Lhasa, Tibet

Sera, the Monastery of the Sacred Debate

Monk from the monastery of Sera reflects, with skepticism, on premises presented by an enthusiastic counterpart
Age of Innocence
Tibetan baby watches in amazement the intellectual commotion carried out by the dozens of monks in front of him
at the center of the debate
Monk sunk amidst others and an intense debate
Monk holds a juzu (Buddhist rosary).
Entry to the Debate
Tibetan portal announces the entrance to the Sera Monastery's debate courtyard.
Debate spectators leave Sera Monastery on a sui generis motorbike
Tibetan Buddhist chimney
Architectural-religious detail of the Sera Monastery.
On debate
Monk seeths as he conveys his reasons to a debate opponent
Is it so?
Monks counter arguments with all their conviction.
Argument Projection
Monge launches a new argument with the projection of the body forward and a clap of hands.
meditation break
Monk reflects during an argument with a fellow Buddhist apprentice.
one against all
Crowded monks confront a colleague who proposes a controversial premise
Passage in this life
Passersby pass a building in Sera Monastery, at the foot of Pubuchok Mountain, on the outskirts of Lhasa.
Sera vs Pubuchok
Side facade of one of the Sera Monastery buildings with the Pubuchok Mountains in the background.
term sisters
Two women hold terms next to the Sera monastery, in another winter morning of clear but icy skies on the Tibetan plateau
Passage in the shade
Believer turns a Tibetan Buddhist wheel as he travels along the long façade of the Sera monastery, illuminated by the sun that often falls on the Tibetan plateau.
In few places in the world a dialect is used as vehemently as in the monastery of Sera. There, hundreds of monks, in Tibetan, engage in intense and raucous debates about the teachings of the Buddha.

We are at the height of winter. There is not a drop of cloud in the blue sky over Lhasa or over most of the Tibetan Plateau.

Lobsang, the Tibetan host highlighted by the Chinese travel agency, tells us that we have arrived at the most genuine time possible, that there must not be even twenty foreigners in all of Tibet.

We soon realize that he feels annoyed at having to work for the invader. Since we arrived, he has been keen to cut the time he dedicates to us as little as possible.

This morning, sunny but icy, as each of the following ones would prove, would be no exception.

"But do you really want to go to Sera?" “You have visited so many monasteries here in Lhasa. Sera is just another one. THE architecture is the same as the others. What they will see there will make little difference to what they found in the previous ones, I assure you.”

Passing through, Sera Monastery, Sacred Debate, Tibet

Believer turns a Tibetan Buddhist wheel as he travels along the long façade of the Sera monastery, illuminated by the sun that often falls on the Tibetan plateau.

Luckily, we had read about the place. We knew what made him distinct. We don't give in. Lobsang then opts for a non-confrontational strategy: “Well, this morning I have to go and deal with the papers of some Germans who are coming in May. If you really want to go there, I'll call you taxis and call a comrade who can accompany you”.

The Short Trip from Lhasa to Sera. In Bell-Rally Mode

Do it without appeal. A few minutes later, two modern cars with Chinese license plates and drivers appear.

That colleague is already in one of them. We got in the front. Ryan, a “valet” (in charge of parking vehicles in hotels, casinos, etc.) North American.

And Jacob, a Swedish teenage student measuring more than 1 meter and 90 who attracted around him groups of Tibetans fascinated by his height were the travel partners we had even met in Chengdu (the capital of the Chinese province of Sichuan). The two of them got into the taxi behind.

The monastery was less than 2 km away. Even so, the driver appeared fully equipped for driving, with gloves and sunglasses. He decided it was more than enough distance to challenge his colleague.

Thus, they traveled the route as if it were a rally competition, with creaky starts and jumps precipitated by the lowered slope of water pipes.

We were still struggling with a terrifying altitude sickness caused by having traveled, in just an hour and a half, from the 500 meters altitude of Chengdu to the 3650 of Lhasa.

Passing through, Sera Monastery, Sacred Debate, Tibet

Passersby pass a building in Sera Monastery, at the foot of Pubuchok Mountain, on the outskirts of Lhasa.

When we got out of the taxis, with the parched mountain of Pubuchok in the background and in the vicinity of the monastery, the conversation remained centered on this theme: “These Chinese really ruin everything! complains Ryan, the only one who had skipped the Chengdu flight:

"I came three days tight on the train to get rid of the headache and it only took a few minutes in that hellish car to feel myself bursting as much or more than you guys!"

