Nalanda tradition is back to India

By Ratnadeep Banerji, The Organiser, April 9, 2009

New Delhi, India -- Tibetan banishment in India has completed its 50 years. The Tibetan Government-in-exile has expressed its earnest gratitude to India and its people for according cozy shelter in distressed times. A five-day long symposium took place at India International Centre, New Delhi.

Since its inception, IIC, Delhi has wholeheartedly upheld the integral sovereignty of Tibet. The ongoing symposium held lectures, exhibitions including some rare palm-leaf manuscripts, documentary films and a gamut of cultural events on a grandiloquent way. It has also been visited by His Holiness Dalai Lama.

“We Tibetans as refugees will always feel grateful to the people of India, not only for giving help and shelter to this generation, but for many generations. We Tibetans have received light and wisdom from this country. So, we will always feel indebted. From a cultural viewpoint, we are the followers of Indian culture”, says our disenfranchised neighbour.

Prof Geshe Nawang Samten, Vice Chancellor, Central University of Tibetan Studies, Sarnath delivered a discerning lecture reckoning Tibet as recipient, preserver, and restorer of Indian wisdom. The enthused speaker has translated Nagarjuna’s Ratnavali and several other works into Tibetan. He dealt upon the journey of Buddhism from India to Tibet and back to India. The major Buddhist monastic universities in India were Nalanda, Vikramshila, Takshashila, Odantapuri and Ratnagiri etc. Nalanda stood out with its astounding contribution of treatises in spirituality, philosophy, epistemology, logic, medicine, astrology, arts, literature, poetry, grammar, dramaturgy, and lexicography among others. The prolific interaction of Vada and Samvada improvised the realms of philosophy, logic and epistemology. But quirk of fate, by 12th century, Buddhism dwindled and made a retreat from the heartland of India.

Buddhism had arrived in China by the turn of 2nd century CE and geographically it was more conducive for Tibetans to import Buddhism from China than from India. By 7th century CE, Buddhism was well established in Tibet. Indian Buddhism made forays in Tibet with an influx of original scriptural texts and authenticity of tradition. It was an epoch making decision. Kings of Tibet invited hundreds of erudite Indians to Tibet. “Indian masters and Tibetan scholars brought along with them a large number of manuscripts of several thousand titles from India to Tibet”. At Samye monastery, for over 400 years, an enormous corpus of literatures was translated into Tibetan from mainly Sanskrit as well as Pali, Prakrit and Apabhransha. “The translations retain the literal as well as the thematic meanings of the text with such precision that all different shades of meaning in the original text were brought out into the translated version…..This is something unprecedented in human history, not only on account of authenticity and precision, but also on the ground of the magnitude of the literature running into around six thousand titles”.

Tantric system also gained ground. Tantra introspects the intricately complex system of human physiology, its network of nadis, and coordinates their functioning with stupendous spiritual realisations. It is worth mentioning that several Sanskrit literatures that have disappeared from India have been retained in Tibetan rendition.

For instance, Paninivakyasutras can be retrieved only from Tibetan sources. “Tibetan Buddhism is nothing else besides the tradition of Indian Mahayana system, mainly following the path and the model of Nalanda Monastic University, pursuing the study of its profound philosophy and logic coupled with sophisticated spiritual disciplines which encompass both Tantra and the Sutra”. And thus, the intellectual and spiritual culture of Nalanda got transplanted in Tibet.

The Chinese repression mauled over six thousand monasteries and temples, several Indian manuscripts were consigned to flames. Thereafter since 1960 in the wake of Tibetan exodus, the Nalanda monastic system has reverted back to India. New institutes of high creditability such as Central Institute of Higher Studies at Sarnath were established that went on to restore back 65 lost texts back into Sanskrit. Veritably, ancient Nalanda tradition is back in India.