Seda (色达) is located at an elevation of about 4,000 meters in a remote valley on the Tibetan Plateau, in the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the western part of Sichuan province in China. The Tibetans know Seda by the name of Sertar (གསེར་ཐར།), which means Golden Horse.
Though Sertar is located in the historical Kham region of the Garze Prefecture, it is traditionally part of the Golok region where natives speak Amdo Tibetan language. This is why Sertar is referred by to by Tibetans as Golok Sertar. The Setar region, a treeless remote valley, has gained immense popularity because it is home to the largest Tibetan Buddhist school in the world.
Seda Larung Wuming Tibetan Buddhist Monastery
At a distance of about 780 kilometers from Chengdu, this monastery in Larung Gar, Sertar, is home to 40,000 Tibetan monks who have devoted their lives to studying Buddhism. The institute, belonging to the Nyingma sect (red sect) of Tibetan Buddhism, is where tens of thousands of Lamas (local male Buddhists) and Juemus (local female Buddhists) practice monastic study. They practice in red houses, thousands of which look like red dots scattered around this spiritual valley.
The surrounding hills of the monastery are also sprinkled with tiny, red, wooden houses built close together. The monks and nuns are separated by a massive wall right across the middle of Larung Gar. Monks and nuns are required to stay in their designated area. Only the area in front of the main monastery assembly hall is open to both.
Establishment of the Buddhist Academy
The living Buddha, Jinmei Pengcuo, founded this Buddhist Academy in Larong, Seda in 1980. Back then, this Bhuddism sect had only 32 followers and was approved by the Seda government in 1985. The academy received its official name of Seda Larung Wuming Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in 1997. Since then it has developed into the largest Buddhist institute in the world.
The Larung Buddhist Monastery in the highest grassland plateau is open to all devotees from various sects of Tibetan Buddhism: Gelug, Nyingma, Kagyu and Sakya unlike other monasteries. Buddhism is taught at the Monastery in both Tibetan and Mandarin languages because students come here not only from Tibetan areas but also from across the rest of China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore. It takes six years of study to complete formal training while higher levels of Monastic study require up to thirteen years. Apart from monks, nuns and students, the Monastery attracts thousands of pilgrims across Tibet. Visitors to the institute can watch readings in the morning and student debates in the evening.
As of 2017 Sertar Monastery is not open to western travellers. We don’t have exact information of an opening date. But we will update once we know the opening date.