Suppressing the Buddhist identity from the proposed Nalanda University – Unchallenged by the Buddhist world
Posted on July 30th, 2013

Senaka WeeraratnaƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

This entire project led by Dr. Amrtya Sen must be made the basis of a wide ranging discussion in the Buddhist world in respect to the direction, organisation, content of teaching, and aims and objectives that this proposed Nalanda International University is being encouraged to adopt.

The historic Nalanda University was essentially a Mahayana Buddhist Center of learning and had as its Directors (or Rectors) some of the learned Buddhist Monks then existing.

One reputed writer Alexander Berzin (2002) says:

“In the Indian Mahayana Buddhist monasteries, such as Nalanda, monks studied four systems of Buddhist tenets. Two ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” Vaibhashika and Sautrantika ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” were subdivisions of the Sarvastivada school within Hinayana. The other two ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” Chittamatra and Madhyamaka ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” were subdivisions within Mahayana.”

Wikipedia says:

“Nalanda was one of the world’s first residential universities, i.e., it had dormitories for students. It is also one of the most famous universities. In its heyday, it accommodated over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers. Chinese pilgrims estimated the students between 3,000 and 5,000.

The university was considered an architectural masterpiece, and was marked by a lofty wall and one gate. Nalanda had eight separate compounds and ten temples, along with many other meditation halls and classrooms. On the grounds were lakes and parks. The library was located in a nine storied building where meticulous copies of texts were produced. The subjects taught at Nalanda University covered every field of learning, and it attracted pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey. During the period of Harsha, the monastery is reported to have owned 200 villages given as grants.”

Among some of its famous Abbots were: Shakyashribhadra.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The scholar Dharmakirti (ca. 7th century), one of the Buddhist founders of Indian philosophical logic, as well as and one of the primary theorists of Buddhist atomism, taught at Nalanda. Both Mahayana Buddhism and Nalanda University influenced each other.

The old Nalanda University was a not secular University by any means. It had a Buddhist Character for over 700 years right from its beginnings in the Fifth Century A.D ( reign of ƒÆ’-¦ƒ…‚¡akrƒÆ’-¾ƒ”š‚ditya ) until its unfortunate end in 1193, when the Nalanda University was sacked by Bakhtiyar Khilji, a Turk. The Persian historian Minhaj-i-Siraj, in his chronicle the Tabaqat-I-Nasiri, has reported that thousands of monks were burned alive and thousands beheaded as Khilji tried his best to uproot Buddhism.

The burning of the library had continued for several months and “smoke from the burning manuscripts hung for days like a dark pall over the low hills.”

The last throne-holder of Nalanda, Shakyashribhadra, fled to Tibet in 1204 at the invitation of the Tibetan translator Tropu Lotsawa (Khro-phu Lo-tsa-ba Byams-pa dpal). In Tibet, he started an ordination lineage of the Mulasarvastivadin lineage to complement the two existing ones.

New proposed Nalanda International University

Nalanda University (also known as University of Nalanda) is the name of a proposed university in Rajgir, near Nalanda, Bihar, India. The first academic session is set to start from 2014.The university is a plan for reviving and re-establishing Nalanda University.

The University of Nalanda is proposed to be established under the aegis of the East Asia Summit (EAS), as a regional initiative. The NMG also has representatives from Singapore, China, Japan and Thailand.


The Governing Board of Nalanda University consists of:



There is a huge difference in the scope and direction of the old and the proposed new Nalanda University.

Whereas eminent Buddhist scholar monks were the rectors of the famed old Nalanda University, in the proposed new set up there does not appear to be a single Buddhist monk on the Board of Governors. The overwhelming majority of the Governors have ‘ secular’ credentials including the leader of the Project,ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Amartya Sen – Professor at Harvard University. Lay Buddhists are very much in the minority on the Board of Governors. There is no Sri Lankan presence on the BoardƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  despite this country’s claim to have the oldest continuing Buddhist civilization in the world.

Most of Sen’s public pronouncements on this subject lately have been on the wisdom and validity of ‘ Secularism’ over and above the innate value and depth of the Indian spiritual Heritage which includes Buddhism. It shows that it pays to be a secularist even for an Indian in Western Professional and academic circles. But it is tantamount to blasphemy to downsize your own i.e. Indian wisdom and religious heritage, merely to display that one is on the right side of intellectual fashion in the West. Amartya Sen illustrates this proposition vividly.

It is unlikely that some one from the Middle East or Muslim country would try to create a secular place of learning on top of a destroyed site of a reputed Islamic Tertiary Institution.

That is unthinkable.

In Buddhist and Hindu societies ‘secularists’ have come to the fore and are now engaged in a state of play going virtually unchallenged downsizing the influence and scope of the traditional religions which built the unique civilizations that we find in India and Sri Lanka and still attract the attention and wonder of the world.



For Reference

see article ‘Amartya Sen on Nalanda ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” Reviving an ancient Buddhist campus’,11531,0,0,1,0#.UffT_phyzHo

by Yojana Sharma, 20 July 2013 Issue No:281 ( Buddhist Channel)

7 Responses to “Suppressing the Buddhist identity from the proposed Nalanda University – Unchallenged by the Buddhist world”

  1. S.Gonsalkorale Says:

    This Nalanda is not a Buddhist University anyway.
    How can an atheist be Vice Chancellor of a Buddhist University ?

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    Most Buddhists of India are from a low caste or Dalit background – hence the silence. In India, only 0.8% of 1.2 Billion people are Buddhists.

    Meditation Halls in Nalanda of old days must have been wonderful. Present day Sri Lanka should emulate that same style in all of our Universities, even if India does not do so. That India has not introduced Meditation Halls to the New Nalanda Uni is India’s loss.

    Also, where is all the news about Jesus Christ having spent parts of his life (from age 13-28 yrs, and again the latter parts of his life) in India/Kashmir leading to ?

  3. Senevirath Says:


  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Hindu people try to absorb any great Teacher, Guru, Master, Prophet, deity etc. into their ‘Pantheon of Gods’.

  5. Dilrook Says:

    Destruction of Nalanda in 1193 and destruction of Buddhist shrines in northern and north central Sri Lanka just 25 years thereafter by the Magha invasion add up to a very bad time period for Buddhists towards the start of the 13th century.

    It is a worthy exercise to look into any connection between the two invasions. Magha from coastal north eastern Indian landmass attacked Lanka when Turks and other Islamic groups attacked north eastern India, expelling some of them. Was the Jain follower seeking alternative places to save Jainism away from where Islamic groups attacked?

    Islamic attacks in ancient India wiped out Buddhism, not Hinduism. According to historical records Hindus fought back and reclaimed land from Muslims but by then the Buddhists had been massacred and the remaining converted to dominant Hinduism.

    Buddhist identity of new Nalanda university must be maintained. It should not be a secular organisation which defeats the purpose.

    On the positive, it has brought intellectuals from China, Japan, India, USA, Russia and another few countries together. However, unless there is large scale infrastructure development in the region the university will not attract international students.

  6. Fran Diaz Says:

    In India, almost all people who CONVERT to other religions such as Buddhism, Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, etc. are Indians who are born to low caste/Dalit origin families.

    We wonder what Dr Ambedkar might have said about the new Nalanda University. Dr Ambedkar was the architect of the Indian Constitution. He was a Buddhist of Dalit origin.

    Perhaps the Dalai Lama should be invited to serve on the Board of Directors of the new Nalanda University. Also, there are famous people in America and in the rest of the west who are Buddhists and who could contribute worthwhile ideas to this new University to preserve ancient the Buddhist heritage.

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    read as ” … to preserve the ancient Buddhist heritage”.

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