What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

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What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Luke » Mon Oct 11, 2010 4:55 pm

There are so many of us westerners who yearn to study Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and/or meditation at a very high level like the Tibetan masters did in the old days.

My question is "What would it take to create new Buddhist centers of learning in every continent of the world which are equivalent to the esteemed, ancient Nalanda University of Naropa and Nagarjuna"?

I think that the core faculty of such a university should be Buddhist monks and nuns. However, it would be most beneficial if such an institution also allowed lay-people to study there or at least in part of it. It would also be important for the institution to benefit the local people and do social work for the poor and disadvantaged in order to uphold Buddhist ideals of humility and charity.

I can only imagine that such a place could be successfully managed by a great Bodhisattva, such as HHDL or Garchen Rinpoche. Only such a person could keep the institution operating according to Buddhist teachings and prevent it from becoming corrupt.

The other big question is "Where would the money come from?" That's not at all clear to me. Perhaps governments could give some money and wealthy donors could give some more, but I'm not sure if it would add up to enough to sustain such massive centers of Buddhist learning. Perhaps a whole community of lay practioners could grow around them which would donate its labor, time, and money to its sustenance.

May Buddhism flourish in the west!
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Indrajala » Mon Oct 11, 2010 5:24 pm

Luke wrote:There are so many of us westerners who yearn to study Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and/or meditation at a very high level like the Tibetan masters did in the old days.

My question is "What would it take to create new Buddhist centers of learning in every continent of the world which are equivalent to the esteemed, ancient Nalanda University of Naropa and Nagarjuna"?


Nalanda University was in India, so they didn't teach Tibetan Buddhist philosophy :tongue:

Actually they taught a wide array of things not necessarily limited to Buddhism. They studied numerous world languages and astronomy for example.

Nalanda was also state funded. Nowadays with secular governments, funding a large Buddhist university would not be permissible, but then the faculty would probably not cost very much to maintain. :smile:

There are Buddhist universities in the west however. The notable example right now is University of the West in California:

http://www.uwest.edu/

However, it is still young and not a monastery of meditation and the philosophical tradition you're thinking of. They have a business administration program for example.

There are also Buddhist universities in Europe and of course all across Asia. However, nothing as famous or active as Nalanda university. My university is Komazawa University which is Soto Zen and has dozens of faculty members whose area of research is Buddhism, but good luck finding somebody who meditates on their own time.


I can only imagine that such a place could be successfully managed by a great Bodhisattva, such as HHDL or Garchen Rinpoche. Only such a person could keep the institution operating according to Buddhist teachings and prevent it from becoming corrupt.


Well, outside of Tibetan Buddhism there are plenty of ordained people who might not be called Bodhisattvas, but still are pure of heart and genuinely compassionate. It might surprise you to know that there are modern Buddhist saints in the Chinese speaking world that are like household names. Why couldn't one of them be chancellor of the university?

Actually the truth is that any mega world Buddhist university in the end would most likely receive its primary funding from a Chinese audience. This is due to sheer numbers. There are a few million Tibetan Buddhists. On the other hand there are hundreds of millions of Chinese Buddhists (many of whom are middle class and can afford to invest a lot of money into Buddhist projects).
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Astus » Tue Oct 12, 2010 2:04 pm

University with educated monks first of all requires monasteries with monks. But since there are only a handful of operational monasteries in the West it is unlikely that any time in the near future such a university will be established. The original idea of the bhikshu lifestyle is that they should be self-sufficient mendicants. Monasteries receive their funding from the local laity. So the starting point is to have lay Buddhists. Obviously, if there are no Buddhists there can't be monasteries nor monastic universities. The question is then how to spread Buddhism in the West. And I mean active spreading, not just waiting for people to decide that they're Buddhist just because they find HHDL, or TNH charming. And by Buddhist I mean religious people and not those who are simply fond of meditation as a hobby. Then there's a good chance for a real growth in the number of monasteries since people will realise the importance of accumulating merit, etc.

If there are some who want to be educated beyond a basic level there are a couple of options. First one is to go east, become a monk and study. Second is to go to a university, study religion/eastern languages and focus on Buddhist materials. Third is to just start studying.
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Will » Tue Oct 12, 2010 2:55 pm

There also now exists Dharma Realm Buddhist University, near Ukiah, CA - http://www.drbu.org/
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Luke » Thu Oct 14, 2010 12:19 am

I also remember reading about Nalanda's four gates. Those make me think of a palace visualized in a sadhana.

I dream about creating a Buddhist university which would look like a palace from a sadhana, such as this kalachakra mandala:
http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Sep ... la.gl.html

I suppose it's the typical dream of wanting to create heaven on earth, a physical representation of the potential of the enlightened mind. Koyasan in Japan was modeled after a pure land which was described in a sutra. I suppose we each long to create a pure land mentally or physically to benefit other beings as well as ourselves.

