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Sera Jay Monastery

Location : South India
Sera Jay Monastery

The history of Sera Jey Monastery dates back to early 15th Century AD. Founded by Venerable Jetsun Kunkhen Lodroe Rinchen Senge, during the early History of Buddhism in Tibet and at the time of the great Lama Tsong Khapa (1357 - 1419) the founder of the Gelug Order, a highly learned & noble saint and master of the Scriptures on Buddhism with a gift of supreme power of visualization and knowledge.
Following in the footsteps of this Divine Master Lama Tsong Khapa, a devoted and noble disciple, Kunkhyen Lodroe Rinchen Senge, possessing profound knowledge, a master at the Drepung Monastery, who fatedly left to join Sera Monastery where Sera Jey Monastery was formed.
History and legend has borne the records of the magnificent accounts that led to the birth of Sera Monastery and the subsequent establishment of Sera Jey Monastery. It was when Lama Tsong Khapa, the master and founder of Gelug Order, during one of his deep prayer and meditation on Manjushri (Jampel Yang) behold the vision in which he clearly saw the entire text of Prajnyapara-mitta's 20 slokas on Shunyata spread over the sky. The unique moment spelled upon him total insight in the complete knowledge of Tsawasehrab (Fundamentals of Madhyamikka or Shunyata) Text.

Simultaneously, he beheld the vision of a rain like "AA" characters descending from the sky. This was an auspicious symbol to his prophesies on the birth of a great source of learning on Buddh-ism. Which after twelve years, Jamchen Choje Shakya Yeshe acting upon the supreme wishes of his Master, began establishing the proper Seat of learning where knowledge of complete teachings and practices of Mahayana Tradition are imparted and pursued.
Nedong King Dagpa Gyaltsen gave financial support for the construction of a Monastery and laid down the foundation in the year1419. All the subsequent development including installing sacred Images and other objects of worships were completed according to the supreme wishes of great Lama Tsongkhapa. It was soon known as ' the Seat of Theckchen ling (Mahayana Tradition)'. It is said that name 'SERA' came to be attached with this great Monastery from its location being surrounded by raspberry shrubs called 'Sewa' in Tibetan, that formed like a ' Rawa' in Tibetan meaning 'Fence'. In the following years very soon the fame of this great Monastery as a great seat of learning Gelug tradition spread all across Tibet and elsewhere in Buddhist influenced neighbouring countries.

