Panoramas of Sera Monastery in Tibet
Great Assembly Hall
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Images of Great Assembly Hall
THL Reference Number: s077
College Affiliation: none
Regional House Affiliation: (none)
The Sera Great Assembly Hall (se ra tshogs chen), the largest of four large temples, was built by the Mongolian ruler of Tibet, Lhazang Khan (lha bzang khan, d. 1717). Tradition has it that he also commissioned the construction of the huge Maitreya statue housed inside the temple as a way of expiating the sin he committed by murdering the regent of the Fifth Dalai Lama, Desi Sanggyé Gyatso (sde srid sang rgyas rgya mtsho, 1653-1705).
Before 1959 the monks of Sera met in the Great Assembly Hall only at specific times and for specific purposes: certain sponsored rituals, monastic discipline (vinaya) rituals, specific debates – for example, the “great lineage debates” (rigs chen) – or for some examinations for the geshé (dge bshes) degree. On a day-to-day basis monks met principally in their individual college assembly hall. Today, however, since the number of monks in the monastery has declined significantly, the colleges have, in effect, consolidated, and all of the monks meet together for almost all functions in the Great Assembly Hall.
The lachi (bla spyi), literally “society of lamas” (defunct in Tibet, but still preserved in India), was administered by “the council of ten lamas” (bla kha bcu). Its membership included the four abbots (the abbots of the three colleges and the honorary stod pa abbot), the chant master (dbu mdzad), the two Great Assembly disciplinarians (zhal ngo), the “residence leader” (gzim khang sde pa, who had the privilege of living on one of the top floors of the Great Assembly Hall and served for a three-year term, with the position rotating between the three colleges), and the two financial officers (spyi so), who were responsible for fiscal matters. This “council of ten” met in a special meeting hall on the upper floor of the Great Assembly Hall.