NALANDA TODAY

By the Venerable Huyen-vi

I. Aims of Establishing the Institute

There is a Research Institute in P51i and Buddhist literature called Nava Nalanda Mahavihara. It is not for the Indians only, but for students from all over the world in general, and from Southeast Asian countries in particular. The founder of this Institute is the Venerable J. Kashyap, who is its Director at present. There were some other stalwarts who conceived the idea of reviving the past glories of Ancient Nalanda University, and their efforts have resulted in the establishment of the only Institute catering largely to students interested in Pali and Buddhist Philosophy. The late Dr. Rajendra Prasad, former President of India, laid the foundation stone of the present Institute building on the 20th November, 1951, and this Research Institute was formally inaugurated by Dr. S. Radhadrishnan, the then Vice-President of India, on the 20th March, 1956. The former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru also came to pay a visit to this Institute.

After the President Dr. R. Prasad laid the foundation stone, he said, "...Nalanda had a very brilliant past and was able to achieve a great success in enriching Indian culture. It played a vital role in the expansion of Asiatic countries like Tibet, China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Burma, Ceylon, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and others. Even now, the very name of Nalanda is a living source of inspiration for them. These countries are conscious of the contribution of Nalanda towards the building and growth of their cultural, literary and spiritual heritage, and they are anxious to see N51and5 once more restored to its pristine glory..."

It is clear from this that the Indians are proud of Nalanda's past.  After winning independence, they thought it their sacred duty to resuscitate the past glory of Nalanda and tried their best to establish the Institute. In the prospectus of the new Nalanda, which is Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, there is a proposal: "To develop at Nalanda an Institute on the lines of the old Viharas (where the teachers and the taught lived together, devoting themselves to study and higher academic pursuits) for the promotion of higher studies and research in Pa1i language and literature and Buddhology through Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese, Mongolian, Japanese, and other Asian languages."

In the library there are many Buddhist books in Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese, and other languages, which are printed. The scriptures are written on palm leaves, pattra, from the borassus flabelliformis, used for writing material. It comprises modern publications and research texts in Pa1i, Sanskrit, and also books on comparative studies. The library is of great use to the monks and lay scholars as it helps them a good deal in their research and comparative study. The Institute admits graduates of recognized universities and prepares them for post-graduate studies and research in Buddhology, guides them in research in ancient languages and enables them to learn in depth the Sanskrit and Pali languages.

With these great aims, the new Nalanda has received care and help from many countries. The Tibetan Government sent one ambassador who brought Tibetan Tripitakas and many Buddha statues from Lhasa to present to the new Nalanda. The Thai Government and Japanese Buddhist Association presented many important books, which are of great value. The U.S. Government gave an aid of more than US 10,000.00 dollars for enriching the library. The Chinese Buddhist Association presented the Chinese Tripitaka. The Chinese Government and the Government of India' gave money to build the big library and the research room.

II. The Location of the New Nalanda

      The new Nalanda, located about one mile away from the ruins of the old Nalanda University, is situated w the bank of an ancient lake, Indra Pushkharini, which is full of lotus flowers in summer and deep sky-blue in autumn. The background of Nalanda is Rajgir mountain. Nalanda is situated between Patna city and Bodhgaya and is ten kilometers away from Rajgir. International hostel buildings are situated at a distance of about two miles from the Nalanda Railway Station. The program of the construction of new Nalanda is going on; in addition to the quarters of the Director Registrar, Professors, and the members of the staff, the new Nalanda has two buildings: one houses the hostel, dining room, school room, and two well-furnished guest rooms for students and research scholars of foreign countries; the other houses the big library, meeting hall, offices, and research rooms. Indian students and scholars stay in another hotel.

Although it is 80 kilometers distance from Patna, the capital of Bihar State, Nalanda has city-like facilities including electricity, tap water, trains, buses, taxis, and so forth. The air is pure and fresh, the landscape is very chaste and sylvan. Monks and scholars find it a very congenial place for study and research work. It also has a museum where many vestiges of Buddhism and the Hsuan-Tsang memorial are kept. Nalanda is on the Bukhtiarpur-Rajgir lines of Eastern Railway. State buses also run from Patna, Biharsharif and Rajgir at regular intervals. Taxis also are available nowadays.

III. The Scope of Nalanda

The Library: In a Research Institute a good library is essential. Although the new Nalanda was established only 12 years ago, the library now has more than 40,000 books and manuscripts in different languages: Pali, Sanskrit, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, English, French, Vietnamese, German, Thai, Burmese, Cambodian, Ceylonese, and so forth. We can say that this is the largest library of books on early Buddhism and Buddhist literature. The library of the Institute is fast developing, and the new library building, equipped with all the facilities of a modern Research Library, is now complete.

Staff: At present, the Director is Bhikkhu J. Kashyap, Tipitaka Master. He is a great scholar in Pali and Buddhism. There are many Doctors of Philosophy, Masters of Arts, and Acharyas from India, Ceylon, Japan, and Tibet on the staff. (Dr. Thich Minh-chau of Vietnam was a Lecturer in Pali and Buddhist philosophy here for some time.)

Scholars and students: Of the research scholars and students of Nalanda, the great majority are from foreign countries, such as Tibet, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Pakistan, Vietnam, Japan, Ceylon, and so forth. Nalanda has more the feeling of an Institute than of a monastery; the student's life, however, is different from that of other places. Most of the scholars and students who stay here are monks who live a very simple and pure life. According to my view, Nalanda is the best place for monks and scholars, and no place in India can match it. Furthermore, Nalanda is an Institute of Bihar Government, and as such, is aided by the Central Government from time to time. Because it does not belong to any sect or association, it has catholicity, which is very congenial monks and scholars, regardless of their sect.

