Samye Monastery

Samye, full name Samye Mighur Lhundrub Tsula Khang and Shrine of Unchanging Spontaneous Presence is the first Tibetan Buddhist and Nyingma monastery built in Tibet, during the reign of King Trisong Deutsen. Shantarakshita began construction around 763, and Tibetan Vajrayana founder Guru Padmasambhava tamed the local spirits for its completion in 779. The first Tibetan monks were ordained there. Samye was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and then rebuilt after 1988. It is located in the Chimpu valley (Mchims phu), south of Lhasa, next to the Hapori mountain, in the Yarlung Valley. The site is in the present administrative region of Gra Nang or Drananga Lhoka. According to the Blue Annals, completed in 1476, the temple was constructed between 787 and 791 under the patronage of King Trisong Detsen. Earlier in date is the Testament of Ba, the oldest account of the construction of the temple. This records that the foundations were laid in the 'Hare Year'. This corresponds to 763 or 775, with the completion and consecration of the main shrine taking place in the 'Sheep Year'. This is thought to correspond to 779. The plan was supposedly modeled on the design of Odantapuri in what is now Bihar, India. The arrangement of the temple with a main shrine in the middle with fours shrines, each with a different color representing the cardinal points, and the whole surrounded by a circular wall, represents the Buddhist universe as three dimensional mandala. This idea is found in a number of temples of the period in South East Asia and East Asia such as the Tōdai-ji in Japan. As at the Tōdai-ji, the Samye temple is dedicated to Vairocana. A seminal text of Vairocana is the Mahavairocana Tantra, composed in India in the seventh century and translated into Chinese and Tibetan soon after.