Sakya, the birthplace of Tibetan Buddhism’s Sakya sect, was once the capital of the Sakya Dynasty in the middle of the 13th century. It serves as the political, economic, and cultural hub of Tibet.
The name “Sakya” originates from the grey soil of the Benboer mountain beside it, which means “grey soil” in Tibetan. Standing amidst the ruins of Sakya North Temple, one can witness the rich cultural and historical background.
The walls of the temple are adorned with red, white, and grey stripes, symbolizing Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, and Vajrapani, respectively.
Sakya Monastery, known as the “Second Dunhuang,” was built in 1073 by Khon Konchog Gyalpo. Its architectural style differs from other Tibetan temples, with a circular shape resembling a war-resistant castle. Even remnants of the moat can be seen outside the city walls. Sakya Monastery holds a significant place in Tibet’s religious and political history. With a 900-year history, it ruled Tibet for over 70 years. During Phakpa Rinpoche’s reign, the monastery acquired a vast collection of valuable art, Scriptures, and Statues. Sakya’s treasure trove includes 3,000 sutras dating back thousands of years. Unlike Dunhuang, the murals in Sakya Monastery are well-preserved and not yet relics.
The primary edifice of the Sakya temple is the Lakhang Chenmo, also known as the Assembly Hall. Along the passageway that leads to the main hall, there are golden Scripture cylinders on either side. Despite the erosion caused by time, the beauty and intricacy of the murals remain evident.
The primary chamber is upheld by a total of forty towering columns. Among these forty Pillars, four are particularly renowned.
Kublai Khan Pillar: It is believed that Kublai Khan presented this column to the Sakya temple in that era, and it was therefore designated as the “Kublai Khan Column.”
Bison Pillar: According to legend, bison (wild yaks) curved towards the Sakya temple with their horns. The pillars display traces of their horns.
Ink Blood Pillar: It is believed that this pillar was delivered by the sea god and that blood was left on it during its transportation.
Tiger Pillar: Legend has it that it was a tiger who transported this column in those times. These pillars were naturally upright and required three or four individuals to encircle them.
White conch of Sakya
The white seashell is among the valued possessions of the Sakya monastery. It is believed that Kublai Khan, the ruler of the Yuan Dynasty, bestowed it upon the temple. Nevertheless, the white seashell’s distinctiveness does not end there. It is believed that Sakyamuni himself employed the white seashell. The monks and devotees hold the seashell in high esteem and are convinced that listening to its sound can absolve sins.
The monks who blow the conch shell typically arrange themselves in a lengthy queue. They perform in remembrance of their departed loved ones and hold the belief that this practice can alleviate the suffering of rebirth and facilitate their transformation into virtuous individuals.
Within the central chamber’s narrow corridor, a concealed cryptic location can be discovered behind the Buddha statues. This place resembles a profound temporal conduit. Adorning the wall is an immense Sutra wall, consisting of countless grids of sutras. The Sutra wall, a priceless asset of Sakya temple, spans a colossal 9 meters in height and 60 meters in width, containing over 80,000 sutras.
Monks have spent centuries translating, transcribing, and venerating in Sanskrit or Tibetan using pens dipped in gold or ink. Standing before this wall, there is no light or sound, yet it stifles the breath of revered monks who have been copying Scriptures for centuries and touching their hands to it. Their spiritual radiance shimmers and trickles down the towering Sutra wall.
The monastery’s unique architectural style with white walls and red roofs houses numerous precious artifacts, such as ancient scriptures, murals, and statues. The most renowned relic in the monastery is the Dharma Chakra, reportedly brought to Tibet by the Indian Buddhist master Padmasambhava. Visitors can participate in various activities, including prayer sessions, witnessing monks performing rituals, and exploring the monastery’s shrines and halls. Guided tours and cultural programs are also available to enhance visitors’ understanding of Tibetan Buddhism and culture. A visit to Sakya Monastery is essential for those interested in Tibetan Buddhism and culture.