Sera Monastery

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“No great university has ever had its history written so beautifully or so authoritatively. Sera Monastic University is one of the “three seats,” the premier academic institutions in Tibet (now continuing in exile in India). It has produced a staggering number of influential scholars, adepts, and national leaders, and its history is densely interwoven with that of Tibet and the Geluk lineage. In this meticulously researched and elegantly written study, José Cabezón and Penpa Dorjee present a history of a great academic and religious institution, but also undertake a powerful investigation of the role of great institutions of higher education in the formation of national and religious identity, and of the role of academic monasteries in the history and present of Tibet. Not only that, the vibrant prose and absorbing narrative make for compelling reading.”—Jay L. Garfield, Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities, Smith College and the Harvard Divinity School


José I. Cabezón Penpa Dorjee

The definitive history of Sera Monastery, one of the great monastic universities of Tibet, from its founding to the present. 

Founded in 1419, Sera Monastery was one of the three densas, the great seats of learning of the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism. With over 9,000 monks in residence in 1959, it was the second largest monastery in the world. Throughout its history, Sera has produced some of Tibet’s most important saints, scholars, and political leaders.

The scholars José Cabezón and Penpa Dorjee begin Sera Monastery with the history of monasticism from the time of the Buddha through its early development in Tibet and then tell the 600-year story of Sera from its founding to the present. They recount how the monastery grew and evolved during the centuries, how it has fared under Chinese rule, and how it was transplanted in the Tibetan refugee camps of South India. We are introduced to some of Sera’s most important lamas and hermits, as well as its curriculum, yearly calendar, the daily life of scholar monks, and the role Sera monks played in the political history of Tibet.

Former Sera monks themselves, Cabezón and Dorjee demonstrate their firsthand knowledge of the monastery, its traditions, and daily life on every page. Scrupulously researched over decades, Sera Monastery is the most comprehensive history of a Tibetan monastery ever written in a Western language.

book information
  • Hardcover
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • $52.95
  • ISBN 9781614296119
  • ebook
  • $34.57
  • ISBN 9781614296126
about the author
Sera Monastery

José Ignacio Cabezón is XIVth Dalai Lama Professor of Tibetan Buddhism and Cultural Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. He studied physics as an undergraduate at Caltech, trained as a monk at Sera Monastery in India, translated for the Dalai Lama into Spanish, and in 1987 earned his PhD from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Before coming to Santa Barbara, he was on the faculty of the Iliff School of Theology in Denver from 1989–2001. Cabezón is the author or editor of a dozen books and many more articles on various aspects of Tibetan religion and religious studies, with research interests as diverse as Madhyamaka philosophy, Buddhism and sex, and Tibetan ritual. His latest publication, the Sera Project, is a peer-reviewed database of essays, over 1400 images, and an interactive map of Sera Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet.

Other books by José I. Cabezón:
Sexuality in Classical South Asian Buddhism
Meditation on the Nature of Mind
Freedom from Extremes

Sera Monastery

Penpa Dorjee is associate professor and head librarian of Shantarakshita Library of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath, India. He received the acharya degree from Sampurnanada Sanskrit University in Varanasi and his PhD from the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. He has seventeen books to his credit as author, coauthor, translator, or editor.

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