Samye Monastery(桑耶寺) is deservedly the most popular destination for travellers in Shannan. Surrounded by barren mountains and dramatic sand dunes and a beautiful river crossing the monastery. As Tibet’s first monastery and the place where Buddhism was established, Samye Monastery is also of major historical and religious importance.
Samye Monastery is Tibet’s very first monastery and has a history that spans more than 1200 years. It was founded in the reign of King Trisong Detsen, who was born close by, though the exact date is subject to some debate – probably between 765 & 780. Whatever the case, Samye Monastery represents the Tibetan state’s first efforts to allow the Buddhist faith to set down roots in the country. The Bon majority at court, whose religion prevailed in Tibet prior to Buddhism, were not at all pleased with this development.
The victory of Buddhism over the Bon dominated establishment was symbolized by Guru Rinpoche;s triumph over the massed demons of Tibet at Hepo Ri, just to the east of Samye Monastery.
Shortly after the founding of Samye Monastery, Tibet’s first seven monks were ordained here by Samye Monastery’s Indian abbot, Shantarakshita, and Indian and Chinese scholars were invited to assist in the translation of Buddhist text into Tibetan.
According to tradition, the Indian monk Śāntarakṣita made the first attempt to construct the monastery while promoting his sutra-centric version of Buddhism. Finding the Samye site auspicious, he set about to build a structure there. However, the building would always collapse after reaching a certain stage. Terrified, the construction workers believed that there was a demon or obstructive tulku in a nearby river making trouble.
When Shantarakshita's contemporary Padmasambhava arrived from northern India, he was able to subdue the energetic problems obstructing the building of Samye. According to the 5th Dalai Lama, Padmasambhava performed the Vajrakilaya dance and enacted the rite of namkha to assist Trisong Detsen and Śāntarakṣita clear away obscurations and hindrances in the building of Samye.
Recommended Tour Itineraries Including Samye Monastery