba ti
  9. Denma’Den ma
  10. JetsangByes gtsang
  11. GomdéSgom sde
  12. JetsaByes tsha
  13. LawaLwa ba
  14. NyelpaGnyal pa
  15. SamloBsam lo
  16. GyejéRgyas byes
  17. PowoSpo bo13
  18. TsetangRtsed thang

The Jé College Assembly Hall, SeraSe ra-Tibet

The Jé College Assembly Hall is the headquarters of the college. It contains a huge meeting hall, and several ancillary chapels (lhakhanglha khang), each with its own altar and “theme.” (Click here for access to a database entry for the Jé College Assembly Hall, with pictures.) Oral tradition has it that it was one of the rear chapels of the present assembly hall that was the original assembly hall of the Jé College built by Nyeltön Peljor LhündrupGnyal ston dpal ’byor lhun grub (1427-1514) in the late fifteenth century.14 The present assembly hall was built by the ruler Polhané Miwang Sönam TopgyelPho lha gnas mi dbang bsod nams stobs rgyal (1689-1747) in the early eighteenth century.

PolhanéPho lha gnas (right), the patron of the present Jé College assembly hall, and his son (left), the patron of the Hardong KhangtsénHar gdong khang tshan temple. From a mural in the Kongpo KhangtsenKong po khang tshan, SeraSe ra-Tibet

The most important chapel in the present temple is the abode of the Jé College tutelary deity (yidamyi dam), Hayagrīva, the “horse-headed deity,” who is the wrathful manifestation of Avalokiteśvara. This chapel is located at the north-west corner of the temple, and it is arguably the most important religious site in the entire monastery, being one of the most popular spots with pilgrims, lay worshippers, and tourists. The cult of Hayagrīva – a deity whose lineage of transmission derives from the NyingmaRnying ma school – is extremely important in the Jé College, to the point where the monks of the college consider themselves, jokingly, “Yellow (that is, GelukDge lugs) on the outside, but Red (NyingmaRnying ma) on the inside.” 15

The only time that the monks of the Jé College in Tibet meet together today is during the Great “Good Conduct” Prayer Meeting (Zangchö Chenmobzang spyod chen mo). During this weeklong event monks spend many hours a day reciting the “Good Conduct Prayer” (Zangchö Mönlambzang spyod smon lam), and lay people flock from LhasaLha sa and surrounding areas to make offerings. Traditionally, the other major yearly event that took place at the Jé College was the daylong Dagger Blessing (Phurjelphur mjal). The Jé College abbot would spend one entire day blessing monks and lay people with the famous SeraSe ra purbaphur ba, a magical, ritual dagger that is said to have belonged to a famous Indian tantric saint. That event still takes place, although today it is considered a monastery-wide celebration, and not a festival exclusive to the Jé College.

Hayagrīva, the horse-headed tutelary deity of the Jé College. Statue in the Jé College Assembly Hall, SeraSe ra-Tibet.
The SeraSe ra purbaphur ba, said to be the original ritual dagger that was in use before 1959. It is wrapped in silk. From a photo in Tshe dbang rin chen, ed., Se ra theg chen gling.16

The Jé College was reestablished in India in 1970, and it preserves most of the traditions of that institution as these were practiced in Tibet before 1959. This is not to say that everything is the same as it was before 1959, however. For example, the administration today is more democratic (and the abbacy less powerful) than it once was. 17 Monks are provided with three vegetarian meals a day, so that they no longer have to worry about their food (in Tibet, before 1959, many monks often went hungry). Also, in the early 1980s the Jé College in exile was innovative in founding a separate school within the college for young monks. Today, the “Sera JéSe ra byes School,” as it is known, provides monks up to the age of sixteen with a well-rounded education that focuses on a variety of both traditional and modern subjects – from Tibetan language to computer science. At the age of sixteen monks enter the traditional debate-based curriculum.

The Assembly Hall of the Jé College in India
Young monks study under the supervision of their teacher at the Sera JéSe ra byes School, SeraSe ra-India

Before 1959, the Jé College in Tibet had between five thousand and seven thousand monks. Today, in Tibet, it has about 275 monks. In India, the Jé College has about 2500 monks. Click here to gain access to more detailed demographic information and other tabular data on the Jé College.

Go on to read about the Mé College (Dratsang Mégrwa tshang smad).

