Three Monasteries in Lhasa

In Tibetan Buddhism, the Gelugpa tradition, also called the school of the Yellow Hat, is the last of the schools of Tibetan Buddhism founded in the 15th century. The Dalai Lama is also from it. The spiritual authority over the school is officially ensured by a Ganden Tripa, or “holder of the throne of Ganden”, who was the first Gelug monastery. Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) founded the Gelugpa tradition from the traditions of the time. It aims to subordinate tantric practices to basic textual training (sutras and philosophy) and to advocate strict celibacy.

The name Gelug is generally interpreted as “virtuous”. But some have seen the contraction of Geden lug or Ganden Lug meaning “tradition of Geden” (or Ganden). His first monastery was Ganden Monastery which is still considered one of the “Three Great Monasteries of Lhasa” along with Sera Monastery and Drepung Monastery.

Ganden Monastery:

It is the largest temple of the Yellow Hat Sect in Tibet. It was designed and built by Tsongkhapa, the founder of the sect, in 1410, and named Ganden Monastery, which means “happiness and abundance”. It is the symbol of this religion of which the Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader. Tsong Khapa was the first Khripa of the monastery and over time transformed the temple into a center for religious studies. This feature has influenced other monasteries. After Tsongkhapa’s death, his chiefs took turns as Khripa. Until today, 97 Khripa succeeded one another at the head of the monastery of Ganden. Chosen for their wisdom and organization, the Khripas have always proved to be very good regents in the absence of the Dalai Lama.

Sera Monastery:

It is located 5 km north of Lhasa and its name would have two meanings. The first would simply designate a rosebush. The monastery of Sera would then be the rose enclosure. But, another translation is possible but is much less poetic. Indeed, “shall” would also mean hail. Although badly damaged, it has not lost its function as a monastic university and still welcomes many monks and pilgrims today. In the afternoon, the monks gather in the monastery garden and, to the delight of visitors, discuss the Buddhist texts taught to them at the university. Some Buddhist books, written with gold ink, are a priceless treasure of the monastery.

Drepung Monastery:

8 km outside of Lhasa you will find Drepung Monastery. Located at the foot of Mount Gephel, it was built in 1416 by Jamyang Choje. On 200,000 m², extends a whole set of temples, buildings, and intersecting passages. At its peak, Drepung Monastery was home to over 10,000 monks! It is a real fortified city outside the Tibetan capital. Drepung Monastery is considered the most important of the three main monasteries of the Yellow Cap sect. This splendid monastery is also one of the largest monastic universities in Tibet.

Useful information

SiteGanden MonasterySera MonasteryDrepung Monastery
Chinese name甘丹寺色拉寺哲蚌寺
Opening hours09h00-16h0009h00-16h0009h00-14h00
Entrance ticket40 RMB/per50 RMB/per50 RMB/per
Duration of visit2-3 hrs2-3 hrs2-3 hrs

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