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The Missing Tibetans of New Nalanda

Under the leadership of Amarta Sen, there is an effort to revive the Nalanda University which was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193. Recently at the Indian Science Congress at Chennai, he gave a lecture on the significance of Nalanda. Anirban Ganguly of Vivekananda International Foundation explains the problems with this effort (H/T Michel Danino). The most important one: the Tibetans are left out.

Why, for example, does the Mentors Group of the proposed university comprising of public intellectuals, scientists, academics and bureaucrats not have a single representation from the Tibetan community. A glaring omission considering the historic-religious link that Tibetan Buddhism and Nalanda had and the fact that successive Tibetan monarchs in history, had through their munificence, hosted and established in Tibet a number of masters from the Nalanda Mahavihara. It was, in fact, through the efforts of these teachers from Nalanda that the ‘Golden Age of Tibet’ was inaugurated.[Recreating Nalanda – Is the Deeper Raison d’être Missing? ]

The answer probably lies here:China announces donation for Nalanda University

When asked, why the Dalai Lama was not involved with the effort, Dr. Sen gave the laughable reply that as a religious leader he was not suited for religious studies. This reply..

… speaks volumes of the group’s ‘understanding’ of the essence of religious studies and practice within the Indic paradigm. Being religiously active was an essential pre-requisite for the study of religion in the Eastern context. The religion and philosophy of India was the ‘Science of the Self’ (Adhyātma-vidyā)7 and it was only through an assiduous study of this vidyā (Science) that one could begin to practice it. In the ancient Indian scheme of things, at least when the older Nalanda was in its full bloom, the dichotomy between being religiously active and studying religion did never really exist.[Recreating Nalanda – Is the Deeper Raison d’être Missing?]

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3 Responses to The Missing Tibetans of New Nalanda

  1. froginthewell February 9, 2011 at 6:45 am #

    How I wish there was some kind of mass movement to liberate Nalanda from Amartya Sen.

    As such, keeping Dalai Lama out of “religious studies” is perfectly fine (to some extent : one can question whether a subject like “religious studies” can ever have rigor of a level that is acceptable in academia). But then he is NOT reviving Nalanda – he is building something else, and using the name Nalanda as a cheap publicity stunt. He is not just remaining secular (which would be fine), but he is also appropriating religious and cultural property from others to adorn his secular space.

  2. yakman June 25, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

    Reviving Nalanda University without involving practicising buddhists in the project is strange and will not work if you are planning to revive buddhist Nalanda. It looks like the present attempt is to create a university Nalanda in name only. A buddhist university run by people who do not believe in buddhism, people who come from communities that actively seek to destroy buddhism by means of unethical conversion or discrimation against buddhists, will not remain a buddhist institution even if it starts out as one.

  3. Regina August 14, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    Yakman said it well. What logic does Amartya Sen has to offer?

    ” a religious leader he was not suited for religious studies”. Hello? Mr Sen.

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