The Heritage of Nalanda, an international conference celebrating the cultural contributions of Nalanda University, will be held at the site of the original institution in Bihar State, India, from February 12 through 14, 2006. Khyentse Foundation is one of the lead sponsors of the event, which will highlight the important role that the university, one of the oldest in world history, played in the development of Buddhism.
Executive Director Cangioli Che will attend, along with 300 other invited foreign delegates, masters, and eminent scholars from across Asia and even parts of the Middle East. HH Dalai Lama will inaugurate the conference.
Nalanda, which means, place that confers the lotus, is about 90 kilometers south- east of Patna, the capital of Bihar. Tradition dates it back to the 5th century BCE, and Buddha Shakyamuni is believed to have visited it and given sermons in a nearby mango grove. At its peak, Nalanda is thought to have accommodated up to 10,000 students, and it was a meeting place for some of the greatest scholars, saints, and scientists of the time. The curriculum included logic, grammar, astronomy, and Ayurvedic Buddhist medicine. Among the famous Buddhist teachers and scholars at Nalanda over the centuries were Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava, Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, Naropa, and many others. King Ashoka was a patron of Nalanda. The Chinese pilgrims Xuanzang (Huan-tsang) and Yijing provide vivid accounts of Nalanda in the late 7th century. In the 12th century, the entire complex was destroyed by Turkish Muslim invaders. This event is seen as the final milestone in the decline and near extinction of Buddhism in India.
The origins of several major lineages of Buddhism can be traced to the acharyas of this ancient university. A vast amount of the Buddhist teachings still available today has been credited to Nalanda teachers and traditions. These teachings spread from the university to Vietnam, China, Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and beyond. The Heritage of Nalanda conference will draw attention to Nalanda’s impact on the culture of Asia.