IV. Program for Education

Instruction at Nalanda is imparted only to advanced students and research scholars. Pali and Buddhist philosophy are the main subjects for the Acharya course, Master of Arts course, and research course. It is comprised of four groups:

Group A.--Literature.

Group B.--Abhidhamma (Buddhist philosophy).

Group C.--History and inscriptions.

Group D.--Mahayana Buddhism, including Logic (as a science) and Metaphysics.

There are many foreign students, so English is the language of instruction in all classes except the Pali Acharya class, where Pali is also used and for which the examination must be written in Pali. This is not so for the M.A. examination, for which one may answer either in English, Pali, or Hindi. The Pali Acharya examination is conducted by the Sanskrit University at Darbhanga, the M.A. examination, by Magadh University in Gaya, and Diploma courses in Japanese, Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, and Hindi by different Boards constituted by the Government. Besides these, Nalanda trains research scholars for the Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Literature degrees from Magadh University. For foreign students Hindi is compulsory.

The research scholars are guided by expert professors. The thesis may be written on any subject connected with Buddhism in any of the three languages', English, Hindi, or Pali. Those students who possess ability in Pali are admitted to Pali Acharya class for a period of two years. Those who are graduates of any Indian university with Pali, Hindi, or Sanskrit as optional subjects are directly eligible for admission to the Master's program in Pali, which lasts two years. A good knowledge of English is essential.

The ancient Nalanda was the place where the system of Mahayana Buddhism developed and flourished and from which it entered Tibet, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Ceylon, and so forth. All the, founders (such as Nagarjuna, Asamga, Vasubandhu, Deva, Silabhadra, Dharmapala) of the system of Mahayana of the Sunya sect, the three--Sutra sect. Nirvana sect, Dasabhumika sect, Avatamsaka sect, Dharmalaksana sect and so on were Principals or Professors of Ancient Nalanda University. The Masters who translated and developed the Mahayana Buddhism in China, such as Kumarajiva, Shen-Ti, Hsuan-Tsang, and so forth, studied and did research at Nalanda. But today the time has changed and monk students come almost exclusively from Theravada Buddhist countries. Professors are more familiar with the doctrine of Theravada than Mahayana doctrine, and it cannot be said that Nalanda is still the center of Mahayana Buddhism. However, there are some students and research scholars from Japan, Vietnam, and Tibet who do research on the Mahayana doctrine only. I myself studied Mahayana Buddhism in my country, but while at N31anda I studied the system of Theravada Buddhism. In my opinion it is necessary to have a clear knowledge of Theravada Buddhism if one wanted to understand the doctrines of Northern Buddhism (Mahayana).

V. Nalanda's Important Achievements

Thanks to the pristine glory of ancient Nalanda University, the revival of Nalanda has made progress in a short time. Scholars from all over the world who visit India come to see Nalanda as well, and thus students of Nalanda come in contact with great scholars of the world.

The whole Pali Tripitaka has been published in Devanagari script for the first time under the editorship of the Venerable J. Kashyap. It consists of 42 volumes. In addition, other research publications have been made by the professors of Nalanda. These books have been presented to the libraries of almost all countries. Thanks to this, Nalanda is known by many people all over the world. It is considered a Research Institute of Buddhology in India.  After a gap of nearly ten centuries, Nalanda has come to life again.

Indians as well as foreigners have passed Master of Arts and more than ten have received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. This is a concrete achievement of the new Nalanda. Many foreign students receive only Master of Arts degrees and then turn to other subjects or return to their countries. Only a few remain to do research work because archeology, Pali, Sanskrit, and philosophy are relatively difficult for them. This is the case not only with the foreigners, but with the Indian students as well.

VI. The Purpose of Residence at Nalanda

As we know, ancient Nalanda was the first famous Buddhist University of Southeast Asia. We are hoping that the Government of India will raise the new Nalanda to the status of a Buddhist university in order to revive the old tradition of ancient Nalanda.

Buddhist monks set great store in a thorough study of Buddhology along with the other religions of the world. It is from India that Buddhism spread far and wide. A monk's purpose in going all the way from his own country to this land of Lord Buddha is to study and carry on research in Buddhist philosophy. It is with this mission that a monk goes to Nalanda and hopes to return to his own land with his mission fulfilled.

The climate of India is not as agreeable to many as that of their own countries, but they are bent upon achieving their contemplated goal even in such circumstances. Afterwards they return to their own countries with the firm determination to serve the people of the world in the name of the Dharma by making contributions to the field of Buddhology.

Buddhist monks have taken the vow to devote the whole of their lives to the service of the Dharma and people in general.

May Nalanda live long!

May it be prosperous!

The Venerable Bhikshu Thich Huyen-vi is currently Abbot of Linh So'n in Joinville-le-Pont, France.

1975-76 WINTER MEDITATION SESSIONSóRECITATION AND CH'AN

This year the winter sessions will begin with a week of reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha, the Buddha of limitless light and life. Immediately following that session three weeks of intensive Ch'an will commence. Those interested in participating should not fear suffering, not fear difficulty, not fear cold, and not fear hunger. If you can be a "living dead man" then you can endure the rigors of the Ch'an hall. IF not, slowly, slowly you can work up the courage, the vigor, and the stamina needed to follow the Gold Mountain schedule which begins each day at 2:30 am and ends each night a midnight.

Instructional talks and lectures and the vegetarian meal provide the only breaks in the intensive schedule of walking and sitting meditation.  Come one come all and end birth and death!