Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text
The Space of Sera (Se ra’i khor yug)
by José Ignacio Cabezón
September 30, 2003

Introduction

Panorama of SeraSe ra, taken from the roof of the Great Assembly Hall.

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This portion of the SeraSe ra Project website introduces SeraSe ra as an imagined, physical space. The fact that SeraSe ra has a physical location and a material dimension does not preclude its also having been imagined. For scholars of the human sciences, it is the interplay (we would say the dialectic) between these two dimensions – the imaginary and material – that is most interesting. It is certainly one of the things that most fascinates me.

The first of the three essays that you will find in this section presents you with examples of how the space of SeraSe ra has been imagined and represented chiefly by ethno/cultural outsiders, chiefly Europeans and Americans. The second essay introduces you to indigenous views of the site and its surrounding landscape. Through the example of SeraSe ra, it attempts to come to some general conclusions about Tibetan views of sacred space. SeraSe ra’s architecture – the totality of its buildings, compounds, perimeter walls, and so forth – is a means of dividing and organizing the physical space of the monastery. And this partitioning/organizing process is an important form of creating meaning. This is the subject of the third essay. Taken as a whole, the three essays provide the context for understanding the SeraSe ra interactive map, one of the most exciting parts of the SeraSe ra Project website. The three essays can be read sequentially (recommended), or independently. At any point you can skip the essays, and go directly to the interactive map.

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The Space of Sera (se ra'i khor yug), by José Ignacio Cabezón