Huseng wrote:Actually the truth is that any mega world Buddhist university in the end would most likely receive its primary funding from a Chinese audience. This is due to sheer numbers. There are a few million Tibetan Buddhists. On the other hand there are hundreds of millions of Chinese Buddhists (many of whom are middle class and can afford to invest a lot of money into Buddhist projects).

That may be true. Let's hope that the Chinese government actually develops some ethics this century under pressure from the Chinese people. It would be nice if the Chinese government started building temples and Buddhist institutions as well as skyscrapers.
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Huifeng » Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:31 am

Luke wrote:That may be true. Let's hope that the Chinese government actually develops some ethics this century under pressure from the Chinese people. It would be nice if the Chinese government started building temples and Buddhist institutions as well as skyscrapers.


The Chinese government already does. (Just that the US of A doesn't want to put that in it's media, bad for the democracy propaganda business, you know ...)
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Tilopa » Sun Oct 17, 2010 4:07 am

Luke wrote:There are so many of us westerners who yearn to study Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and/or meditation at a very high level like the Tibetan masters did in the old days.

My question is "What would it take to create new Buddhist centers of learning in every continent of the world which are equivalent to the esteemed, ancient Nalanda University of Naropa and Nagarjuna"?


It's happening!

http://www.nalanda-monastery.eu/nalanda

http://www.maitripa.org

http://www.tslmonastery.org

No doubt there are others as well.
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Luke » Sun Oct 17, 2010 12:27 pm

Tilopa wrote:It's happening!

http://www.nalanda-monastery.eu/nalanda

http://www.maitripa.org

http://www.tslmonastery.org

No doubt there are others as well.


Emaho! Very cool! Those places look good! :twothumbsup:

Hopefully, they'll prosper and continue to develop in the future.

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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby kirtu » Mon Oct 18, 2010 12:35 am

Huseng wrote:Nalanda University was in India, so they didn't teach Tibetan Buddhist philosophy :tongue:


Tibetan Buddhist lamas would say that Tibetan Buddhism perfectly preserved Indian Buddhism including the higher studies ....

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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Huifeng » Mon Oct 18, 2010 5:07 am

If one was to make a modern equivalent, it would have to include more than just what they did at that time, and also have the full range of buddhist traditions (incl. theravadin and other schools, chinese, korean and japanese forms, etc.) as well as the tibetan (from indian). They would also need to have specialists in christianity, islam, judaism, the various brahmanic / vedic / indian teachings, as well. Merely copying what was there at that time is not enough. So, people will have to get over their sectarian superiority complexes in order to do this, and work together. Most groups just form their own little hermetically sealed lineages, and try to preserve the past.

But perhaps a key point is this: Those universities were teaching the most important and modern thought of their time. What we do now is duplicate teachings which are extremely old. Not to say that the two are irrevocably separated, but simply that modernizing would be extremely important. No, essential.
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby 5heaps » Mon Oct 18, 2010 5:34 am

Huifeng wrote:What we do now is duplicate teachings which are extremely old.
really?

the Dalai Lama calls tibetan buddhism "nalanda buddhism", particularly gelugpa. a geshe covers the same topics that Naropa did 1000 years ago. in what way could this be modernized?
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Indrajala » Mon Oct 18, 2010 7:22 am

Huifeng wrote:But perhaps a key point is this: Those universities were teaching the most important and modern thought of their time. What we do now is duplicate teachings which are extremely old. Not to say that the two are irrevocably separated, but simply that modernizing would be extremely important. No, essential.


How does one modernize Buddhist thought?

That's not easy to answer. Some would say tossing out rebirth and karma -- ideas that don't click with most so-called modern thought -- is a way to modernize Buddhism.

The attempts to 'modernize' Buddhism here in Japan are outright weird: fashion shows and opening liquor bars covered in Sanskrit letters.

I know Humanistic Buddhism(s) in Taiwan is(are) modernizing Buddhism in their own vision and it seems to be working out well so far, but as the younger generation moves into their middle years and the indoctrination from the education system really kicks in, will they care much about Buddhism and moreover the Humanistic Buddhist vision?

Modernity is not very friendly towards religion in general. The trend towards anti-religious sentiment is also increasing. When the Buddhism fad wears off in popular western media we probably won't see the same friendly attitude towards Buddhism as we do now.
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Astus » Mon Oct 18, 2010 12:01 pm

To gather all the different traditions and make the university "non-denominational" seems like a huge challenge. Modernisation of Buddhism would require a view beyond sects, and not just small sects but the whole "hinayana-mahayana-vajrayana" concept. Because if that remains it just results in different groups at the university all saying they're the "true and original Buddhism" - not a good environment for anyone who actually wants to study there. Or it can be led by lay scholars, making the academic view the standard and not allowing any sectarian position on the part of the governing body.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Luke » Mon Oct 18, 2010 2:41 pm

Huseng wrote:
Huifeng wrote:But perhaps a key point is this: Those universities were teaching the most important and modern thought of their time. What we do now is duplicate teachings which are extremely old. Not to say that the two are irrevocably separated, but simply that modernizing would be extremely important. No, essential.


