Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

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

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.

An Introduction to Sera's Colleges, by José Ignacio Cabezón