The Buttered Tour through the Interior of Sera Monastery

Lobsang's friend invites us to walk along a lane bordered by bare trees and white Tibetan buildings. At the top, we find the main entrance to the monastery, built in 1419 by Jamchen Chojey, disciple of one of the main Buddhist masters of the time.

In order not to vary, it is forbidden to photograph or film the interior and it stinks of yak butter, the fuel chosen by the Tibetans to ensure the lighting and maintenance of the flame in the candles offered by the believers.

Term Sisters, Sera Monastery, Sacred Debate, Tibet

Two women hold terms next to the Sera monastery, in another winter morning of clear but icy skies on the Tibetan plateau

We do the full circuit of the various rooms in the temple. And we followed the exhaustive explanations of the group's newly inducted new guide. At a certain point, we felt the justice of giving at least a partial reason for what Lobsang told us: the dissertation of the guide substitute sounds quite repetitive to us.

Like Lobsang, this friend also refrained from addressing Tibet's sensitive integration by force into the China, let alone Sera's dramatic contribution to the 1959 uprising.

The Damages of the Chinese Invasion Also in Sera Monastery

That year, the Chinese army damaged several of the monastery's colleges and murdered hundreds of the more than 5000 resident monks. after the Dalai Lama have taken refuge in India, many of the survivors took refuge in Bylakuppe, near the Indian city of Mysore, Karnataka state.

There they established a parallel Sera monastery, with its own Buddhist colleges and a Great Assembly Hall with the same architectural lines as the original.

Chimney, Sera Monastery, Sacred Debate, Tibet

Architectural-religious detail of the Sera Monastery.

The assistance of the Indian government has allowed them to settle in them more than 3.000 Tibetan monks who carry out Buddhist missionary activities in India and in several other countries.

Besides buddhist architecture and the compassion professed by the Buddha, the monks also took from Tibet the habit of meeting day after day in order to debate, as dialectically as possible, the teachings of their enlightened master.

Juzu, Sera Monastery, Sacred Debate, Tibet

Monk holds a juzu (Buddhist rosary).

From the end of the 600th century, the Gelupga (Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism to which the XNUMX apprentice monks still resisting in Sera belong, became predominant in Tibet. He got used to studying Buddhist doctrines through a step-by-step process.

During their apprenticeship, even lamas should participate in these debates in order to improve their understanding and evolve to more advanced levels of study.

The Buddhist Outdoor Debate Sessions

As a rule, the sessions take place at three in the afternoon, from Monday to Friday. They last an hour and a half. They are only suspended due to a coincident religious celebration or ceremony or extreme bad weather.

Portico, Sera Monastery, Sacred Debate, Tibet

Tibetan portal announces the entrance to the Sera Monastery's debate courtyard.

When we leave the dismal interior of the Buddhist monastery, we come face to face with a door that announces “Debating Courtyard”. In this wide playground, among trees bare by the long winter of the plateau, on a floury gravel, the multiple disputes were already being heard.

Scattered across the courtyard, several nuclei of monks dressed only in their red robes and holding "juzus” (Buddhist rosaries) in their hands, they exchange argument after argument.

Meditation, Sera Monastery, Sacred Debate, Tibet

Monk reflects during an argument with a fellow Buddhist apprentice.

In certain groups, one or two of the religious took the lead. They are closely followed or challenged by small audiences huddled together with relative intimacy. To better express their arguments, these prophets of the occasion pull their interlocutors and sound their juzus.

Or, more often, they repeat the same movement of retreating, advancing and projecting the body forward that ends with an exuberant clapping of the hands.

Projection, Sera Monastery, Sacred Debate, Tibet

Monge launches a new argument with the projection of the body forward and a clap of hands.

The successive “claps” resound throughout the courtyard. They make the authors' hands as red as their costumes. They seem to help convince opponents. When they are forced to recognize the reason, they let out extended “oooooohhhhhs” in chorus.

Then, they go back to analyzing the flaws and virtues of their allegations before the injudicious scrutiny of the public, then mostly Tibetan.

One against all, Sera Monastery, Sacred Debate, Tibet

Crowded monks confront a colleague who proposes a controversial premise

The hour and a half pass. The lamas retreat to the almost spartan comfort of the Sera monastery buildings. Assistance stampedes down the lane.

Motorbikes, Sera Monastery, Sacred Debate, Tibet

Debate spectators leave Sera Monastery on a sui generis motorbike

According to telephone instructions from Lobsang, we return to the center of Lhasa by bus.

