Sera Monastery

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Panoramas of Sera Monastery in Tibet

Sera J College Information

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THL Reference Number: f1164

College Name - Wylie: byes

Number of Monks Prior to 1959: 5000+

Total Number of Monks 2002: 420

Number of Monks 2002 (official): 280

Number of Monks 2002 (unofficial): 140

Tutelary Deity:

Protector Deity:

Author of Textbook:


Founding Date: 15th century

Construction Date of Current Temple: 18th Century

Construction Patron of Current Temple:


The J College is the largest of Sera's three colleges. Knkhyenpa Lodr Rinchen Sengg (kun mkhyen pa blo gros rin chen seng ge), a disciple of Tsongkhapa, founded the College in the 15th century after he abandoned (or perhaps was expelled from) Drepung Monastery. The word J means "traveler, " since Knkhyenpa arrived at Sera as a "traveler" in search of a new home. Although less than 25% of the College's monks were "textualists" i.e., students the College envisioned its principal mission to be one of creating "a multitude of renowned scholars" by providing monks with a classical education founded on the study of the great texts of Indian scholastic Buddhism. To this end, it administered a program that combined prayer and rigorous, intellectual training in five major subjects (such as logic/epistemology, the theory of emptiness, and metaphysics). Successful completion of this program qualified one for the prestigious Gesh (dge bshes) degree.

Before 1959, the J College was divided into 18 regional houses or khangtsens that ranged in size from 40 to 1000 monks. Monks from different parts of Tibet would enter one or another of these houses depending upon the geographical region of the country from which they hailed. The abbot was the supreme authority in the College.

In Tibet today, the J College temple, and its famous Tamdrin (rta mgrin) Chapel, have been restored. This chapel, the holiest site in the College, continues to be extremely popular with lay worshippers.

Since their merging in the 1990s, the two philosophical colleges J and M no longer function as distinct institutions. Because the number of monks is much smaller today, the two colleges decided to consolidate their religious administration (now there is one abbot for both colleges), as well as their educational and ritual activities. Today only the J College textbooks are officially used, and all of the monks meet for debate together in the J College debate courtyard.

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