The Mé College (Dratsang Mégrwa tshang smad)

Künkhyen Jangchup BumpaKun mkhyen byang chub ’bum pa, founder of the Mé College. From a photo in Se ra theg chen gling, p. 44.18

The Mé College (Dratsang Mégrwa tshang smad) is the smaller, but older, of SeraSe ra’s two philosophical colleges (tsennyi dratsangmtshan nyid grwa tshang). Its official name is The Jewel-Island for Study and Contemplation (Tösam Norlingthos bsam nor gling). The word smad means “lower,” and the college was probably called this because it sits at a lower elevation (farther south) in SeraSe ra’s tiered landscape. Shortly after the founding of the monastery, the third holder of the SeraSe ra throne divided the institution up into various sections or colleges, appointing his senior students as preceptors of these different sections. Künkhyen Jangchup BumpaKun mkhyen byang chub ’bum pa (fifteenth century) was appointed preceptor (loppönslob dpon) of the Mé section, and today he is reckoned as its founder.

In time, the Mé College evolved a fixed educational curriculum that focused on the study of the great Indian Buddhist classics. As was the case with the Jé College (Dratsang Jégrwa tshang byes), there appears to have been a good deal of diversity in the types of textbooks (yikchayig cha) used in the early days of the Mé College. Geshé Yeshé WangchukDge bshes ye shes dbang phyug, a contemporary historian, for example, tells us that the textbooks of Gungru Gyeltsen ZangpoGung ru rgyal mtshan bzang po, the third SeraSe ra throne-holder, were popular for almost a century at Mé. Eventually, however, these early textbooks were banned in favor of the textbooks of Khedrup Tenpa DargyéMkhas grub bstan pa dar rgyas. Although the chief mission of the Mé College was to instruct monks in the exoteric, philosophical/textual tradition, less than 25 percent of all monks in the college were textualists (pechawadpe cha ba). The remaining monks were mostly workers.

The assembly hall of the Mé College, Sera-Tibet.

The center of the college, where its administration was housed and where its abbot lived, was the assembly hall (dukhang’du khang). The present Mé assembly hall in Tibet, built in 1761 by the Seventh Demo Rinpoché (Demo Rinpoché Dünpade mo rin po che mdun pa), Demo Delek GyatsoDe mo bde legs rgya mtsho, contains a huge meeting hall and several ancillary chapels (lhakhanglha khang), each with its own altar and “theme.” Click here to gain access to a database entry on the Mé College assembly hall, with photos.

The most important of the smaller chapels inside the Mé College is the Taok Protector Chapel (Taok Gönkhangtha ’og mgon khang) located in the northwest corner of the temple. View a video of the Taok Chapel in which the Ven. TsültrimTshul khrims, the caretaker, gives a guided tour of this chapel (to play this video you must have the free QuickTime player installed on your computer). The tour is in Tibetan.

The Tsador Regional House was one of the mid-size regional houses of the Mé College, Sera-Tibet

Philosophical colleges were divided into smaller units called regional houses (khangtsenkhang tshan). The Mé College was divided into sixteen regional houses, which ranged in size from fifty to several hundred monks. Monks from different parts of Tibet would usually enter one or another of these houses depending upon the geographical region of the country from which they hailed. Here are the regional houses of the Mé College. Click on the regional house name to see a brief narrative description about that particular regional house, and to access photos of its headquarters (where still extant). In that window, beside “Regional House Affiliation,” click on the regional house name to go to a data-window with demographic and other information about that particular regional house.

  1. ZhungpaGzhung pa
  2. PomborSpo ’bor
  3. GyelrongRgyal rong
  4. MetsaSmad tsha
  5. KongpoKong po
  6. YerpaYer pa
  7. MetsangSmad gtsang
  8. TsadorTsha rdor
  9. TawenTā dben
  10. RongpoRong po
  11. GungruGung ru
  12. MinyakMi nyag
  13. TewoThe bo
  14. AraA ra
  15. MarnyungSmar nyung
  16. PowoSpo bo

In Tibet today the Mé College has lost many of the traits that made it a unique institution. Since the consolidation of the Jé and Mé Colleges in the 1990s, the monks of both colleges meet together for all educational activities. So, for example, debate sessions now take place jointly: only in the Jé College debate ground. Monks also only use one set of textbooks – that of the Jé College.19 The Byes and Smad monks also meet together for all of their ritual activities. There is one exception to this rule, however. Both colleges still observe the famous intensive, weeklong prayer assemblies that take place in the winter term. For one week the monks of Byes and Smad will meet in their respective assembly halls. The event at the Mé College is called the Great “Maitreya” Prayer Meeting (Jammön Chenmobyams smon chen mo). During this weeklong event the monks of the Mé College spend many hours each day reciting a prayer to the future Buddha, Maitreya (Jampabyams pa), and laypeople flock from LhasaLha sa and the surrounding areas to make offerings.