The one we climbed is still full.

Among the passengers intrigued by the presence of foreigners and already dressed for another chilling evening, we find the Tibetans' unconditional smiles and their familiar aroma of yak butter.

Dali, China

The Surrealist China of Dali

Embedded in a magical lakeside setting, the ancient capital of the Bai people has remained, until some time ago, a refuge for the backpacker community of travelers. The social and economic changes of China they fomented the invasion of Chinese to discover the southwest corner of the nation.
Bingling Yes, China

The Canyon of a Thousand Buddhas

For more than a millennium and at least seven dynasties, Chinese devotees have extolled their religious belief with the legacy of sculpture in a remote strait of the Yellow River. If you disembark in the Canyon of Thousand Buddhas, you may not find all the sculptures, but you will find a stunning Buddhist shrine.
Tawang, India

The Mystic Valley of Deep Discord

On the northern edge of the Indian province of Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang is home to dramatic mountain scenery, ethnic Mompa villages and majestic Buddhist monasteries. Even if Chinese rivals have not passed him since 1962, Beijing look at this domain as part of your Tibet. Accordingly, religiosity and spiritualism there have long shared with a strong militarism.
Guwahati, India

The City that Worships Kamakhya and the Fertility

Guwahati is the largest city in the state of Assam and in North East India. It is also one of the fastest growing in the world. For Hindus and devout believers in Tantra, it will be no coincidence that Kamakhya, the mother goddess of creation, is worshiped there.
Dunhuang, China

An Oasis in the China of the Sands

Thousands of kilometers west of Beijing, the Great Wall has its western end and the China and other. An unexpected splash of vegetable green breaks up the arid expanse all around. Announces Dunhuang, formerly crucial outpost on the Silk Road, today an intriguing city at the base of Asia's largest sand dunes.
Lhasa, Tibet

The Sino-Demolition of the Roof of the World

Any debate about sovereignty is incidental and a waste of time. Anyone who wants to be dazzled by the purity, affability and exoticism of Tibetan culture should visit the territory as soon as possible. The Han civilizational greed that moves China will soon bury millenary Tibet.
Lhasa, Tibet

When Buddhism Tires of Meditation

It is not only with silence and spiritual retreat that one seeks Nirvana. At the Sera Monastery, the young monks perfect their Buddhist knowledge with lively dialectical confrontations and crackling clapping of hands.

Altitude Sickness: the Grievances of Getting Mountain Sick

When traveling, it happens that we find ourselves confronted with the lack of time to explore a place as unmissable as it is high. Medicine and previous experiences with Altitude Evil dictate that we should not risk ascending in a hurry.
Nara, Japan

The Colossal Cradle of the Japanese Buddhism

Nara has long since ceased to be the capital and its Todai-ji temple has been demoted. But the Great Hall remains the largest ancient wooden building in the world. And it houses the greatest bronze Vairocana Buddha.
Bagan, Myanmar

The Plain of Pagodas, Temples and other Heavenly Redemptions

Burmese religiosity has always been based on a commitment to redemption. In Bagan, wealthy and fearful believers continue to erect pagodas in hopes of winning the benevolence of the gods.
San Cristóbal de las Casas a Campeche, Mexico

A Relay of Faith

The Catholic equivalent of Our Lady of Fátima, Our Lady of Guadalupe moves and moves Mexico. Its faithful cross the country's roads, determined to bring the proof of their faith to the patroness of the Americas.
Kyoto, Japan

A Combustible Faith

During the Shinto celebration of Ohitaki, prayers inscribed on tablets by the Japanese faithful are gathered at the Fushimi temple. There, while being consumed by huge bonfires, her belief is renewed.
Esteros del Iberá, Pantanal Argentina, Alligator
Iberá Wetlands, Argentina

The Pantanal of the Pampas

On the world map, south of the famous brazilian wetland, a little-known flooded region appears, but almost as vast and rich in biodiversity. the Guarani expression Y bera defines it as “shining waters”. The adjective fits more than its strong luminance.
Aurora lights up the Pisang Valley, Nepal.
Annapurna (circuit)
Annapurna Circuit: 3rd- Upper Banana, Nepal

An Unexpected Snowy Aurora

At the first glimmers of light, the sight of the white mantle that had covered the village during the night dazzles us. With one of the toughest walks on the Annapurna Circuit ahead of us, we postponed the match as much as possible. Annoyed, we left Upper Pisang towards Escort when the last snow faded.
coast, fjord, Seydisfjordur, Iceland
Architecture & Design
Seydisfjordur, Iceland

