Vision For A New Nalanda

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche had this to say about the idea behind Deer Park and the rimé tradition: “Buddha said that at the core of Buddhist practice, three things one should avoid – desire, anger, and ignorance. Rimé liberates one from these.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche had this to say about the idea behind Deer Park and the rimé tradition: “Buddha said that at the core of Buddhist practice, three things one should avoid – desire, anger, and ignorance. Rimé liberates one from these.”

The spirit of rimé should not be understood as a sort of new age movement where everything is collected under one roof. Dissolving sectarianism is the quintessence of rimé. Historically, human beings have suffered because of their attachment to their countries, concepts, and especially religions. And they become attached even within their particular sect of that religion. This attachment can be expressed as anger toward others or at least as a sort of disinterest in the activities of others. Such sectarianism has existed with great cost to Christians, Muslims, Jews, and even Buddhists. At least between Buddhist sects there has been no bloodshed, only the loss of many great teachings. “Buddha’s teaching is like simhanada: the lion’s roar. The only danger to a lion is the decay from within. And to prevent this, it is essential for the authentic teachings of the Buddha to be studied and practiced.” Revival of Interest in Ancient Nalanda Over 300 participants from countries across the continents attended the 3-day Heritage of Nalanda Conference held at the historical site of the original Nalanda University in Bihar, India in February, 2006. KF Executive Director Cangioli Che and Lama Sonam Phuntsok of Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö Institute in Chauntra attended the event as invited guests. The conference, organized by the Ashoka Mission, celebrated the achievements and impact of this great Indian university, which flourished between the 3rd century BCE and the 13th century AD. It remains history’s oldest recorded establishment of higher education.

Although Nalanda was an Indian institution, its heritage belongs to the world. The university propagated the major lineages of Buddhism and contributed significantly to the study of logic, philosophy, and the sciences. It was at once a model of academic excellence that established and maintained the highest standards of learning and scholarship and a great center of spiritual practice. Looking at the ruins today, it takes a good deal of imagination to picture it in its heyday – which is why this conference was so important. His Holiness the Dalai Lama officiated at the opening of the conference. In his opening remarks, His Holiness said that he is emotionally connected to Nalanda because he is a student of the great Nalanda masters. His Holiness pointed to the importance of ancient Indian philosophy in the development of Buddhism. In the centuries following the lifetime of Shakyamuni Buddha, great scholars of Nalanda such as Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Asanga, and many others examined and debated the sutras. From Nalanda, formal Buddhist study spread to China, Tibet, Sri Lanka, and beyond. His Holiness posed the essential question of the conference: Does Nalanda have any relevance to the reality of the 21st century? If not, he suggested that Nalanda should remain a museum and an archeological site for tourists. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Over 30 speakers presented papers on research and study related to this ancient university. Many presentations also described how the Nalanda tradition has reinvented itself in different parts of the world today. The participants generally agreed that the heritage of Nalanda should be preserved and revived, and that study and research should be reintroduced at Nalanda. His Holiness said that human suffering and ignorance can be relieved only through wisdom and knowledge; and for this reason, Nalanda and all that it stood for is still relevant to our world.

Shri Natish Kumar, Honorable Chief Minister of Bihar, made a strong commitment to improving the infrastructure of Bihar, where two of the most important Buddhist sites, Bodhgaya and Nalanda, are located. The Governor of Bihar and West Bengal, His Excellency Gopal Krishna Ghandi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, also addressed the delegates, sharing an inspiring imaginary conversation with Shakyamuni Buddha.

What exactly is the Nalanda tradition? The Nalanda tradition is one of unity in diversification. All Buddhist and other wisdom traditions were respected, evaluated, and studied. It was and is a movement in the spirit of openness and nonconfrontational exploration of the truth. The message of Nalanda is the message of universalism and internationalism at its best. By supporting Deer Park in its quest to establish a similar institution, Khyentse Foundation hopes to be a part of this tradition.