It was dedicated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the summer of 2003. The Mé College was also reestablished in exile in 1970, at the time of the refounding of SeraSe ra in the Bylakuppe settlement (Karnataka, India). Unlike the Mé College in Tibet, in India the college continues to retain its individual institutional identity, preserving its own unique educational/ritual practices and its own administration.

The newly built Mé College Assembly hall (dukhang’du khang) in Sera-India.
Young monks on their way to classes at the Sera Mé College, Sera-India.

In the mid-1980s, following the example of the Jé College, the Mé College in India founded a separate school within the college for young monks. Today, the “SeraSe ra Smad School,” as it is known, provides monks up to the age of sixteen with a well-rounded education in a variety of both traditional and modern subjects – from Buddhist philosophy to world geography. At the age of sixteen, monks then enter the traditional debate-based curriculum. Before 1959, the Mé College in Tibet had between three thousand and five thousand monks. Today, in Tibet, it has about 125 monks. In India, the Mé College has about 1500 monks. Click here to gain access to more detailed demographic information and other tabular data related to the Mé College. Click here to learn about the Tantric College (Ngakpa Dratsangsngags pa grwa tshang).

The Tantric College (Ngakpa Dratsangsngags pa grwa tshang)

The Tantric College (Ngakpa Dratsangsngags pa grwa tshang) of SeraSe ra is an institution devoted exclusively to the practice of tantric ritual/meditation. There is some evidence that monks studied philosophy in some of the other tantric colleges of the GelukDge lugs tradition, but this appears never to have been the case at SeraSe ra. Instead, the Sera Tantric College (Sera Ngakpa Dratsangse ra sngags pa grwa tshang) seems to have been conceived of as a strictly ritual college from the start.

The Mongolian ruler of Tibet Lhazang KhangLha bzang khang (d. 1717), on whose behalf the Tantric College was founded
The façade of the Sera Tantric College. Sera-Tibet

The Tantric College is the youngest of SeraSe ra’s three colleges. It was founded in the early eighteenth century as the personal ritual college of the then ruler of Tibet, Lhazang KhangLha bzang khang. The present assembly hall of the Tantric College was the original assembly hall for all of SeraSe ra.20 By the early eighteenth century, however (and probably much earlier) that temple was already too small to house all of the monks of SeraSe ra when they met jointly. When Lhazang KhangLha bzang khang came to power, he promised to build a new assembly hall (the present Great Assembly Hall), if the old assembly hall was converted into a private Tantric Ritual College (Kurim Dratsangsku rim grwa tshang): an institution that would devote itself exclusively to the performance of rituals on his behalf. The monks agreed, and the old assembly hall was converted into a ritual college. Later, this became the Tantric College, but the fact that the college still performs rituals related to, for example, the Nine Long-life Gods (Tsepak Lhagutshe dpag lha dgu), may be a vestige from the time that the college performed rituals on behalf of Lhazang KhangLha bzang khang.

The apartment house of the Tantric College (Sera-Tibet), located just behind (north) of the Tantric College assembly hall. Before 1959 this probably belonged to the Metsang Regional House.

Before 1959 the Tantric College had no regional houses or apartment buildings. Its monks lived in the regional houses of the philosophical colleges (principally in the houses of Mé College [Dratsang Mégrwa tshang smad]), where they borrowed or rented rooms. Today, the Tantric College owns one large apartment house, formerly owned by the Metsang Regional House (Metsang Khangtsensmad tshang khang tshan), which in 2003 had been recently renovated. It is unclear why the Tantric College never built a dormitory for its monks before 1959. Perhaps there was no space for such a building already by the eighteenth century, when the Tantric College was founded. More likely, there was perhaps no need for such a regional house during that time, since the monks that populated the new Tantric College may simply have been drawn from the existing monastic populations of the Byes and Smad Colleges (where they presumably already had rooms, and already belonged to regional houses). Politics may have also played a part in this, however. Since the regional houses had considerable political power within the monastery, it is not inconceivable that the two philosophical colleges might have blocked the creation of Tantric College regional houses, since agreeing to the creation of such units would have undoubtedly committed them to sharing power.