From the Art of Fishing to the Fishing of Art

When shipowners from Reykjavik bought the Seydisfjordur fishing fleet, the village had to adapt. Today, it captures Dieter Roth's art disciples and other bohemian and creative souls.
The small lighthouse at Kallur, highlighted in the capricious northern relief of the island of Kalsoy.
Kalsoy, Faroe Islands

A Lighthouse at the End of the Faroese World

Kalsoy is one of the most isolated islands in the Faroe archipelago. Also known as “the flute” due to its long shape and the many tunnels that serve it, a mere 75 inhabitants inhabit it. Much less than the outsiders who visit it every year, attracted by the boreal wonder of its Kallur lighthouse.
Ceremonies and Festivities
Look-alikes, Actors and Extras

Make-believe stars

They are the protagonists of events or are street entrepreneurs. They embody unavoidable characters, represent social classes or epochs. Even miles from Hollywood, without them, the world would be more dull.
One of the tallest buildings in Valletta, Malta
Valletta, Malta

An ex-Humble Amazing Capital

At the time of its foundation, the Order of Knights Hospitaller called it "the most humble". Over the centuries, the title ceased to serve him. In 2018, Valletta was the tiniest European Capital of Culture ever and one of the most steeped in history and dazzling in memory.
Cocoa, Chocolate, Sao Tome Principe, Agua Izé farm
São Tomé and Principe

Cocoa Roças, Corallo and the Chocolate Factory

At the beginning of the century. In the XNUMXth century, São Tomé and Príncipe generated more cocoa than any other territory. Thanks to the dedication of some entrepreneurs, production survives and the two islands taste like the best chocolate.
MassKara Festival, Bacolod City, Philippines
Bacolod, Philippines

A Festival to Laugh at Tragedy

Around 1980, the value of sugar, an important source of wealth on the Philippine island of Negros, plummeted and the ferry “Don Juan” that served it sank and took the lives of more than 176 passengers, most of them from Negrès. The local community decided to react to the depression generated by these dramas. That's how MassKara arose, a party committed to recovering the smiles of the population.
Spectator, Melbourne Cricket Ground-Rules footbal, Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne, Australia

The Football the Australians Rule

Although played since 1841, Australian Football has only conquered part of the big island. Internationalization has never gone beyond paper, held back by competition from rugby and classical football.
Gyantse, Kumbum temple
Lhasa a Gyantse, Tibet

Gyantse, through the Heights of Tibet

The final target is the Tibetan Everest Base Camp. On this first route, starting from Lhasa, we pass by the sacred lake of Yamdrok (4.441m) and the glacier of the Karo gorge (5.020m). In Gyantse, we surrender to the Tibetan-Buddhist splendor of the old citadel.
Miniature houses, Chã das Caldeiras, Fogo Volcano, Cape Verde
Chã das Caldeiras, Fogo Island Cape Verde

A "French" Clan at the Mercy of Fogo

In 1870, a Count born in Grenoble on his way to Brazilian exile, made a stopover in Cape Verde where native beauties tied him to the island of Fogo. Two of his children settled in the middle of the volcano's crater and continued to raise offspring there. Not even the destruction caused by the recent eruptions deters the prolific Montrond from the “county” they founded in Chã das Caldeiras.    
Rainbow in the Grand Canyon, an example of prodigious photographic light
Got2Globe Photo Portfolio
Natural Light (Part 1)

And Light was made on Earth. Know how to use it.

The theme of light in photography is inexhaustible. In this article, we give you some basic notions about your behavior, to start with, just and only in terms of geolocation, the time of day and the time of year.
Entrance porch in Ellikkalla, Uzbekistan

Journey through the Uzbekistan Pseudo-Roads

Centuries passed. Old and run-down Soviet roads ply deserts and oases once traversed by caravans from the Silk RoadSubject to their yoke for a week, we experience every stop and incursion into Uzbek places, into scenic and historic road rewards.
Solovestsky Autumn
Solovetsky Islands, Russia

The Mother Island of the Gulag Archipelago

It hosted one of Russia's most powerful Orthodox religious domains, but Lenin and Stalin turned it into a gulag. With the fall of the USSR, Solovestky regains his peace and spirituality.
Horses under a snow, Iceland Never Ending Snow Island Fire
Winter White
Husavik a Myvatn, Iceland

