Known as the home of the "debating monks," Sera Monastery was built on a hillside in the northern part of Lhasa in 1419. One of the three most important monasteries in the city, it is dedicated to the Gelugpa, or Yellow Hat, sect of Tibetan Buddhism and is a university monastery.
Visitors flock here to see the debates. a tradition young monks take part in as part of their training. In a series of debates, the senior monks drill the younger ones on various doctrines of Tibetan Buddhism and the teachings of Buddha. It’s a very physical display: the senior monks are standing, seeming to shout at the younger ones and then slapping their hands together dramatically—the hand slapping is the signal for the seated monk to respond. The debates may also be punctuated by screams (to throw the other person off). While it’s a very entertaining display for visitors, it’s a serious matter for the monks and a crucial part of training. Also of interest at Sera Monastery are the sand mandalas, beautiful works of art created from sand. These pieces take days to complete and, when finished, are swept away and started again.
Sera Monastery is open every day and the debates are held daily. The cost for entry is RMB 55. The monastery is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; allot about two hours for a visit.