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Nalanda University: How the Mentor Group degraded the idea


By a Special Correspondent

New Delhi,(BiharTimes): On July 6 Patna hosted two meetings related to Nalanda. But these were utterly unconnected with one another. The first was the interim Governing Board meeting of the budding Nalanda University. The other was the meeting of the Nava Nalanda Mahavihara Society held at Raj Bhawan under the chairmanship of Governor Devanand Konwar, the Chancellor of the Mahavihara.

The Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, an autonomous institution under the Union Ministry of Culture, has been thoroughly overlooked by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in formulating the Nalanda University project. The Nava Nalanda meeting was attended by Buddhist scholars including Suniti Kumar Pathak, the well-known Tibetologist from Visva-Bharati University, Shantiniketan.

The meeting resolved to organize exhibitions and seminars on Buddhist literature in order to popularize Buddhist literature.

The Nalanda University Governing Board, however, struck a different note. The chairman Prof Amartya Sen announced that Nalanda University would start with School of Historical Studies and Environment & Ecology Studies. But he was not sure when the University would start functioning.

This implied that Buddhist Studies, on which the concept of Nalanda rested, would not be part of inaugural curriculum. There are reasons to suspect that. Nalanda will actually have no place for Buddhism, Indology, Tibetology and Allied Studies. He is merely exploiting the title of Nalanda or a project that has nothing to do with Nalanda tradition.

All the goodwill the Nalanda University project received at home and abroad was on account of ancient Nalanda. The identity of ancient Nalanda University was due to primarily due to Buddhism. Even Amartya Sen himself could not factually attribute much else to ancient Nalanda than Tantric Buddhism at 98th Indian Science Congress Lecture at Chennai in January. But when it came to designing the Nalanda University project, he deliberately kept all exponents of Nalanda traditions, that is, the Tibetans and Himalayan Buddhists of India out of it. There are numerous Buddhist scholars as well as recognized Buddhist institutions in India. This includes Nava Nalanda Mahavihara in Nalanda (Bihar), Central Institute of Buddhist Studies in Leh, Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Varanasi that run under the Ministry of Culture. Bihar, the epicenter of Buddhist studies in ancient past, can boast of several top-ranking Buddhist scholars today. They were never consulted.

Ironically, Mentor Group meetings took place in places like Singapore, Tokyo and New York. Even the Dalai Lama, no less a Nobel Laureate and commanding greater following than Amartya Sen was shunned. The Tibetan culture is deeply imbued with legacy of ancient Nalanda Mahavihara. But they were completely ignored to propitiate China.

In his June 28, 2007 letter to Amartya Sen, then Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee had said that the Government of India had decided to revive Nalanda University as a Centre for Buddhist and Secular Learning.

But the Nalanda Mentor Group––crammed with Oxbridge-Harvard people––shunned Secular Learning and Buddhist Learning.

According to Clause 24 (2) of the Nalanda University Act, the proposed University would have six schools to begin with: a) Buddhist Studies, Philosophy and Comparative Religions b) Historical Studies c) International Relations and Peace Studies d) Business Management in relation to Public Policy and Development Studies e) Languages and Literature f) Ecology and Environment Studies.

But it has come to light that the MEA propagated a different version of Nalanda University abroad even after the enactment of the Nalanda University Act, 2010. The brochure Nalanda University prepared by Indian Public Diplomacy, an arm of the MEA, is a case in point. There the School of Buddhist Studies, Philosophy and Comparative Religions has been listed as No-5 below the School of Information Sciences and Technology, which otherwise finds no mention in the Act.

The attempt seems to cast Nalanda University in the mould of modern western universities. If one were to build modern university one wonders what at the need for a Mentor Group. It could easily have been done through HRD Ministry, ensuring greater compliance with rules. Bihar would have got a genuine Central University, a long standing demand. Foreign students already come to study in various universities of India.

The Oxbridge-Harvard Mentor Group, led by Prof Amartya Sen, appears diffident about Nalanda’s Buddhist connection. They are working to manipulate the idea of Nalanda University. Dr Gopa Sabharwal & Co seems to be diffident about backward Nalanda district. Thus they want to run Nalanda University from New Delhi.





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