How does one modernize Buddhist thought?

That's not easy to answer. Some would say tossing out rebirth and karma -- ideas that don't click with most so-called modern thought -- is a way to modernize Buddhism.

I think what Ven. Huifeng may have meant is that this hypothetical world-class Buddhist mega-university shoud perhaps have science departments in it. For example, a lot of fruitful connections have been made between Buddhism and physics and between Buddhism and neuroscience. Therefore, it would make sense to have excellent physics and neuroscience departments at this hypothetical university.

Too much has already been done about the connections between Buddhism and western philosophy and about the connections between western psychology and Buddhism because these are liberal arts topics which don't require much additional study on the part of the Buddhist philosopher--he/she just opens up a book about Kant or B.F. Skinner and starts reading. However, a lot more study is required to have even a general appreciation for modern physics or modern neuroscience.

The next "Nagarjuna" may well be someone who understands the connections between Buddhism, physics, and neuroscience deeply.
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Astus » Mon Oct 18, 2010 3:37 pm

I don't see how adding natural science to Buddhism could modernise it. It simply complicates things by irrelevant data. Natural science is restricted to the study of the four elements. What use is there of a huge load of information on how the elements work? Other fields, like philosophy, comparative religious studies, history, philology, linguistics and psychology can be used as secondary studies. Still, that is not exactly what would mean modernisation. It should be actually making changes in the Buddhist teachings themselves, creating new forms, new ways of transmitting the Dharma. Just like it's happened throughout history with the introduction of the different Abhidharma texts, Prajnaparamita, Madhyamaka, Yogacara, Pramana, and all the others up to Tiantai, Chan, Vajrayana, Burmese Vipassana, Thai Forest Sangha, etc. And not even a university is needed for that.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby 5heaps » Mon Oct 18, 2010 6:07 pm

Luke wrote:Too much has already been done about the connections between Buddhism and western philosophy and about the connections between western psychology and Buddhism because these are liberal arts topics which don't require much additional study on the part of the Buddhist philosopher--he/she just opens up a book about Kant or B.F. Skinner and starts reading. However, a lot more study is required to have even a general appreciation for modern physics or modern neuroscience.
a lot of that is meaningless though, since it has nothing to do with addressing the main problem which the Buddha identified: the truth of suffering and the truth of the cause of suffering. the antidotes to these is understanding how persons exists. the main problem, then, is that it is very difficult to achieve a decent buddhist education these days -- 100 years ago it would have been essentially impossible for us.
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Luke » Mon Oct 18, 2010 6:53 pm

Astus wrote:I don't see how adding natural science to Buddhism could modernise it. It simply complicates things by irrelevant data. Natural science is restricted to the study of the four elements. What use is there of a huge load of information on how the elements work?

Because science shapes the deepest worldview of the educated public. In order to communicate Buddhism effectively to them, you need to know how they think. If you try to teach Buddhism to a bunch of engineers and tell them that the physical world has no importance, they will just laugh and walk out.

Also, the fact that Buddhism fits together very well with much of science helps to market Buddhism; however, that causes people to have certain expectations and then they are often vastly disappointed when they meet Buddhists who believe in rebirth or in the bardo states.

But still, I think the ongoing dialogue between scientists and Buddhists which the Dalai Lama and others have promoted is an important one and is something which should be continued at a world-class Buddhist university. By discontinuing it, I think modern Buddhists would lose more than they would gain.
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Tilopa » Mon Oct 18, 2010 10:53 pm

Huifeng wrote:
But perhaps a key point is this: Those universities were teaching the most important and modern thought of their time. What we do now is duplicate teachings which are extremely old. Not to say that the two are irrevocably separated, but simply that modernizing would be extremely important. No, essential.


Modernize dharma or the presentation of dharma?

The truth can't be changed because some ideas are contrary to modern sensibilities. We should change our minds to fit the dharma not the other way round otherwise we end up with dharma-lite or some new age confection. This is already a disturbing trend in some traditions and by some teachers. It's a dangerous path to follow.
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Will » Mon Oct 18, 2010 11:59 pm

What was the purpose(s) of the old Buddhist Universities - to educate laymen and/or monastics in general knowledge, in philosophy, Buddhism exclusively or to create sages from lay and monastics? Was it study mainly or were there resident gurus who taught practice also? I am asking, I do not know.

To Ven. Huifeng - How free of Chinese Govt. interference or control are the newly built temples & monasteries?
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Re: What needs to be done to create new Nalandas in the west?

Postby Kyosan » Tue Oct 19, 2010 12:05 am

Luke wrote:I also remember reading about Nalanda's four gates.
That may be true. Let's hope that the Chinese government actually develops some ethics this century under pressure from the Chinese people. It would be nice if the Chinese government started building temples and Buddhist institutions as well as skyscrapers.

I don't know whether the Chinese government has built any new Buddhist temples but I know that they have restored older temples.
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