(PRWEB) May 07, 2012
Explore Tibet, a locally-owned Lhasa-based Tibet tour agency focused on responsible tourism, now offers a nine-day spiritual tour of Tibet’s oldest and most holy sites. “As part of their tour, travelers will discover the riverside Samye Monastery, the oldest Buddhist monastery in Tibet,” the agency announced. “The religious significance of this place and its importance in Tibetan monastic history makes it an important cultural site on Tibet tours.”
The strikingly beautiful Samye Monastery is located on the shore of the Brahmaputra River, about 220 kilometers from Lhasa. It was built in the 8th century by the Tibetan king Trisong Detsen. At the beginning of his reign Buddhist practice had lost favor with the Tibetan people and they had reverted to shamanism. The king wished to revitalize Buddhism by building a new center of monastic training. He invited a monk from India named Shantarakshita to oversee construction.
Several disasters occurred during the construction of the monastery, leading the workers to think that evil spirits were blocking their progress. Shantarakshita’s contemporary, Padmasambhava, a sage-guru better known in Tibet as Guru Rinpoche, was summoned by the king from northern India to confront the evil spirits blocking the construction. He succeeded in subduing the spirits and turning them into protectors of Tibet. Guru Rinpoche later became an important transmitter of the teachings of Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhism across Tibet and Bhutan. His influence can be seen throughout Tibet, and many temples and holy sites carry his name and image.
The structure of the monastery is in the shape of a mandala, a circular representation of the Buddhist universe. The main building, called Utse, is designed in a Tibetan style on the first floor, a Chinese style on the second floor, and an Indian style on the third floor. This symbolizes Samye’s significance in the scholastic history of Tibet. In the 8th century a great debate took place here between Indian and Chinese Buddhist leaders, the results of which shaped the Tibetan style of Buddhism that carries on into cultural practice today. Travelers to Samye on a Tibet tour can understand how the religious history of Tibet created its unique culture and religious practice.
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