Rehabilitation and Restoration 
  On reaching India in 1959, under the leadership of His Holiness The Dalai Lama, the members of Sera Jey Monastery along with escaped monks of all the four different Monasteries under the four Orders of Tibetan Buddhism, were rehabilitated at a special camp at Bhaksa in the state of West Bengal. This was especially intended by His Holiness concern over the fate of Tibet's culture & religion, which has abruptly come under the terrible threat to its very survival from the appalling cultural genocide perpetrated by the invading communist Chinese at Tibet; and in his visionary effort to preserve and resurrect the unique culture, religion & identity of Tibet in a land of refuge, away from the reach of communist Chinese brutal oppression.
Hence this special rehabilitation of monks, about 1500 no in total from the four Buddhist Orders, was to program for the preservation of our traditional culture and religion in the very first stage. And secondly, from this existing human resource, to develop & prepare for the promotion and education of the younger & new Tibetan generation that will take root in India. At the rehab camp, all the monks were chiefly engaged in learning & teaching Buddhist Text & Philosophy. The younger monks were given special couching on Tibetan language & literature. For a period of 10 years the monks engaged in various religious and educational activities in a complete new environment & life, amidst struggling with the unadepted harsh climate that has inflicted large no of contagious lung infections, where quite many no of them succumbed to it. 
  Re-establishment at Bylakuppe 
  After almost 10 years of this special task program aimed for preservation & preparation of a knowledgeable human resource, in 1970 the group of 197 Sera Jey monks with 103 of Sera Mey monks was moved to a special site within the resettlement of Bylakuppe in Mysore District, in the South Indian state of Karnataka, for re-establishing the Sera Monastery, under the patronage of H.H. The Dalai Lama and the Central & State Government of India. A forestland area of 225 acres, measuring ¾ acres in ratio per monk were given to the two monasteries. For Sera Jey Monastery the share for 193 monks were given 147. ¾ acres.
The Indian Government sponsored 38 one-room tiled houses for the overall 300 monks of the two Monasteries, with 24 for Sera Jey and 14 for Sera Mey. The monks did all the construction labour. Also the surrounding area of 225 acres bulldozed were cleared by the monks of the two monasteries, and made available for cultivation. Cultivation was done on these lands during the onset of monsoon rainfall season, and there was one harvest in a year, which was then the only resource and means of survival to the entire monks. In the initial years, the monks were more or less obliged to engage for their livelihood & survival.
Each & every individual monk put up their best effort & time to create & harvest resource for the survival of the community in the initial stage, that laid the strong foundation for the development and establishment of a well organised Monastery.
The first Assembly Prayer Hall of the Monastery at Bylakuppe was built in 1976 and completed by the end of 1978. The Prayer Hall has a capacity to hold an assembly of 1500 monks, which was the total no of monks present at the Monastery then. It was inaugurated in the year 1979. Prior to this first Assembly Prayer Hall, a smaller one with asbestos sheet roofing has been built which was used until then. 
  The New Assembly Prayer Hall  
  Since the beginning of the early eighties, many young Tibetans began to flee Tibet. Majority of them were of teenage years and some at pre teenage. They were either monks or laypersons. On reaching India, they received special audience & blessing from His Holiness The Dalai Lama.
To their historically & genetically spiritual binding background, the past experienced life of repression & curtailment of religious freedom and human rights have created a vacuum of spiritual faith in almost every single new arrivals from Tibet. Which is evident from the vast majority of them joining Monasteries spread across in most parts of Tibetan settlements in India.
As this Monastery is recognised for its principal & renowned learning institution and its affiliation to the various sub & smaller monasteries spread across various regions of Tibet, the no of recipients of these new arrivals is by far the greatest in this Monastery. During the initial exodus in the early eighties they number in several hundreds at every single year that by late nineties the total no of member of the Monastery has reached an unprecedented record level crossing over 3000.
This dramatic increase in population has resulted in the shortage of residential accommodation, and especially the total inadequacy of the Assembly Prayer Hall. This inadequacy was the major & compressing issue for resolution.
Hence in 1995, the General Board Members of this Monastery unanimously proposed for the construction of a new Assembly Prayer Hall. This was a gigantic project, for the construction involved was an unprecedented enormous one, with the expected project cost estimating to a mind-boggling amount.
The arduous task of making available the needed financial fund was the second biggest mission undertaken since the re-establishing at Bylakuppe. The Monastery geared up for an unprecedented Fund Raising Project, by organising various activities and programs.
For three consecutive years there was incessant program of rigorous work schedule both in and off the field project. With the construction work in full progress, and the fund raising programs spontaneously generating generous sponsorships and & funds. That finally after 3 most eventful & most busy years, saw the completion of the new Assembly Prayer Hall.
This new Assembly Prayer Hall is a magnificent creation, its sheer massive size & enchanting holy ambience has set an unprecedented new & inspiring monastic experience. The main assembly hall has a glorious 31-foot high spacious area measuring 23,275 sq ft, supported by 110 haughty pillars. It has created a distinct place in the history records of this Monastery. And undoubtedly it has gained a significant position in the circles of Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries, notably for its significance of the huge assembly surpassing 3500 no of monks conducting prayers in a single Monastery.
The construction of this new Assembly Prayer Hall was a marvellous achievement that the Monastery and its entire monks are extremely proud and happy, and nevertheless immensely grateful to every single donor, sponsors, supporters and to each & every devotional volunteers - member monks & lay devotees, for their committed hard labour and time.
His Holiness The Dalai Lama graciously inaugurated the new Assembly Prayer Hall on 31st December 1997.