Endless Snow on the Island of Fire

When, in mid-May, Iceland already enjoys some sun warmth but the cold and snow persist, the inhabitants give in to an intriguing summer anxiety.
On the Crime and Punishment trail, St. Petersburg, Russia, Vladimirskaya
Saint Petersburg, Russia

On the Trail of "Crime and Punishment"

In St. Petersburg, we cannot resist investigating the inspiration for the base characters in Fyodor Dostoevsky's most famous novel: his own pities and the miseries of certain fellow citizens.
bangka, lake kayangan, coron, busuanga, philippines
Coron, Busuanga, Philippines

The Secret but Sunken Japanese Armada

In World War II, a Japanese fleet failed to hide off Busuanga and was sunk by US planes. Today, its underwater wreckage attract thousands of divers.
Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Autumn Homes
Sheki, Azerbaijan

autumn in the caucasus

Lost among the snowy mountains that separate Europe from Asia, Sheki is one of Azerbaijan's most iconic towns. Its largely silky history includes periods of great harshness. When we visited it, autumn pastels added color to a peculiar post-Soviet and Muslim life.
ala juumajarvi lake, oulanka national park, finland
Natural Parks
Kuusamo ao PN Oulanka, Finland

Under the Arctic's Icy Spell

We are at 66º North and at the gates of Lapland. In these parts, the white landscape belongs to everyone and to no one like the snow-covered trees, the atrocious cold and the endless night.
Victoria Falls, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Zambezi
UNESCO World Heritage
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwee

Livingstone's Thundering Gift

The explorer was looking for a route to the Indian Ocean when natives led him to a jump of the Zambezi River. The falls he found were so majestic that he decided to name them in honor of his queen
Era Susi towed by dog, Oulanka, Finland
PN Oulanka, Finland

A Slightly Lonesome Wolf

Jukka “Era-Susi” Nordman has created one of the largest packs of sled dogs in the world. He became one of Finland's most iconic characters but remains faithful to his nickname: Wilderness Wolf.
Plane landing, Maho beach, Sint Maarten
Maho Beach, Sint Maarten

The Jet-powered Caribbean Beach

At first glance, Princess Juliana International Airport appears to be just another one in the vast Caribbean. Successive landings skimming Maho beach that precedes its runway, jet take-offs that distort the faces of bathers and project them into the sea, make it a special case.
Kongobuji Temple
Mount Koya, Japan

Halfway to Nirvana

According to some doctrines of Buddhism, it takes several lifetimes to attain enlightenment. The shingon branch claims that you can do it in one. From Mount Koya, it can be even easier.
white pass yukon train, Skagway, Gold Route, Alaska, USA
On Rails
Skagway, Alaska

A Klondike's Gold Fever Variant

The last great American gold rush is long over. These days, hundreds of cruise ships each summer pour thousands of well-heeled visitors into the shop-lined streets of Skagway.
Ditching, Alaska Fashion Life, Talkeetna
Talkeetna, Alaska

Talkeetna's Alaska-Style Life

Once a mere mining outpost, Talkeetna rejuvenated in 1950 to serve Mt. McKinley climbers. The town is by far the most alternative and most captivating town between Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Visitors at Talisay Ruins, Negros Island, Philippines
Daily life
Talisay City, Philippines

Monument to a Luso-Philippine Love

At the end of the 11th century, Mariano Lacson, a Filipino farmer, and Maria Braga, a Portuguese woman from Macau, fell in love and got married. During the pregnancy of what would be her 2th child, Maria succumbed to a fall. Destroyed, Mariano built a mansion in his honor. In the midst of World War II, the mansion was set on fire, but the elegant ruins that endured perpetuate their tragic relationship.
Rhinoceros, PN Kaziranga, Assam, India
PN Kaziranga, India

The Indian Monoceros Stronghold

Situated in the state of Assam, south of the great Brahmaputra river, PN Kaziranga occupies a vast area of ​​alluvial swamp. Two-thirds of the rhinocerus unicornis around the world, there are around 100 tigers, 1200 elephants and many other animals. Pressured by human proximity and the inevitable poaching, this precious park has not been able to protect itself from the hyperbolic floods of the monsoons and from some controversies.
Full Dog Mushing
Scenic Flights
Seward, Alaska

The Alaskan Dog Mushing Summer

It's almost 30 degrees and the glaciers are melting. In Alaska, entrepreneurs have little time to get rich. Until the end of August, dog mushing cannot stop.