In contrast to SeraSe ra’s two other colleges – Byes and Smad – the Tantric College is an institution almost entirely concerned with the practice of ritual. Before 1959, the Tantric College had a fixed, yearly liturgical cycle focusing on five major sets of deities. Click on the deity’s name to see an image of the deity on www.himalayanart.org

  1. Guhyasamāja (cycle celebrated in the twelfth Tibetan month)
  2. Cakrasaṃvara (tenth Tibetan month)
  3. Yamāntaka (sixth Tibetan month)
  4. Sarvavid (Vairocana, fourth Tibetan month)
  5. The Nine Long-Life Gods (Tsepak Lhagutshe dpag lha dgu, second Tibetan month)

In a typical ritual cycle (chötokchos thog) – which may run several weeks – the monks gather in the Tantric College assembly hall, they perform the self-initiation ritual (danjukbdag ’jug) and construct from colored sands the maṇḍala of the deity of that particular cycle. They then spend the bulk of the ritual cycle performing the self-generation ritual (dakyébdag bskyed) of the deity four times a day until they have accumulated the requisite number of mantra repetitions. At the conclusion of the cycle, they perform a burnt-offering ritual (jinseksbyin sreg) to purify any faults or omissions committed during the retreat cycle.

Monks of the Tantric College break for lunch during one of their ritual cycles. Sera-Tibet.
Monks of the Tantric College (Sera-Tibet) perform the burnt-offering ritual in the assembly-hall courtyard at the end of the Yamāntaka ritual cycle in July of 2002.

Before 1959 the Tantric College had about a thousand monks, and the vast majority of these monks came from Central Tibet (mostly from LhasaLha sa).21 Like all of SeraSe ra’s institutions, the Tantric College in Tibet effectively ceased to exist from 1959 until the monastery was allowed to reopen in the early 1980s. Today, it has a monastic population of about one hundred monks. Click here to gain access to pictures of the Tantric College, including many images of the Yamāntaka burnt-offering ritual. In that window click the word sngags pa, next to “College Affiliation,” to gain access to a data window that contains demographic and other information about the Tantric College.

The Byes and Smad Colleges share an abbot and have lost many of their individual traditions since their consolidation in the 1990s. The Tantric College, by contrast, retains the tradition of having its own abbot, and it continues to perform all of its ritual cycles in its own assembly hall. Like all of SeraSe ra’s colleges, however, it is under the general administrative aegis of the SeraSe ra-wide “democratic governing board.”

In India, the Tantric College was not refounded until the late 1990s. It is not part of the SeraSe ra complex in the Bylakuppe settlement, but instead exists as a separate institution in another nearby settlement.


[9] Tshe dbang rin chen, ed., Se ra theg chen gling (Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1995), 44.
[10] Clare Harris and Tsering Shakya, Seeing Lhasa (Chicago: Serindia , 2003), 11.
[11] One wonders whether this might not have something to do with the fact that at the time of its founding the original monks of Lha bzang khang’s private ritual college were most likely monks from the capital.
[12] byes pa byes nas byon pa legs/ kun mkhyen chen po byon pa legs/ bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan tshugs pa legs/.
[13] The Powo KhangtsenSpo bo khang tshan belonged to both Byes and Smad Colleges.
[14] It is unclear whether kun mkhyen pa built anything more than the Hayagrīva Chapel during his time at SeraSe ra.
[15] phyi gser po/ nang dmar po.
[16] Tshe dbang rin chen, ed., Se ra theg chen gling (Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1995), back cover.
[17] The monks hold elections for the abbot, and the names of the senior teachers who achieve the highest number of votes are presented in a list to His Holiness the Dalai Lama\, who then makes the final selection.
[18] Tshe dbang rin chen, ed., Se ra theg chen gling, (Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1995), 44).
[19] Individually, monks who belong to the Mé College often do, however, still read the textbooks of Khedrup Tenpa DargyéMkhas grub bstan pa dar rgyas (Khedrup TendarMkhas grub bstan dar).
[20] This is not to say, however, that the present Tantric College assembly hall is necessarily the very same temple built by the founder of SeraSe ra, Jamchen ChöjéByams chen chos rje, in 1419.
[21] One wonders whether this might not have something to do with the fact that at the time of its founding the original monks of Lhazang KhangLha bzang khang’s private ritual college were most likely monks from the capital.
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An Introduction to Sera's Colleges, by José Ignacio Cabezón