Samye Monastery(桑耶寺) is deservedly the most popular destination for travelers 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.
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.
It is said that when it was first built, Trisong Detsen was eager to know the scene after the completion, so Padmasambhava turned out the illusion of the temple from his palm. After seeing it, Trisong Detsen couldn't help exclaiming "Sangye" (meaning "unexpected" and "unimaginable") and later the temple was named Samye Temple because of the king's exclamation.
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 Śāntaraksita clear away obscurations and hindrances in the building of Samye. After getting back to Samye Monastery, Master Padmasambhava began to exorcise demons, finally tamed these ghosts to help build Samye Monastery. In this way, it was constructed by people during the day and by ghosts and gods at night. The proof of this legend is still on the mural of the Samye Monastery.
Four stupas built at Samye Monastery's four corners. They were built in red, green, black, white, in order to prevent the occurrence of natural and man-made disasters. Green is the symbol of eternity, white is the symbol of compassion, black is the symbol of strength, red is the symbol of wisdom. In Buddhism, the four-direction represents the "world", can expel any ghosts and demons.
Annual Dharma. The main content of dharma is the fete dance of Tha Kung, which is also very colorful. Samye Monastery dharma and many other deities will appear in the form of the fete dance of Tha Kung. During the dharma meeting, there are also some light-hearted and humorous programs to enliven the atmosphere. These humorous and funny performances are also popular among local people. These religious dances and programs are very old and probably originated from a large celebration after the completion of the Samye Monastery, which continues to this day.
The walls built by ghosts are very strong, though rough on the surface. They are very different from the walls of other buildings in Samye Monastery. These buildings let us admire such masterpieces, but at the same time, we were also overwhelmed by the architectural level at that time.
Ganden Monastery to Samye Monastery trek. One of the most classic trails in Tibet is the Ganden to Samye Trek. This route offers you lakes, beautiful alpine landscapes, herders’ camps, and sacred sites. Most importantly, this trek connects two of the holiest Buddhist monasteries, and from a spiritual viewpoint, this trek is as valuable as a spiritual journey.
Recommended Tours Including Samye Monastery
The tour will take you to some great cities in Tibet and show you the dreamy natural views and the origin of Tibetan Buddhism. After a 4-day visiting in Lhasa, you will head to the east and discover the symbols of the Tibet culture then enjoy the two of top three holy lakes.
This trekking tour will offer you a unique journey from Ganden to Samye. After an exploration in Lhasa city and suburb, the trekking will start in Ganden. During the following 4 days, you will enjoy the scenery of valleys, mountains, and lakes. You will finally arrive in Samye and have a view of the golden spires of Samye.
This journey starts from exploring Lhasa city, then drive to Namtso for a ‘Heavenly Lake’ experience. On the way, you will enjoy the vast grassland and charming natural scenery. The last station is to head to Tsedang for discovering the "cradle of Tibetan civilization" and Samye Monastery, the first monastery in Tibet.
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