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.
Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, Wildlife, lions
NP Gorongosa, Mozambique

The Wild Heart of Mozambique shows Signs of Life

Gorongosa was home to one of the most exuberant ecosystems in Africa, but from 1980 to 1992 it succumbed to the Civil War waged between FRELIMO and RENAMO. Greg Carr, Voice Mail's millionaire inventor received a message from the Mozambican ambassador to the UN challenging him to support Mozambique. For the good of the country and humanity, Carr pledged to resurrect the stunning national park that the Portuguese colonial government had created there.
Annapurna Circuit, Manang to Yak-kharka
Annapurna (circuit)
Annapurna 10th Circuit: Manang to Yak Kharka, Nepal

On the way to the Annapurnas Even Higher Lands

After an acclimatization break in the near-urban civilization of Manang (3519 m), we made progress again in the ascent to the zenith of Thorong La (5416 m). On that day, we reached the hamlet of Yak Kharka, at 4018 m, a good starting point for the camps at the base of the great canyon.
shadow vs light
Architecture & Design
Kyoto, Japan

The Kyoto Temple Reborn from the Ashes

The Golden Pavilion has been spared destruction several times throughout history, including that of US-dropped bombs, but it did not withstand the mental disturbance of Hayashi Yoken. When we admired him, he looked like never before.
Salto Angel, Rio that falls from the sky, Angel Falls, PN Canaima, Venezuela
PN Canaima, Venezuela

Kerepakupai, Salto Angel: The River that Falls from Heaven

In 1937, Jimmy Angel landed a light aircraft on a plateau lost in the Venezuelan jungle. The American adventurer did not find gold but he conquered the baptism of the longest waterfall on the face of the Earth
good buddhist advice
Ceremonies and Festivities
Chiang Mai, Thailand

300 Wats of Spiritual and Cultural Energy

Thais call every Buddhist temple wat and their northern capital has them in obvious abundance. Delivered to successive events held between shrines, Chiang Mai is never quite disconnected.
Melbourne, Australia

An "Asienated" Australia

Cultural capital aussie, Melbourne is also frequently voted the best quality of life city in the world. Nearly a million eastern emigrants took advantage of this immaculate welcome.

A Market Economy

The law of supply and demand dictates their proliferation. Generic or specific, covered or open air, these spaces dedicated to buying, selling and exchanging are expressions of life and financial health.
Islamic silhouettes

Istanbul, Turkey

Where East meets West, Turkey Seeks its Way

An emblematic and grandiose metropolis, Istanbul lives at a crossroads. As Turkey in general, divided between secularism and Islam, tradition and modernity, it still doesn't know which way to go

4th of July Fireworks-Seward, Alaska, United States
Seward, Alaska

The Longest 4th of July

The independence of the United States is celebrated, in Seward, Alaska, in a modest way. Even so, the 4th of July and its celebration seem to have no end.
Aurora lights up the Pisang Valley, Nepal.
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.
Lifou, Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia, Mme Moline popinée
LifouLoyalty Islands

The Greatest of the Loyalties

Lifou is the island in the middle of the three that make up the semi-francophone archipelago off New Caledonia. In time, the Kanak natives will decide if they want their paradise independent of the distant metropolis.
ice tunnel, black gold route, Valdez, Alaska, USA
Got2Globe Photo Portfolio
Got2Globe Portfolio

Sensations vs Impressions

Goa, India

To Goa, Quickly and in Strength

A sudden longing for Indo-Portuguese tropical heritage makes us travel in various transports but almost non-stop, from Lisbon to the famous Anjuna beach. Only there, at great cost, were we able to rest.
Ilhéu das Rolas, São Tomé and Príncipe, equator, inlet
Rolas Islet, São Tomé and Principe

Rolas Islet: São Tomé and Principe at Latitude Zero

The southernmost point of São Tomé and Príncipe, Ilhéu das Rolas is lush and volcanic. The big news and point of interest of this island extension of the second smallest African nation is the coincidence of crossing the Equator.
Maksim, Sami people, Inari, Finland-2
Winter White
Inari, Finland

The Guardians of Boreal Europe

Long discriminated against by Scandinavian, Finnish and Russian settlers, the Sami people regain their autonomy and pride themselves on their nationality.
Baie d'Oro, Île des Pins, New Caledonia
Île-des-Pins, New Caledonia

The Island that Leaned against Paradise

In 1964, Katsura Morimura delighted the Japan with a turquoise novel set in Ouvéa. But the neighboring Île-des-Pins has taken over the title "The Nearest Island to Paradise" and thrills its visitors.
Geothermal, Iceland Heat, Ice Land, Geothermal, Blue Lagoon

The Geothermal Coziness of the Ice Island

Most visitors value Iceland's volcanic scenery for its beauty. Icelanders also draw from them heat and energy crucial to the life they lead to the Arctic gates.
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.
El Cofete beach from the top of El Islote, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain
Natural Parks
Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain (España)

Fuerteventura's Atlantic Ventura

The Romans knew the Canaries as the lucky islands. Fuerteventura, preserves many of the attributes of that time. Its perfect beaches for the windsurf and the kite-surfing or just for bathing, they justify successive “invasions” by the sun-hungry northern peoples. In the volcanic and rugged interior, the bastion of the island's indigenous and colonial cultures remains. We started to unravel it along its long south.
Matukituki River, New Zealand
UNESCO World Heritage
Wanaka, New Zealand

The Antipodes Great Outdoors

If New Zealand is known for its tranquility and intimacy with Nature, Wanaka exceeds any imagination. Located in an idyllic setting between the homonymous lake and the mystic Mount Aspiring, it became a place of worship. Many kiwis aspire to change their lives there.
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.
Martinique island, French Antilles, Caribbean Monument Cap 110
Martinique, French Antilles

The Armpit Baguette Caribbean

We move around Martinique as freely as the Euro and the tricolor flags fly supreme. But this piece of France is volcanic and lush. Lies in the insular heart of the Americas and has a delicious taste of Africa.
orthodox procession
Suzdal, Russia

Centuries of Devotion to a Devoted Monk

Euthymius was a fourteenth-century Russian ascetic who gave himself body and soul to God. His faith inspired Suzdal's religiosity. The city's believers worship him as the saint he has become.
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.
Street Bar, Fremont Street, Las Vegas, United States
Las Vegas, USA

The Sin City Cradle

The famous Strip has not always focused the attention of Las Vegas. Many of its hotels and casinos replicated the neon glamor of the street that once stood out, Fremont Street.
Coin return
Daily life
Dawki, India

Dawki, Dawki, Bangladesh on sight

We descended from the high and mountainous lands of Meghalaya to the flats to the south and below. There, the translucent and green stream of the Dawki forms the border between India and Bangladesh. In a damp heat that we haven't felt for a long time, the river also attracts hundreds of Indians and Bangladeshis in a picturesque escape.
El Tatio Geisers, Atacama, Chile, Between ice and heat
El Tatio, Chile

El Tatio Geysers – Between the Ice and the Heat of the Atacama

Surrounded by supreme volcanoes, the geothermal field of El Tatio, in the Atacama Desert it appears as a Dantesque mirage of sulfur and steam at an icy 4200 m altitude. Its geysers and fumaroles attract hordes of travelers.
Passengers, scenic flights-Southern Alps, New Zealand
Scenic Flights
Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand

The Aeronautical Conquest of the Southern Alps

In 1955, pilot Harry Wigley created a system for taking off and landing on asphalt or snow. Since then, his company has unveiled, from the air, some of the greatest scenery in Oceania.